Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages


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For example, Constantine I's wife Fausta is depicted holding two children in order to convey "fertility, security, and dynastic stability" p. By the sixth century, the empress no longer occupied the coin alone, and was always joined by her husband to promote familial continuity and dynasty. The later empresses were often unnamed, causing Brubaker and Tobler to speculate that their anonymity was purposeful to depict the empresses as symbols, for such coins generally appeared during times of transition i.

Although the point is well argued, one wonders whether this contention is still valid in comparison to the iconography of Byzantine empresses found in other public forms. Were mosaics and statues also anonymous? Were Byzantine empresses represented in similar fashion? Such a comparison would surely strengthen an otherwise fine discussion. The admiration of one Byzantine princess for an earlier Lombard princess for the power and influence she wielded over her husband and the Lombard army is explored by Patricia Skinner in "'Halt!

Be Men! By this account, Sikelgaita unofficially shared command with her husband, the Norman leader Robert Guiscard, and even ordered a group of cowardly runaways to "halt and be men," using the extreme insult against their masculinity to rally the soldiers back into battle.

Sikelgaita continued to influence her husband, and later her son, creating a memory and legend for herself as a female warrior and leader. Sikelgaita's life and legend offer a means to understand the gendered aspect of the Norman invasion and, even more broadly, to show how political upheaval could offer certain women opportunities or "temporary spaces" to exert their power in different ways p.

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When the Lombards, an "aggressively masculine group As interesting as the essay is, one can only wish that Skinner had done more to tease out the implications of this story for Anna Kommena, in her role as a Byzantine princess. A useful appendix of the structure of "The History of the Normans" ends the chapter. Two of the essays deal with legal aspects of women in the Church. Eva M.

Holiness and masculinity in the middle ages

Synek eloquently seeks to unpack the complex status of women in early medieval canon law, pointing to the ambiguous classification of laity and clerical. Rather than the long supposed ecclesiastical model proposed by Gratian of a clear division between cleric and lay, Synek suggests that the classification was far less distinct and rigid. Married men and women shared status in the first order, widows, married deacons, and the continent occupied the second order, while virgins and nuns shared the same status as monks in the third order.


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To share status, however, did not mean to share rights, privileges, and duties. This of course begs the question as to what Synek means by status. For example, some women deaconesses, queens, female landholders could possess the same jurisdictional rights as their male counterparts. Similarly, while the office of Bishop was open only to men, women could have clerical privileges and even clerical status. Canonesses acted as "fathers" in female houses with specific rights and duties, having been granted a status with rights and duties akin to abbots in male houses.

The boundaries between clerical and lay were far from absolute, and the rights and duties varied by gender, family connections, and wealth. Synek's main contribution is to show the ambiguities inherent in the complex categorization of medieval sources, making an admirable stab at differentiating the classification of clerical and laity in all their rights and duties. Ludwig Schmugge takes on a different aspect of women in the law by studying the role of female petitioners in the Papal penitentiary.

Using Vatican records from the office of the Penitentiary, an unusual source in the study of gender, Schmugge examines the dispensations granted by the office from the many ecclesiastical restrictions. Schmugge focuses especially on petitions for dispensations that both men and women could request, including dispensations in cases of illegitimate birth and marriage, and in the right to make confession to a private confessor.

He asks, and attempts to answer, intriguing questions. Why did so few women request dispensations from the office?


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  5. Why did the women who did address the Penitentiary do so? He found that although women sought such dispensations at a rate far lower than men, the Office of the Penitentiary granted the same privileges, absolutions, dispensations and licenses to women as they did men. Schmugge concludes that there was "no real difference" between petitions submitted by female and male supplicants in either the tone, actions, or treatment of the Procurates.

    Moreover, there was no real gender difference in regard to the professionalism, style, and canonistic expertise of the texts" pp. Yet, this seems to contradict his earlier point that "for female petitioners the chances of being granted a dispensation in the case of illegitimate birth was much lower than for men" p.

    This seeming contradiction aside, Schmugge's final point is significant. The records powerfully support the long-debated notion that women of the Renaissance were not strongly restricted, and that the well of grace offered a means for women to obtain their rights in their personal spheres. Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages deals with a wide variety of texts and historical contexts, from Byzantium to Anglo-Saxon and late-medieval England.

    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages.

    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages |University of Toronto | U Toronto Press

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    Studies in gender in medieval culture have tended to focus on femininity, however the study of medieval masculinities has developed greatly over the last few years. Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages is the first volume to concentrate on this specific aspect of medieval gender studies, and looks at the ways in which varieties of medieval masculinity intersected with concepts of holiness. Patricia Cullum and Katherine J. Lewis have collected an exceptional group of essays that explore differing notions of medieval holiness, understood variously as religious, saintly, sacred, pure, morally perfect, and consider topics such as significance of the tonsure, sanctity and martyrdom, eunuch saints, and the writings of Henry Suso.

    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages deals with a wide variety of texts and historical contexts, from Byzantium to Anglo-Saxon and late-medieval England. SlideShare Explore Search You. Submit Search. Successfully reported this slideshow. We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime. Upcoming SlideShare. Like this presentation? Why not share!

    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages
    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages
    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages
    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages
    Holiness and Masculinity in the Middle Ages

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