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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.