Michel Foucault famously described sodomy as an utterly confused category. The same could be said for marriage, especially during the Middle Ages, as the two studies under review demonstrate. Like sodomy, marriage is a category traversing several fields – law, culture, religion – that bites into people’s flesh.
The work of Mary Carruthers is well known to students of medieval culture. Her Book of Memory charted discussions of memory from antiquity to the late Middle Ages, treading in the footsteps of Frances Yates in arguing that memory was not just another concept in the minds of medieval writers, but a conceptual motor for the organisation and motivation of thought.
Demons or cunning priests?
‘The Pythia at Delphi, sitting with her petticoats bunched up and her arse on the Tripod, received her inspiration from below’. Denis Diderot
The period of medieval intellectual history covered by this book, primarily the 12th and 13th centuries, is one that has received considerable attention for well over a century. The main question, then, is what does Ian Wei bring to this subject that has not been done before, or how has he reshaped it? The answer is he has done much in both respects.
The study of religious minorities and their experience of persecution is sadly topical.
Contemporary interest in the period of the Crusades has intensified in the last decade or so, partly because of the inflammatory invocations of holy war and jihad made immediately after the traumatic events of 9/11.
Many scholars regard the history of magic as peripheral to mainline history, a lunatic fringe of the past which can be overlooked without sacrificing any understanding of past societies. This study demonstrates that, on the contrary, knowledge and study of magic formed part of scientific study in medieval England.
In a time of prolific and revolutionary authors Hugh of Saint Victor lit up the 12th century with a particularly unique voice, combining an intense passion for teaching with a pragmatic and systematic mind. Out of his large body of work his Mystic Ark has always provided more questions than answers.
This is a very welcome addition to the study of dress in antiquity. While studies of clothing, bodily adornment and the body language of antiquity are becoming more frequent, a volume that considers the role of religious dress and the religious meanings of dress among Jews and Christians takes this research in new directions.
The Cistercian abbey of Henryków in Silesia, settled in 1227, is perhaps best known to medievalists primarily because of the Henryków Book, a codex compiled c.1310, containing two narratives of the abbey’s (and region’s) history from c.1160 to the date of compilation of the codex, as well as a list of the bishops of Wrocław and a number of charters embedded within the