Prostitutes, Contortionists, and Monsters: Reading the Bodies of Medieval Saints with Margaret McCurry

Prostitutes, Contortionists, and Monsters: Reading the Bodies of Medieval Saints with Margaret McCurry


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This seminar will explore select hagiographies of the medieval Christian tradition by paying special attention to the stories of three extraordinary saints: St. Mary of Egypt, a former prostitute; St. Christina the Astonishing, a contortionist; and St. Christopher, a dog-headed man. Join an expert on medieval literature to learn more about these fascinating characters through the power of words.

During the Middle Ages, the notion of sainthood and the status of mystical visionaries was often a source of major debate, as saints’ prophesies, remonstrances, and miracles could be received in a variety of ways; because saints walked the fine line between the sacred and the profane, they could either be revered for their prophetic wisdom or burned at the stake. This seminar will examine the linked phenomena of mysticism, visions, and sanctity, as well as the tensions surrounding them through an introduction to the hagiographies of three extraordinary saints: St. Mary of Egypt, a former prostitute; St. Christina the Astonishing, a contortionist; and St. Christopher, a dog-headed man. After reading the stories of these saints, we will ""read"" the miracles of their bodies together.

Led by an emerging scholar of medieval literature, Margaret McCurry, this course will guide participants through the stories of three lesser-known saints. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with a deeper understanding of three hagiographies of the medieval Christian tradition. This course is intended for participants with little to no prior experience in studying medieval literature.

Margaret McCurry holds a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University, where she is currently working towards completing her decorate degree. She is an emerging scholar of medieval literature, particularly of the medieval mystical tradition. Fascinated by the moments when words fail to fully capture or articulate meaning, her theoretical interests lie in non-verbal linguistics, musicology and sound studies, and disability studies.

This conversation is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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