Medieval Saints' Lives: The Gift, Kinship and Community in Old French Hagiography (Gallica)
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Contending that the study of hagiography is significant both for a consideration of medieval literature and for current theoretical debates in medieval studies, this book considers a range of Old French and Anglo-Norman texts, using modern theories of kinship and community to show how saints' lives construe social and sexual relations. Focusing on the depiction of the gift, kinship and community, the book maintains that social and sexual systems play a key role in vernacular hagiography. Such systems, along with the desires they produce and control, are, it is argued, central to hagiography's religious functions, particularly its role as a vehicle of community formation. In attempting to think beyond the limits of human relationships, saints' lives nonetheless create an environment in which queer desires and modes of connection become possible, suggesting that, in this case at least, the orthodox nurtures the queer. This book thus suggests not only that medieval hagiography is worthy of greater attention but also that this corpus might provide an important resource for theorizing community in its medieval contexts and for thinking it in the present. EMMA CAMPBELL is Associate Professor of French at the University of Warwick.
heavenly counterparts because they are characterized by limitation, prohibition and finitude; by contrast, the matrices of relations that saints’ lives associate with God are defined in terms of a limitlessness that human networks lack. As we shall see, rather than staging an absolute refusal of human relationships, saints’ lives often rely on the proximity between their depiction of human relations and the connections that they claim one should form with and through God. The social and sexual
different kin relations in her invocation of God in this passage is thus part of an attempt to express that which is outside human intelligibility. Her reference to God as father, lover, king and lord appears in the context of a life beyond the human world and, more importantly, in relation to a life beyond the physical death that Christine herself has yet to experience. As the stories of Gregory and Christine suggest, for the saint, kinship between life and death involves a liminal relationship
the forms of desire that it makes possible (and impossible) can only legitimately be lived at the point at which these relationships engender social, symbolic and physical death. As a result, the transformative effect of queer depictions of kinship and desire in saints’ lives is, on the whole, limited to the shift in perspective with which these depictions are associated: a perspective that enables the subject to occupy a position where human categories and proscriptions become inferior or
that seen in the Vie de Saint Eustache, is at least partly dependent on interpretation and the hermeneutic performance or mimesis that certain modes of reading set in place. In the Vie de Seint Auban, however, this hermeneutic relationship appears in the context of a cyclical process of conversion and martyrdom that alternately foregrounds singular and collective participation in sacrificial community, a community that in this case recalls the warrior community of chansons de geste. The Life of
invited to contemplate his tutor’s suffering as an endorsement of faith and thus, implicitly, to acknowledge retrospectively how this sacrifice continues the mimetic tradition to which Alban himself has contributed. Hermeneutic Vision Let us now finally examine the act of witness with which the poem concludes and the relationship this bears to reading and writing. The closing passages of the Life are, we are informed, the words of the pagan convert who experienced these events at first hand and