Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women / Edition 1 available in Paperback
In the period between 1200 and 1500 in western Europe, a number of religious women gained widespread veneration and even canonization as saints for their extraordinary devotion to the Christian eucharist, supernatural multiplications of food and drink, and miracles of bodily manipulation, including stigmata and inedia (living without eating). The occurrence of such phenomena sheds much light on the nature of medieval society and medieval religion. It also forms a chapter in the history of women. Previous scholars have occasionally noted the various phenomena in isolation from each other and have sometimes applied modern medical or psychological theories to them. Using materials based on saints' lives and the religious and mystical writings of medieval women and men, Caroline Walker Bynum uncovers the pattern lying behind these aspects of women's religiosity and behind the fascination men and women felt for such miracles and devotional practices. She argues that food lies at the heart of much of women's piety. Women renounced ordinary food through fasting in order to prepare for receiving extraordinary food in the eucharist. They also offered themselves as food in miracles of feeding and bodily manipulation. Providing both functionalist and phenomenological explanations, Bynum explores the ways in which food practices enabled women to exert control within the family and to define their religious vocations. She also describes what women meant by seeing their own bodies and God's body as food and what men meant when they too associated women with food and flesh. The author's interpretation of women's piety offers a new view of the nature of medieval asceticism and, drawing upon both anthropology and feminist theory, she illuminates the distinctive features of women's use of symbols. Rejecting presentist interpretations of women as exploited or masochistic, she shows the power and creativity of women's writing and women's lives.
About the Author
Caroline Walker Bynum is Western Medieval History Professor EmeritaSchool of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Table of Contents
ForewordNote on the TextAuthor's NoteThe Boston PoemsCups 1-12The ParkThe Faerie QueeneThe Moth PoemImage-Nations -4Les ChiméresCharmsGreat Companion: PindarImage-Nations 5-14 and Uncollected PoemsStreams ISyntaxPell MellGreat Companion: Robert DuncanStreams IIExodyNotesGreat Companion: Dante AlighiereWandersSoOh!AfterwordIndex of Titles and First Lines
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Great reference book on Medieval Church and Food.
An absolutely essential book for anyone interested in the Middle Ages or the history of Christianity. Bynum does an amazing job of exploring her topic in depth and taking a bunch of practices that seem really weird to the modern reader and making them seem perfectly reasonable - she gets you into the mindset of these medieval women so that you can see why they behave the way they do. The book is getting a little outdated because it is pretty feminist, but it is still an amazing landmark in medieval studies.