Friday, November 27, 2009

Journal of Medieval History releases December 2009 issue

The Journal of Medieval History has released its latest issue (Volume 35:4), with six new articles mostly focusing on aspects of medieval Christianity. Here is information about the articles, including their abstracts

Gift-giving and books in the letters of St Boniface and Lul, by John-Henry Wilson Clay

The Anglo-Saxon missionary and archbishop St Boniface (d.754) and Lul, his protégé and successor in the see of Mainz (d.768), left behind a rich collection of letters that has become an invaluable source in our understanding of Boniface's mission. This article examines the letters in order to elucidate the customs of gift-giving that existed between those who were involved in the mission, whether directly or as external supporters. It begins with a brief overview of anthropological models of gift-giving, followed by a discussion of the portrayal of gift-giving in Anglo-Saxon literature. Two features of the letters of Boniface and Lul are then examined — the giving of gifts and the giving of books — and a crucial distinction between them revealed. Although particular customs of gift-giving between the missionaries and their supporters were well established, and indeed bore some resemblance to ‘secular’ gift-giving customs depicted in Anglo-Saxon poetry, books, while exchanged frequently, were consistently excluded from the ritualised structures of gift-giving. A dual explanation for this phenomenon is proposed: first, that books were of greater practical importance to the mission than other forms of gifts; second, that their status as sacred texts rendered them unsuitable for inclusion within rituals that depended upon the giver emphatically belittling the material worth of their own gift.

Discipline, compassion and monastic ideals of community, c.950–1250, by Katherine Allen Smith

This essay examines the intersections of discipline, compassion and community in a selection of monastic texts from the late tenth through to the mid-thirteenth centuries, focusing on disciplinary rituals involving punitive flogging or flagellation. Although members of all of the major religious orders viewed flogging as a necessary method of correction needing little or no justification, as evidenced by customaries, letters, and even miracle collections, few scholars have examined the role of this practice in the shaping of monastic culture. This essay suggests that disciplinary rituals served a number of related functions within coenobitic monasticism: they reinforced hierarchies within communities, tested individuals' mastery of the virtues of humility and obedience, expressed superiors' compassion and love for their subordinates, and reminded penitents and spectators alike of Christ's bodily suffering. These conclusions are further supported by a close reading of Peter the Venerable's vita of the Cluniac prior Matthew of Albano, a text which depicts disciplinary violence as a synthetic element of monastic life, as well as a ritual means of promoting the spiritual growth of individuals and entire communities.

Prouille, Madrid, Rome: the evolution of the earliest Dominican Instituta for nuns, by Julie Ann Smith

The lifestyles of the three earliest Dominican women's communities were formulated according to their specific historical conditions and exigencies during the years 1206–21. Initially, the women associated with the preaching mission of Diego of Osma and Dominic Guzman were based at Prouille in the Languedoc and followed the Augustinian Rule. The development of the first instituta for Dominican nuns was the result of 15 years of overseeing the lives of the sisters. However, enclosure, and the institutional requirement for its observance, only came about in 1220 with the establishment of San Sisto, when St Dominic wrote an instituta specifically intended for a cloistered nunnery. This paper retraces and elucidates the historical development of the first Dominican instituta for women, and considers the remarkable choice of the Augustinian Rule as the basis for an enclosed women's order.

A shared imitation: Cistercian convents and crusader families in thirteenth-century Champagne, by Anne E. Lester

This article examines the relationship between Cistercian nunneries and the crusade movement and considers the role of gender in light of the new emphasis on penitential piety and suffering prevalent during the thirteenth century. Focused on evidence from the region of Champagne in northern France, it argues that female family members of male crusaders adopted Cistercian spirituality as a means of participating in the experience of suffering and the pursuit of the imitation of Christ that had come to be associated with the act of crusading. The connection between Cistercian nuns and crusaders was further strengthened during this period as the Cistercian order expanded its liturgy to include specific rounds of prayers for success in the east and in southern France, for Jerusalem, and for the well-being of crusaders. Many crusader families in Champagne founded Cistercian nunneries to function as family necropolises, further sharpening the connections between crusaders, memory, and suffering as experienced in female Cistercian houses.

Prison and sacrament in the cult of saints: images of St Barbara in late medieval art, by Megan Cassidy-Welch

This article analyses the changing visual representation of St Barbara during the later middle ages. The article identifies a shift in St Barbara's iconography: whereas earlier medieval representations of the saint almost always show her with her prison tower, a number of fifteenth-century representations show the saint holding a chalice and host. The article traces how and why this shift occurred. In particular, the article explores the ways in which medieval thinking linking incarceration and liberation were integrated into new representations of St Barbara to stress her intercessionary, sacramental functions. Overall, the article argues that the visual transformation of St Barbara's prison tower into a liturgical vessel reveals how saints like Barbara were increasingly viewed as conduits to the inclusive sort of freedom that participation in Christianity's sacramental economy invited.

The political significance of Christine de Pizan's third estate in the Livre du corps de policie, by Tracy Adams

Although the general historical context of Christine de Pizan's Livre du corps de policie (LCP), the Orleanist-Burgundian feud occasioned by the periodic insanity of King Charles VI, has long been recognised, the precise argument that the author wages through her unique configuration of the third part of the body politic has not been explored. This essay reads the LCP as an intervention into the escalating struggle for power between Charles VI's brother, the duke of Orleans, and his cousin, the duke of Burgundy. Christine's purpose emerges most clearly in her peculiar arrangement of the third part of her body politic, le peuple, where two points bear particular consideration: her inclusion of the University and her division of the ‘merchants’ across two separate categories, a repartition which seems to refer to the contemporary distinction between the highly-placed merchants of Paris and the butchers. Christine seems to be arguing that if the University were to make common cause with the ruling burghers and well-placed merchants, they could force into submission their more restless brothers and sisters, the butchers and their thuggish followers, whom the duke of Burgundy would finally convince to rise up in 1413 in what has become known as the Cabochian Revolt.

The Journal of Medieval History is published by Elsevier. Click here to go to their website.