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Men, Marriage, and Masculinity in Late Medival Hagiography, 1100-1500

Posted on:2014-03-19Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:Yale UniversityCandidate:von Weissenberg, MaritaFull Text:PDF
In the Late Middle Ages, marriage was no longer a hindrance to sanctity, as it had been during the Early Middle Ages. Over the course of the Central Middle Ages, marriage had become Christianized in theology, law, and practice. Each of the main chapters in this dissertation focuses around a type of tension between religious calling and familial or social expectations. This dissertation argues that the authors of late medieval biographies of holy individuals used notions of masculinity to instruct the faithful on Catholic marriage through the stories of married saints. Cultural concepts of male gender highlighted the tensions between personal piety and secular expectations which married individuals had to overcome to obtain religious fulfillment and, ultimately, sanctity. Masculinity framed the didactic messages of marriage and sanctity as compatible, and, by extension, lay life and sanctity, not as mutually exclusive, but as rewarding in both spheres. In this process, the authors exposed two understandings of how to define manliness: spiritual and secular, with the spiritual ultimately triumphing, as the protagonists of the texts were considered saints.;The study at hand specifically investigates the role masculinity plays in the biographies of saints, a genre defined by religion both in the subject matter---saints---and by the majority of the authors---clerics. Married saints offer a prime set of examples for the study of lay and religious notions of society, family, holiness, and gender. This study brings together these fields to examine men in marriage, or more precisely, how notions of masculinity were used to tell the story of married men in the biographies of saints. In these biographical texts, the vitae (from the Latin word for `life'), 'sacred biography,' or simply 'hagiography,' their authors explicitly address the conflict of religious and secular notions of masculinity. The focus of this study is exclusively on the saints in their biographies and the clerical authors of these texts. This approach allows for a deeper study of the genre of sacred biography, as well as clerical notions of masculinity. I term religiously based notions of manliness 'spiritual masculinity,' and as such is adaptable for clerics, monks, and laymen alike.;An important part of the didactic nature of hagiography is the intertextuality of the biographies: saints often modeled their behavior on other saints they heard or read about. In some cases, it was to seek help in situations of marital difficulties, in others for practical examples of implementing Christian values into daily life. Christians were taught about marriage with the goal of redefining popular notions of how marriage and holiness, Christian perfection, and the secular obligations of family coincided especially as of the twelfth century. This is evident in the gendering of men as husbands.;The timeframe of this study is 1100 to 1500. These centuries mark the era when Western Europe had a relatively unified legal and theological framework for both marriage and sanctity. Western, or Latin, Christianity was the midwife of this process, and, at the same time, the Church was also framing sanctity. It is no coincidence that these two, marriage and sanctity, have a complimentary place in history, as the first two chapters of this dissertation show. Western concepts of marriage thus began in the long twelfth century. This study concludes by the Reformation, when the Catholic Church's legal and theological monopoly on marriage ended as multiple religions emerged and rapid social changes shook Europe.
Keywords/Search Tags:Marriage, Masculinity, Sanctity, Middle ages, Men, Saints
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