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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 1012: Orthodoxy and Heresy in Representation of the Holy Family, I: The Holy Family in Medieval England

Wednesday 15 July 2009, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Pamela M. King, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bristol
Paper 1012-aWhy God Keeps Sending His Angels: Domestic Disturbance and Joseph's Doubts about Mary in Chester and York
(Language: English)
Judith R. Anderson, Medieval & Early Modern Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Performance Arts - Drama
Paper 1012-bApocryphal Stories of Jesus's Childhood
(Language: English)
Alice Bennett, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York
Index terms: Daily Life, Hagiography, Lay Piety, Social History

The nature and history of the Holy Family was a central touchstone in debates about religious orthodoxy across Europe and throughout the Middle Ages. This session brings together papers exploring problems raised by English representations.

Paper -a:
The dramatizations in Chester and York of Joseph's Doubts, based on the apocryphal Book of James and Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, are evidence of a broader medieval dramatic convention that I call 'domestic disturbance', where the religious narrative is interrupted by 'domestic' concerns pertaining to the home, or to the medieval 'here and now' of the performance. In these plays, Mary's implausibly pregnant body instantiates such a crisis of faith for Joseph that an angel must set the religious narrative back on course. This paper will examine the implications and repercussions of such a deus ex machina and argue that Mary and Joseph's domestic relationship paradoxically serves to disturb orthodoxy and established gender roles, and encourage female community.

Paper -b:
Gospel accounts of Jesus' childhood leave great gaps between his infancy and adulthood. However, in medieval England a range of apocryphal tales provided narratives of Jesus' boyhood, portraying a settled, domestic Holy Family interacting with the wider community. Yet these texts have no scriptural authority, so were they accorded the same reverence? For whom were these narratives intended? In this paper I will consider these questions, as well as exploring the narrative uses and construction of the childhood of Jesus within these apocrypha. This paper will analyse these texts as narratives, and their place within medieval orthodox belief.