IMC 2007: Sessions

Session 507: Jewish and Christian Violence in Medieval English Society

Tuesday 10 July 2007, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Carlee Ann Bradbury, School of Art & Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Paper 507-aSociety Gets the Monsters It Deserves: The Form and Function of the Supernatural Threat in Medieval English Literature
(Language: English)
Adam Mearns, Department of English, Newcastle University
Index terms: Folk Studies, Language and Literature - Old English, Language and Literature - Middle English, Mentalities
Paper 507-bMadness, Conversion, Suicide, and Religious Identity among Jews in Late 12th-Century England
(Language: English)
Ephraim Shoham-Steiner, Department of History, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva
Index terms: Daily Life, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Religious Life, Social History

Paper a: Medieval monsters embody the fears of the societies that create them. Confrontations between monsters and heroes in medieval literature allow authors to explain and explore the dangers – both ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ – that they consider a threat to their communities, and the ideals they believe will sustain them. This paper examines the ways in which the monster’s role shapes its characteristics. Through a comparison of figures such as Grendel, the Green Knight, and the devils of Saints’ Lives, it illustrates how these characteristics are moulded to reflect the particular concerns of different perspectives and periods in the life of the community.
Paper b: The act of suicide has always puzzled mankind. When discussing this topic in the medieval European Jewish context the acts of religious martyrdom of 1096 almost immediately come to mind. I wish to examine the effect of the language and the notion of martyrdom on ‘regular’ acts of suicide that did not necessarily fall into the martyrological category. In some case the events were understood by Jewish communities in medieval Europe as such. I wish to propose that the model of martyrdom became an optional model if not a preferred one for the understanding of this unexplained act and opening a door to the possible rehabilitation of those who committed suicide.