Word, Image and Experience: Dynamics of Miracle and Self-Perception in Sixth-Century Gaul, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Word, Image and Experience

Dynamics of Miracle and Self-Perception in Sixth-Century Gaul, 1st Edition

By Giselle de Nie


390 pages

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Hardback: 9780860789338
pub: 2003-08-05
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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.


'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

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.

About the Author

Giselle de Nie is an independent scholar; until her retirement, she was in the Department of Medieval History, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at [email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General