IMC 2007: Sessions

Session 607: Imagined Cities and Anti-Semitism in the Later Middle Ages

Tuesday 10 July 2007, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Eva Frojmovic, Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Leeds
Paper 607-aChaucer's Prioress's Tale, Or, A Tale of Three Cities
(Language: English)
Roger Dahood, Department of English, University of Arizona
Index terms: Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Lay Piety
Paper 607-bFlorence as the Old Jerusalem: Politics and Salvation in Siena's Imagery
(Language: English)
Andrea Campbell, Department of Art History, Randolph College, Virginia
Index terms: Art History - Painting, Politics and Diplomacy, Religious Life, Social History
Paper 607-c'Here þe Ost must blede': Mercantile London and the Revisiting of the Medieval Jew-Type in The Croxton Play of the Sacrament
(Language: English)
Kevin Kia Choong Teo, Department of English, University of Calgary, Alberta
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Local History, Mentalities, Performance Arts - Drama

Paper a: By building a shrine to Hugh of Lincoln within Lincoln Cathedral, Edward I in 1290 publicly tied the expulsion of English Jews to Hugh’s alleged murder in 1255. The Prioress’s invocation of ‘yonge Hugh of Lyncoln’ (VII.684), implies that knowledge of Hugh’s death lingered into Chaucer’s day. Predominant medieval theories of imagination suggest that despite the tale’s initial location of the city in ‘Asye’, Chaucer’s fourteenth-century audiences would have imagined an English setting. If the Prioress’s imagined Asian city stands in for English ones, the tale may provide clues, not available in official records, to historically rooted perceptions of Jews in Chaucer’s day.

Paper b: The fresco program of the Baptistery of Siena (c.1450) refers to the ritual of baptism and signals initiation into the Republic as well. Here ‘The Way to Calvary’ shows Christ carrying the cross outside of the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is represented as Florence, its cupola unmistakable. This image reminds viewers of Christ’s lament, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!’ (Luke 13:34). The frescoes’ superintendent was a magistrate contemporaneously fomenting a coup who was exiled three years later. The representation of Florence as the old Jerusalem will be investigated within the context of this political struggle and the ethos of anti-Semitism in Siena.

Paper c: This paper examines the economic-cultural exigencies of the medieval Jew-type in late medieval English culture and literature, mainly in “The Croxton Play of the Sacrament”. Although English Jews were expelled from the British isles in AD 1270, they marked an imaginative type which late medieval English society turned to imaginatively in response to the rapidly unsettling shifts in economic culture through the emerging new towns and fledging merchant and trading classes. The type of the Jewish merchant who pays money for others to pilfer the sacramental Host and to desecrate it does not only give us an insight into late medieval English-antisemitic stereotypes of the murderous and violent Jew, but maps it further onto the new emerging social class of the merchant in late medieval English urban society in London.