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