The omnipresence of religious rhetoric in medieval French culture is among the most salient and often among the most alienating cultural juggernauts faced by students and scholars alike. Yet, sacred biography–hagiographical, Marian, and Christological–has not fully found its place in the discipline of medieval French studies. As a corpus at once disinterested in historiographical fact and committed to the practicalities of daily devotion, it is uncomfortably at odds with both modern expectations of life-writing and the enduring Romantic legacy of art for art’s sake; as a tradition caught up in the hegemonic promotion of Catholic belief systems, meanwhile, its ability to mean outside of institutional power structures is often dismissed before it is considered. With unprecedented access to manuscript sources revolutionizing the size and shape of our “canon”, however, the urgency of reevaluating hagiographical ways of knowing has become increasingly clear. With an audience cutting across social, economic, and gender lines, sacred biography was not only among the most important but also among the most accessible traditions available to medieval French-speakers. With the heterogeneity of this corpus in mind, this panel seeks to explore new approaches to the study of sacred biography. What unknown or understudied corpuses most urgently need to reenter critical and classroom discussion? What points of communication do sacred biographies articulate between aristocratic and non-aristocratic communities, between lay and clerical readerships or between Latin-literate and non-Latin literate populations? How do these texts construct or deconstruct communal norms and taboos, either within or across social lines? And in what ways might they help contextualize the more conventionally literary corpuses of courtly romance and lyric?
Please submit abstracts of ~250 words by March 15 to Christine Bourgeois, email@example.com.