1st Edition

Margaret's Monsters Women, Identity, and the Life of St. Margaret in Medieval England

By Michael E. Heyes Copyright 2020
    168 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    166 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    St. Margaret of Antioch was one of the most popular saints in medieval England and, throughout the Middle Ages, the various Lives of St. Margaret functioned as a blueprint for a virginal life and supernatural assistance to pregnant women during the dangerous process of labor. In her narrative, Margaret is accosted by various demons and, having defeated each monster in turn, she is taken to the place of her martyrdom where she prays for supernatural boons for her adherents. This book argues that Margaret’s monsters are a key element in understanding Margaret’s importance to her adherents, specifically how the sexual identities of her adherents were constructed and maintained.

    More broadly, this study offers three major contributions to the field of medieval studies: first, it argues for the utility of a diachronic analysis of Saints’ Lives literature in a field dominated by synchronic analyses; second, this diachronic analysis is important to interpreting the intertext of Saints’ Lives, not only between different Lives but also different versions of the same Life; and third, the approach further suggests that the most valuable socio-cultural information in hagiographic literature is found in the auxiliary characters and not in the figure of the saint him/herself.


    The Lives of St. Margaret

    The Devil and the Details

    Chapter 1: The Monastic Margaret: The Life of St. Anthony and Gregory’s Dialogues in the Life

    The Life of St. Anthony and Gregory’s Dialogues

    Borrowed Demons


    Chapter 2: In the Belly of the Beast: Sexual Surrender and Resistance in the Life

    Maternal Succumbing: The Paris Version

    Virginal Resistance: The Katherine Group Version

    Instruction in Imitation: The Katherine Group Version and Hali Meiðhad


    Chapter 3: The Devil Made Me Do It – Audience Partitioning and the Life of St. Margaret

    Monastic Masturbation: The Paris Version

    In Defense of Virginity: The Katherine Group Version

    Four-Footed Beasts: The CCC Version


    Chapter 4: Circumcising Olibrius: Threatening Sexuality and Religious Alterity in the Life of St. Margaret

    Demonic Sexuality


    Religious Identity

    Jewish Identity

    Saracen Identity


    Chapter 5: Paging Dr. Margaret: Prayers and Pregnancy in the Life of St. Margaret

    Margaret’s Blessings

    Gleanings to This Point

    Margaret at the Bedside

    The Life of the Life

    Conclusion: The Metamorphosis of Monsters

    The World of the Perpetual Present

    Shards of the "Present"

    A Socio-Cultural History from the Monstrous

    Reflections on Monsters, Time, and Saints



    Michael E. Heyes is Assistant Professor of Religion at Lycoming College. He has published within the field of monster studies, film, and medieval studies, and his edited volume – Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques: Monstrosity and Religion in Europe and the United States – contains contributions to all three topics. He is a general editor of The Journal of Gods and Monsters. This is his first monograph.