Texts by, for, and about preachers from the twelfth to the
fourteenth centuries reveal an intense interest in the preacher's
human nature and its intersection with his "angelic" role. Far from
simply denigrating embodiment or excluding it from consideration,
these works recognize its centrality to the office of preacher and
the ways in which preachers, like Christ, needed humanness to make
their performance of doctrine effective for their audiences. At the
same time, the texts warned of the preacher's susceptibility to the
fleshly failings of lust, vainglory, deception, and greed.
Preaching's problematic juxtaposition of the earthly and the
spiritual made images of women preachers, real and fictional, key
to understanding and exploiting the power, as well as the dangers,
of the feminized flesh.
Addressing the underexamined bodies of the clergy in light of both
medieval and modern discussions of female authority and the body of
Christ in medieval culture, Angels and Earthly Creatures
reinserts women into the history of preaching and brings together
discourses that would have been intertwined in the Middle Ages but
are often treated separately by scholars. The examination of
handbooks for preachers as literary texts also demonstrates their
extensive interaction with secular literary traditions, explored
here with particular reference to Chaucer's Canterbury
Through a close and insightful reading of a wide variety of texts
and figures, including Hildegard of Bingen, Birgitta of Sweden, and
Catherine of Siena, Waters offers an original examination of the
preacher's unique role as an intermediary-standing between heaven
and earth, between God and people, participating in and responsible
to both sides of that divide.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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