Word, Image and Experience
Dynamics of Miracle and Self-Perception in Sixth-Century Gaul
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Focusing on the works of bishop Gregory of Tours (539-594) and the poet-hagiographer Venantius Fortunatus (540-c.604), in later life bishop of Poitiers, Dr de Nie gives in these innovative studies a new understanding of the miracle stories around which much of their writing revolves, but whose bizarre dynamics appear to defy sense, which has often resulted in their dismissal as useless to the historian. These authors' perceptions of miracles - and their renderings of the human self-awareness through which miracles are perceived and happen - are analysed as attempts, mostly rooted in models from the Bible, to adjust the early Christian tradition so as to make sense of, and protect themselves in, the highly insecure environment of 6th-century Frankish Gaul. Drawing on modern anthropological and psychological studies, notably in the area of spiritual healing practices, as well as on philosophical and theological reflections about verbal and mental imagery, she demonstrates how these can be used to throw fresh light on late antique society and its spirituality, exploring views of mind, affectivity, body, sensory phenomena, symbols, and the perception of women as well as of the qualities of images, verbal language and texts. The volume includes five essays not previously published in English.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction: Visions of the heart; Self-Perception: a permeable vessel: Is a woman a human being? Precept, prejudice and practice in 6th-century Gaul; The body, fluidity and personal identity in the world view of Gregory of Tours; Contagium and images of self in late 6th-century Gaul; Images of invisible dynamics: self and non-self in 6th-century saints' lives; Symbolic action: Miracle - or magic?: Caesarius of Arles and Gregory of Tours: two 6th-century Gallic bishops and 'Christian magic'; Iconic alchemy: the dynamic of images: A broken lamp or the effluence of holy power? Common sense and belief-reality in Gregory of Tours' own experience; Seeing and believing in the early Middle Ages: a preliminary investigation; Gregory of Tours' smile: spiritual reality, imagination and earthly events in the 'Histories'; History and miracle: Gregory's use of metaphor; The poet as visionary: Venantius Fortunatus' 'new mantle' for St Martin; Iconic alchemy: imaging miracles in late 6th-century Gaul; Word, image and experience in the early medieval miracle story; Fatherly and motherly curing in 6th-century Gaul: St Radegund's mysterium; Poetics of wonder: dream-consciousness and transformational dynamics in 6th-century miracle stories; The miracle in language: The 'power' of what is said in the book: word, script and sign in Gregory of Tours; Text, symbol and 'oral culture' in the 6th-century church: the miracle story; The language in miracle - the miracle in language: words and the Word according to Gregory of Tours; Index.
Giselle de Nie is an independent scholar; until her retirement, she was in the Department of Medieval History, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
'The great value of de Nie's work lies [...] in probing the very areas that many historians seek to avoid - namely the imagination, the actual nature of miracles and a spiritual rather than a sensory reality...' Early Medieval Europe