Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred

University of Notre Dame Pess
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In Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred, Barbara Newman offers a new approach to the many ways that sacred and secular interact in medieval literature, arguing that the sacred was the normative, unmarked default category against which the secular always had to define itself and establish its niche. Newman refers to this dialectical relationship as "crossover"—which is not a genre in itself, but a mode of interaction, an openness to the meeting or even merger of sacred and secular in a wide variety of forms. Newman sketches a few of the principles that shape their interaction: the hermeneutics of "both/and," the principle of double judgment, the confluence of pagan material and Christian meaning in Arthurian romance, the rule of convergent idealism in hagiographic romance, and the double-edged sword in parody. Medieval Crossover explores a wealth of case studies in French, English, and Latin texts that concentrate on instances of paradox, collision, and convergence. Newman convincingly and with great clarity demonstrates the widespread applicability of the crossover concept as an analytical tool, examining some very disparate works.
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About the author

Barbara Newman is professor of English, religious studies, and classics at Northwestern University. She is the author of a number of books, including God and the Goddesses: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages and Frauenlob’s Song of Songs: A Medieval German Poet and His Masterpiece.

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Publisher
University of Notre Dame Pess
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Published on
May 15, 2013
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780268161408
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / History / Medieval
Literary Criticism / Medieval
Religion / Christianity / Literature & the Arts
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This content is DRM protected.
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Barbara Newman
Contrary to popular belief, the medieval religious imagination did not restrict itself to masculine images of God but envisaged the divine in multiple forms. In fact, the God of medieval Christendom was the Father of only one Son but many daughters—including Lady Philosophy, Lady Love, Dame Nature, and Eternal Wisdom. God and the Goddesses is a study in medieval imaginative theology, examining the numerous daughters of God who appear in allegorical poems, theological fictions, and the visions of holy women. We have tended to understand these deities as mere personifications and poetic figures, but that, Barbara Newman contends, is a mistake. These goddesses are neither pagan survivals nor versions of the Great Goddess constructed in archetypal psychology, but distinctive creations of the Christian imagination. As emanations of the Divine, mediators between God and the cosmos, embodied universals, and ravishing objects of identification and desire, medieval goddesses transformed and deepened Christendom's concept of God, introducing religious possibilities beyond the ambit of scholastic theology and bringing them to vibrant imaginative life.

Building a bridge between secular and religious conceptions of allegorized female power, Newman advances such questions as whether medieval writers believed in their goddesses and, if so, in what manner. She investigates whether the personifications encountered in poetic fictions can be distinguished from those that appear in religious visions and questions how medieval writers reconcile their statements about the multiple daughters of God with orthodox devotion to the Son of God. Furthermore, she examines why forms of feminine God-talk that strike many Christians today as subversive or heretical did not threaten medieval churchmen.

Weaving together such disparate texts as the writings of Latin and vernacular poets, medieval schoolmen, liturgists, and male and female mystics and visionaries, God and the Goddesses is a direct challenge to modern theologians to reconsider the role of goddesses in the Christian tradition.
Barbara Newman
Why did hagiographers of the late Middle Ages praise mothers for abandoning small children? How did a group of female mystics come to define themselves as "apostles to the dead" and end by challenging God's right to damn? Why did certain heretics around 1300 venerate a woman as the Holy Spirit incarnate and another as the Angelic Pope?

In From Virile Woman to WomanChrist, Barbara Newman asks these and other questions to trace a gradual and ambiguous transition in the gender strategies of medieval religious women. An egalitarian strain in early Christianity affirmed that once she asserted her commitment to Christ through a vow of chastity, monastic profession, or renunciation of family ties, a woman could become "virile," or equal to a man. While the ideal of the "virile woman" never disappeared, another ideal slowly evolved in medieval Christianity. By virtue of some gender-related trait—spotless virginity, erotic passion, the capacity for intense suffering, the ability to imagine a feminine aspect of the Godhead—a devout woman could be not only equal, but superior to men; without becoming male, she could become a "womanChrist," imitating and representing Christ in uniquely feminine ways.

Rooted in women's concrete aspirations and sufferings, Newman's "womanChrist" model straddles the bounds of orthodoxy and heresy to illuminate the farther reaches of female religious behavior in the Middle Ages. From Virile Woman to WomanChrist will generate compelling discussion in the fields of medieval literature and history, history of religion, theology, and women's studies.
Barbara Newman
“Frauenlob” was the stage name of Heinrich von Meissen (c. 1260–1318), a medieval German poet-minstrel. A famous and controversial figure in his day, Frauenlob (meaning “praise of ladies”) exercised a strong influence on German literature into the eighteenth century. This book introduces the poet to English-speaking readers with a fresh poetic translation of his masterpiece, the Marienleich—a virtuosic poem of more than 500 lines in praise of the Virgin Mary.

Barbara Newman, known for her pathbreaking translation of Hildegard of Bingen’s Symphonia, brilliantly captures the fervent eroticism of Frauenlob’s language. More than the mother of Jesus, the Lady of Frauenlob’s text is a celestial goddess, the eternal partner of the Trinity. Like Christ himself she is explicitly said to have two natures, human and divine. Frauenlob lets the Lady speak for herself in an unusual first-person text of self-revelation, crafted from the Song of Songs, the Biblical wisdom books, the Apocalypse, and a wide array of secular materials ranging from courtly romance to Aristotelian philosophy.

