Virgin Martyrs: Legends of Sainthood in Late Medieval England

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"This is truly exciting new work. Karen Winstead's book is the first discussion of virgin martyr legends that offers a broad survey of extant English texts from 1200 to 1400 A.D. Virgin Martyrs is clearly and logically organized, well-written, and it makes an original contribution to scholarship in persuasively historicizing virgin martyr legends."?Kathleen Ashley, University of Southern MaineStories of the torture and execution of beautiful Christian women first appeared in late antiquity and proliferated during the early Middle Ages. A thousand ...
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Overview

"This is truly exciting new work. Karen Winstead's book is the first discussion of virgin martyr legends that offers a broad survey of extant English texts from 1200 to 1400 A.D. Virgin Martyrs is clearly and logically organized, well-written, and it makes an original contribution to scholarship in persuasively historicizing virgin martyr legends."—Kathleen Ashley, University of Southern MaineStories of the torture and execution of beautiful Christian women first appeared in late antiquity and proliferated during the early Middle Ages. A thousand years later, virgin martyrs were still the most popular female saints. Their legends, in countless retellings through the centuries, preserved a standard plot—the heroine resists a pagan suitor, endures cruelties inflicted by her rejected lover or outraged family, works miracles, and dies for Christ. That sequence was embellished by incidents emblematic of the specific saint: Juliana's battle with the devil, Barbara's immurement in the tower, Katherine's encounter with spiked wheels. Karen A. Winstead examines this seemingly static story form and discovers subtle shifts in the representation of the virgin martyrs, as their legends were adapted for changing audiences in late medieval England.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Winstead skillfully demonstrates a radical revision in late medieval England's ideals of sainthood as expressed in the form of hagiography known as the virgin martyr legend. Winstead convincingly argues that far from remaining static, different versions of lives of the same saints composed or painted over the period from the 12th to the 15th centuries in England convey remarkably different virtues. . . . Richly detailed and amply illustrated, this well-written study makes a valuable contribution to scholarship and should be in all libraries serving upper-division undergraduate and graduate students."—Choice

"While encompassing in scope, Winstead's study—a wonderfully balanced engagement with scholarship, primary texts, and visual representations—is nonetheless attuned to the specifics of each period and alert to the paradoxes and ambiguities of each individual text. . . . Winstead's thorough and consistently measured analysis of a large body of primary and secondary material makes this . . . an indispensible resource for future scholars interested in this fertile subject."—Elizabeth Robertson, Studies in the Age of Chaucer

"An insightful study. . . . Winstead is persuasive, and she successfully shows how the lives of the early female virgin martyrs related to the concerns of late-medieval women and men."—Catholic Historical Review

"The most obvious strengths of Winstead's book are the thoroughness and care with which she differentiates one text from another; the caliber of her scholarship, which manages simultaneously to be meticulous and up to date; and her determination to resist reductive, oversimplified readings of both individual texts and genre as a whole. The book is also written with uncommon clarity and efficiency, the illustrations are well chosen and clearly reproduced, and the endnotes and bibliography are a model of accuracy and helpfulness. . . . It opens up the sublect of vernacular hagiography in late medieval England. . . . She makes us look at the whole tradition with new eyes."—Sherry Reames, Journal of English and Germanic Philology

"This is a wonderful collection. The legends, originally written in the vernacular to appeal to a broad lay audience, are here translated into lifevely idiomatic English. . . . A general introduction, offering a broad overvew accessible for the general reader but also of value for the specialist, includes as well thoughtful suggestions for reading these legends against current critical frameworks. . . . I found it to be an excellent text in an undergraduate course on romance; as these legends aply demonstrate, popular bodice rippers trace a direct lineage through stories of the virgin martyrs."—Sarah Stanbury, Speculum

"This collection of legends is a most welcome addition to the growing number of medieval texts in translation available to students. But it also enables a non-academic audience to appreciate the litereary tastes as well as the piety of the middle ages."—Julie Ann Smith, Parergon

"This is truly exciting new work. Karen Winstead's book is the first discussion of virgin martyr legends that offers a broad survey of extant English texts from 1200 to 1400 A.D. Virgin Martyrs is clearly and logically organized, well-written, and it makes an original contribution to scholarship in persuasively historicizing virgin martyr legends."—Kathleen Ashley, University of Southern Maine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801433337
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Table of Contents

Figures
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Martyrdom, Marriage, and Religious Communities, 1100-1250 19
2 Unruly Virgins and the Laity, 1250-1400 64
3 Decorous Lives: Saints and Consumers, 1400-1450 112
4 The Politics of Reading 147
Bibliography 181
Index 197
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