Book Series Cursor Mundi, vol. 43

Writing Holiness

Genre and Reception across Medieval Hagiography

Jessica Barr, Barbara Zimbalist (eds)

  • Pages: 281 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2023

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60198-4
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60199-1
  • E-book
  • Available

Writing Holiness offers new, theoretically-driven readings of Christian hagiographic texts from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, England, and the Low Countries.


Jessica Barr is an associate professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Intimate Reading: Textual Encounters in Medieval Women’s Visions and Vitae (University of Michigan Press, 2020), Willing to Know God: Dreamers and Visionaries in the Later Middle Ages (Ohio State University Press, 2010), as well as essays on medieval mysticism, hagiography, and romance. Her current research explores death and dying in medieval women’s mysticism.

Barbara Zimbalist has been a Fulbright scholar and fellow at Harvard Divinity School, and is currently an assistant professor of medieval literature at the University of Texas at El Paso. She has published on hagiography from France, England, and the Low Countries, focusing particularly on issues of gender, genre, and authorship. Her current book project traces women’s visionary literature as a discursive mode across hagiography and devotional texts between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.


Writing Holiness contributes to exciting new critical conversations in the study of medieval hagiography in Western Christianity. Recent years have seen innovative approaches to the literatures of sanctity through emergent theoretical discourses, such as disability studies and trans theory. At the same time, traditional methodologies such as manuscript studies and reception history continue to generate new perspectives on the production, circulation, and reception of the sacred textual canon.

Through ten unique contributions that draw from both new and established theories and methodologies, this volume charts the development, movement, and reception of Christian hagiographic texts in localities ranging from the Iberian Peninsula to the Scandinavian Archipelago from the early to the late Middle Ages. Each chapter traces hagiographic development over generic, temporal, cultural, and linguistic boundaries, and considers the broader contours of the sacred imaginary that come into view as a result of such critically intersectional inquiry.



Part 1: Saints across Borders

Helena on the Move: The Makings of a Medieval Saint — MARIANNE RITSEMA VAN ECK

From Holy Flesh to Holy Houses: The Late Medieval Rise of Non-Corporeal Relics in the March of Ancona — BIANCA LOPEZ

Fluvius autem de Corde Dei égredibatur’: Medicalised Discourse and Holy Women’s Writing at Helfta and Siena — NAOË KUKITA YOSHKIAWA

Holy Families and Vowed Life: The Legends of East Anglian Sister Saints in a Seventeenth-Century English Manuscript — JENNY C. BLEDSOE
Part 2: Crossing Gender and Genre

Saints in the Exempla of the Middle English Mirror: Rewriting Accounts of Saints Fursey, Cecilia, Thais, and Macarius — CHRISTINE COOPER-ROMPATO

Hybrid Devotion: Writing the Life of Christ Across Genre — CAITLIN KOFORD

Tarsiana and the Redemption of Captives: The Saintly Princess as Liberator in the Early Castilian Apollonius of Tyre Legend — MATTHEW DESING

Part 3: Writing across Languages

Lost in Translation? Hagiographic Redactions Crossing Language Borders — RACHA KIRAKOSIAN

Translating Raymond of Capua’s Life of Catherine of Siena in Fifteenth-Century England and Germany — STEVEN ROZENSKI

‘She Said’: Female Agency and Voice in Middle English Hagiographic Accounts — JENNIFER N. BROWN