Medieval Saints and Modern Screens: Divine Visions as Cinematic Experience

Medieval Saints and Modern Screens: Divine Visions as Cinematic Experience

by Alicia Spencer-Hall



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Medieval Saints and Modern Screens: Divine Visions as Cinematic Experience by Alicia Spencer-Hall

This ground-breaking book brings theoretical perspectives from twenty-first century media, film, and cultural studies to medieval hagiography. Medieval Saints and Modern Screens stakes the claim for a provocative new methodological intervention: consideration of hagiography as media. More precisely, hagiography is most productively understood as cinematic media. Medieval mystical episodes are made intelligible to modern audiences through reference to the filmic - the language, form, and lived experience of cinema. Similarly, reference to the realm of the mystical affords a means to express the disconcerting physical and emotional effects of watching cinema. Moreover, cinematic spectatorship affords, at times, a (more or less) secular experience of visionary transcendence: an 'agape-ic encounter'. The medieval saint's visions of God are but one pole of a spectrum of visual experience which extends into our present multi-media moment. We too conjure godly visions: on our smartphones, on the silver screen, and on our TVs and laptops. This book places contemporary pop-culture media - such as blockbuster movie The Dark Knight, Kim Kardashian West's social media feeds, and the outputs of online role-players in Second Life - in dialogue with a corpus of thirteenth-century Latin biographies, 'Holy Women of Liège'. In these texts, holy women see God, and see God often. Their experiences fundamentally orient their life, and offer the women new routes to knowledge, agency, and belonging. For the holy visionaries of Liège, as with us modern 'seers', visions are physically intimate, ideologically overloaded spaces. Through theoretically informed close readings, Medieval Saints and Modern Screens reveals the interconnection of decidedly 'old' media - medieval textualities - and artefacts of our 'new media' ecology, which all serve as spaces in which altogether human concerns are brought before the contemporary culture's eyes.

Read Alicia Spencer-Hall's keynote paper 'Hagiography, Media, and the Politics of Visibility' from the Gender and Medieval Studies conference in Oxford on her blog Medieval She Wrote.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789462982277
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Publication date: 02/15/2018
Series: Knowledge Communities
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Alicia Spencer-Hall is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Language, Linguistics and Film at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research interests focus on the potentiality of trans-historical critical engagement with literature of the Middle Ages.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9

Introduction: Ecstatic Cinema, Cinematic Ecstasy 11

The Agape-ic Encounter 14

Ecstatic Cinema 16

Cinematic Ecstasy 18

The 'Holy Women of Liège' 21

A Collective Audience 40

Cinematic Hagiography 43

Mysticism and Popular Culture 47

Beyond the Frame 52

Overview of Chapters 59

1 Play / Pause / Rewind: Temporalities in Flux 65

The Miracle of Photography 65

Photographic and Sacred Time 71

Saints as Photographs 73

Pressing Play: Cinematic Reanimation(s) 77

Execution Films 79

Resurrection, Resuscitation, and Unfulfilled Promises 83

The Purgatorial Body 86

Liturgical Time 91

Purgatorial Time 96

Putting Things into Perspective 102

2 The Caress of the Divine Gaze 107

Look, and Look Again 107

Bacon's Synthesis Theory 113

Becoming What You See: The Cinesthetic Subject 118

God the Projector 122

Feeling What You See: Sensual Catechresis 128

The Collective Spectatorial Body 131

Coresthesia: Reading, Seeing, and Touching the Corpus 136

3 The Xtian Factor, or How to Manufacture a Medieval Saint 147

Marie of Oignies, the Celebrity Saint 147

An Anti-Cathar Poster Girl 152

Marie the Mystical Chanteuse 156

Jacques of Vitry, Star Preacher 158

Hairdressers to the Stars 161

Celebrity Role-Models 165

Margery Kempe's Fanfictions 167

Keeping Up With Kempe 173

Fans in the Academy 187

4 My Avatar, My Soul: When Mystics Log On 193

Vision, Presence, and Virtual Reality 193

Situating SL: Disentangling Television, Film, and Virtual Worlds 197

The Online Communion of Saints 204

'Logging On' to the Communion of Saints 210

Of Avatars and Offline Bodies 214

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Technology 221

Crucifixion Online 228

Men, Women, and Heterodoxy 231

Gender-Swapping to Level Up 234

Agency and Dependence 239

Conclusion: The Living Veronicas of Liège 243

Unveiling the Veronicas 243

Lively Relics 245

Bargaining: Agency and Impotence 247

The Other Women, Glimpsed in the Mirror 253

Abbreviations 255

Bibliography 259

Index 292

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