Margaret's Monsters : Women, Identity, and the Life of St. Margaret in Medieval England book cover
1st Edition

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

ISBN 9781032082202
Published August 2, 2021 by Routledge
168 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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

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


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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.