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Her Life Historical (Hardback)

Exemplarity and Female Saints Lives in Late Medieval England

P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval Religion

Imprint: Pennsylvania University Press
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9780812239867
Published: 31st December 2007
Casemate UK Academic

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Her Life Historical offers a major reconsideration of one of the most popular narrative forms in late medieval Englandthe lives of female saintsand one of the period's primary modes of interpretation - exemplarity. With lucidity and insight, Catherine Sanok shows that saints' legends served as vehicles for complex considerations of historical difference and continuity in an era of political crisis and social change. At the same time, they played a significant role in women's increasing visibility in late medieval literary culture by imagining a specifically feminine audience. Sanok proposes a new way to understand exemplarity - the repeated injunction to imitate the saints - not simply as a prescriptive mode of reading but as an encouragement to historical reflection. With groundbreaking originality, she argues that late medieval writers and readers used religious narrative, and specifically the legends of female saints, to think about the historicity of their own ethical lives and of the communities they inhabited. She explains how these narratives were used in the fifteenth century to negotiate the urgent social concerns occasioned by political instability and dynastic conflict, by the threat of heresy and the changing status of public religion, and by new kinds of social mobility and forms of collective identity.

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