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The Legacy of Paradise

Marriage, Motherhood and Woman in Carolingian Edifying Literature

Katrien Heene

Within the framework of the Carolingian religious and moral reform (750-900) various measures were taken which had direct or indirect implications for the experience of sexuality among the laity as well as among the religious. Those and other measures also influenced the position of women both in the Church and in the world. Taking the Church Fathers as points of reference, this book offers a detailed analysis of the view of marriage, sexuality, motherhood and women as constructed in Latin edifying writings of the time, i.e. hagiographical texts, moral treatises and sermons. By studying the ideas and opinions of the male religious authors of these texts the author aims to examine whether and, if so, to what extent the attitude of the Carolingian Church was inspired by feelings of misogyny and misogamy. In writings addressing the lay public such feelings may have been hidden for pastoral reasons. Therefore attention was more particularly paid to the presence of misogyny and misogamy in texts which were chiefly written for religious readers. In the last analysis the overall attitude towards women-related matters turns out to be different and in many respects more positive than the one found in the writings of the Fathers and of many medieval male religious authors. To explain this phenomenon the author puts forward a number of socio-cultural and psychological arguments.

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INTRODUCTION I. Definition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 II. Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 III. Chronological and regional demarcation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 PART 1: SOCIO-CULTURAL CONTEXTS I. The Carolingian age as a period of religious and moral reform . . . . . . . . 27 A. Charlemagne: the indispensable infrastructure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 B. Louis the Pious and his sons: an attempt to unify moral life . . . . . . . . 30 II. Edifying literature: authors and the public . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 A. Authors: common characteristics and points of difference . . . . . . . . . 35 B. Genres and the public: the intellegibility of written Latin . . . . . . . . . . 40 III. The position of women in Carolingian society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 A. Woman in the world ................................. 45 B. Woman in the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 PART 2: THE EVIDENCE FROM EDIFYING TEXTS I. Marriage and married women . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 A. Worldly marriage and sexuality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 A.1. General remarks on marriage and sexuality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 A.2. Marital chastity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 A.3. Marital fidelity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 A.4. "Sacramental" indissolubility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 A.S. The relationship between spouses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96 A.6. Holy spouses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 A.7. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 B. Spiritual marriage and virginity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 B .1. General remarks on virgins and virginity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 B.2. Viduae and other formerly married women leading an ascetic life 123 B.3. Christ's brides . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128 B.4. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135 II. Motherhood and motherliness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137 A. Wordly motherhood: its physical, psychological and social implications 139 A.l. Fertility- infertility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 A.2. Childbirth and nursing 146 10 A.3. Abandoning a child and child-murder 150 A.4. Education- training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152 A.5. Maternal love: its concept and its signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 A.6. Mothers of saints and holy mothers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167 A.7. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 B. Spiritual motherhood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171 B.l. The concept mater spiritualis...

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