Included with the book is a CD recording of the Marienleich by the noted ensemble Sequentia, directed by Benjamin Bagby and the late Barbara Thornton. The surviving music is the composer’s own, reconstructed from fragmentary manuscript sources. Accompanying Newman’s translation is a facing-page edition of the German text, detailed commentary, and a critical study presenting the most thorough discussion to date of Frauenlob’s oeuvre, social context, philosophical ideas, sources, language, music, and influence. Rescuing a long forgotten medieval masterpiece, Frauenlob’s Song of Songs will fascinate students and scholars of the Middle Ages as well as scholars, performers, and connoisseurs of early music.

Barbara Newman
“Frauenlob” was the stage name of Heinrich von Meissen (c. 1260–1318), a medieval German poet-minstrel. A famous and controversial figure in his day, Frauenlob (meaning “praise of ladies”) exercised a strong influence on German literature into the eighteenth century. This book introduces the poet to English-speaking readers with a fresh poetic translation of his masterpiece, the Marienleich—a virtuosic poem of more than 500 lines in praise of the Virgin Mary.

Barbara Newman, known for her pathbreaking translation of Hildegard of Bingen’s Symphonia, brilliantly captures the fervent eroticism of Frauenlob’s language. More than the mother of Jesus, the Lady of Frauenlob’s text is a celestial goddess, the eternal partner of the Trinity. Like Christ himself she is explicitly said to have two natures, human and divine. Frauenlob lets the Lady speak for herself in an unusual first-person text of self-revelation, crafted from the Song of Songs, the Biblical wisdom books, the Apocalypse, and a wide array of secular materials ranging from courtly romance to Aristotelian philosophy.

Included with the book is a CD recording of the Marienleich by the noted ensemble Sequentia, directed by Benjamin Bagby and the late Barbara Thornton. The surviving music is the composer’s own, reconstructed from fragmentary manuscript sources. Accompanying Newman’s translation is a facing-page edition of the German text, detailed commentary, and a critical study presenting the most thorough discussion to date of Frauenlob’s oeuvre, social context, philosophical ideas, sources, language, music, and influence. Rescuing a long forgotten medieval masterpiece, Frauenlob’s Song of Songs will fascinate students and scholars of the Middle Ages as well as scholars, performers, and connoisseurs of early music.

Barbara Newman
Contrary to popular belief, the medieval religious imagination did not restrict itself to masculine images of God but envisaged the divine in multiple forms. In fact, the God of medieval Christendom was the Father of only one Son but many daughters—including Lady Philosophy, Lady Love, Dame Nature, and Eternal Wisdom. God and the Goddesses is a study in medieval imaginative theology, examining the numerous daughters of God who appear in allegorical poems, theological fictions, and the visions of holy women. We have tended to understand these deities as mere personifications and poetic figures, but that, Barbara Newman contends, is a mistake. These goddesses are neither pagan survivals nor versions of the Great Goddess constructed in archetypal psychology, but distinctive creations of the Christian imagination. As emanations of the Divine, mediators between God and the cosmos, embodied universals, and ravishing objects of identification and desire, medieval goddesses transformed and deepened Christendom's concept of God, introducing religious possibilities beyond the ambit of scholastic theology and bringing them to vibrant imaginative life.

Building a bridge between secular and religious conceptions of allegorized female power, Newman advances such questions as whether medieval writers believed in their goddesses and, if so, in what manner. She investigates whether the personifications encountered in poetic fictions can be distinguished from those that appear in religious visions and questions how medieval writers reconcile their statements about the multiple daughters of God with orthodox devotion to the Son of God. Furthermore, she examines why forms of feminine God-talk that strike many Christians today as subversive or heretical did not threaten medieval churchmen.

Weaving together such disparate texts as the writings of Latin and vernacular poets, medieval schoolmen, liturgists, and male and female mystics and visionaries, God and the Goddesses is a direct challenge to modern theologians to reconsider the role of goddesses in the Christian tradition.
Barbara Newman
Why did hagiographers of the late Middle Ages praise mothers for abandoning small children? How did a group of female mystics come to define themselves as "apostles to the dead" and end by challenging God's right to damn? Why did certain heretics around 1300 venerate a woman as the Holy Spirit incarnate and another as the Angelic Pope?

In From Virile Woman to WomanChrist, Barbara Newman asks these and other questions to trace a gradual and ambiguous transition in the gender strategies of medieval religious women. An egalitarian strain in early Christianity affirmed that once she asserted her commitment to Christ through a vow of chastity, monastic profession, or renunciation of family ties, a woman could become "virile," or equal to a man. While the ideal of the "virile woman" never disappeared, another ideal slowly evolved in medieval Christianity. By virtue of some gender-related trait—spotless virginity, erotic passion, the capacity for intense suffering, the ability to imagine a feminine aspect of the Godhead—a devout woman could be not only equal, but superior to men; without becoming male, she could become a "womanChrist," imitating and representing Christ in uniquely feminine ways.

Rooted in women's concrete aspirations and sufferings, Newman's "womanChrist" model straddles the bounds of orthodoxy and heresy to illuminate the farther reaches of female religious behavior in the Middle Ages. From Virile Woman to WomanChrist will generate compelling discussion in the fields of medieval literature and history, history of religion, theology, and women's studies.
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