Depictions of sainthood in the Latin saints' lives of twelfth-century England
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This thesis examines the depiction of saintly figures within the Latin vitae of twelfth-century England (1066–c.1215). It tests the extent to which these depictions are homogeneous and examines what factors may have shaped representations. Analysis focuses on vitae of twelfth-century saints, a sample of texts that have not previously been examined as a corpus in this way. By encompassing a range of different types of saint, authors and contexts, utilising this corpus allows a comparative examination of how different facets of sainthood could be expressed in hagiography. The textual analysis at the heart of this study aims to unpick individual texts’ ideals of saintly behaviour. Whilst hagiographers functioned within a well-established genre, considering a wide range of saints’ vitae allows scrutiny of the impact of context in shaping depictions. It will be argued that these portrayals of saintly figures demonstrate thematic harmony which is tempered by individuality and context to form recognisable and yet distinctive depictions of sainthood. The analysis is structured around four common hagiographical themes, each worthy of detailed examination: Outer Appearance, Sexuality and Chastity, Food and Fasting, and Death. Chapter 1 investigates how saintly figures are described in terms of physical appearance, deportment and demeanour, and clothing. Chapter 2 focuses upon sexuality, exploring the manifestations of chastity and virginity within the Lives and testing how this might vary from saint to saint and between the sexes. Chapter 3 examines food and food abstention, previously under-represented in secondary literature on twelfth-century hagiography and on male saints. The thesis ends with a consideration of death, a surprisingly understudied theme in Anglophone scholarship. By examining the process of dying and the moment of mortality, this chapter will fill an important analytical vacuum between lived sanctity and sanctity in death.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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