The Powers of the Holy: Religion, Politics, and Gender in Late Medieval English Culture

Overview

The Powers of the Holy explores ways in which the language and images of Christian devotion in late fourteenth-century England were inextricably bound up with a variety of social and political relations. Addressing a wide range of texts, David Aers and Lynn Staley analyze the complex, shifting, and often extremely subtle forms in which writers responded to this situation.

Aers concentrates on representations of the humanity of Christ. He unfolds the spiritual and political ...

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Overview

The Powers of the Holy explores ways in which the language and images of Christian devotion in late fourteenth-century England were inextricably bound up with a variety of social and political relations. Addressing a wide range of texts, David Aers and Lynn Staley analyze the complex, shifting, and often extremely subtle forms in which writers responded to this situation.

Aers concentrates on representations of the humanity of Christ. He unfolds the spiritual and political implications of different versions of the humanity of Christ composed in this period, addressing major issues of gender and power introduced into the field by Caroline Walker Bynum and others. He considers conventional devotional texts, Wycliffite writings, Langland's Piers Plowman, and Julian of Norwich's Revelation. Staley focuses on Julian of Norwich and Geoffrey Chaucer, two very different minds working both within and against dominant conventions of representations and power. Though not usually paired, both writers signal their knowing participation in the contemporary debate about power and authority, a debate that was conducted using the language of sanctity.

The Powers of the Holy shows how and why medieval attempts to deal with an emerging crisis in the legitimization of authority (in most domains) interacted with conflicting versions of Christian sanctity. Simultaneously it shows just how, and why, matters that were distinctively spiritual could be politicized. Future readings of the period will undoubtedly follow this book’s cultivation of methodologies that avoid any splitting apart of the study of devotion and devotional texts, the study of the politics of ecclesiastical and secular institutions, and the study of gender.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271025933
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 12/2/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

David Aers is Professor of English and Religion at Duke University. He is the co-editor of The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and author of, most recently, Culture and History, 1350–1600 (1992) and Community, Gender, and Individual Identity: English Writing, 1360–1430 (1988).

Lynn Staley is Harrington and Shirley Drake Professor of the Humanities at Colgate University. Her most recent books include Margery Kempe's Dissenting Fictions (Penn State, 1994), The Shepheardes Calendar: An Introduction (Penn State, 1990), and an edition of The Book of Margery Kempe (1996)

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 The Humanity of Christ: Reflections on Orthodox Late Medieval Representations 15
2 The Humanity of Christ: Representations in Wycliffite Texts and Piers Plowman 43
3 The Humanity of Christ: Reflections on Julian of Norwich's Revelation of Love 77
4 Julian of Norwich and the Late Fourteenth-Century Crisis of Authority 107
5 Chaucer and the Postures of Sanctity 179
Epilogue 261
Works Cited 273
Index 303
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