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IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 1108: Virginity, Contemptus mundi, and the Fight against Temptations

Wednesday 8 July 2020, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Michael Hahn, School of Divinity, University of St Andrews
Paper 1108-aExtending the Boundary of Virginity: Aldhelm of Malmesbury's 'Dilemma' in De virginitate
(Language: English)
Cherry Hiu Ki Chan, St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies University of St Andrews
Index terms: Monasticism, Religious Life, Sexuality, Theology
Paper 1108-bTrespassing the Boundaries of Heavenly Love?: Peter of Dacia's and Christina of Stommeln's Love Story in 13th-Century Europe
(Language: English)
Päivi Salmesvuori, Department of Church History, University of Helsinki
Index terms: Gender Studies, Hagiography, Religious Life
Paper 1108-cThe Virgin versus Intrusive Thoughts: Mental Borders in The Life of Christina of Markyate and The Book of Margery Kempe
(Language: English)
Caroline Jansen, Department of English University of Tennessee Knoxville
Index terms: Gender Studies, Hagiography, Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - Latin

Paper -a:
This paper focuses on Aldhelm's interpretation of virginity, especially his attempt to extend the boundary of virginity beyond physical level. It intends to show the concept of virginity and chastity in relation to spiritual identity in the early medieval west. In my opinion, unlike the existing scholarships, a precise way to interpret Aldhelm's thought on virginity is not to decide which side of virginity - physical or spiritual - he eventually elevates; rather, instead of putting physical and spiritual virginity in polemics, Aldhelm was struggling to resolve this theoretical and contextual dilemma in his treatise. To fairly examine Aldhelm's effort, this paper consists three parts. It first analyses Aldhelm's theology of virginity in his De virginitate. Then, it explores the tension between physical and spiritual virginity in the treatise. After that, it discusses Aldhelm's approach to resolve this tension and its implications.

Paper -b:
The case of the stigmatic German Beguine Christina of Stommeln and Swedish Dominican Friar Peter is closely linked to the rise of affective mysticism. Peter of Dacia yearned to understand what feeling God meant and how it felt. He hoped Christina to be able to show that to him. Christina of Stommeln at her part saw in Peter her beloved heavenly spouse whom she had been miraculously been betrothed to already in her youth. Naturally, her spouse should have been Christ but as I seek to show, the boundaries were blurred and Peter came to be her true spouse.

Paper -c:
Although medieval physiology characterized the female body as 'impressionable' and 'unbounded' and therefore vulnerable to demonic influences, virginity was often construed as a correction to these dangerously open mental/bodily borders. While this discipline seems suitable for paragons of hagiography, real women such as Christina of Markyate or Margery Kempe struggled viscerally with intrusive thoughts, described as demonic attacks of temptation, despite their commitment to continence. This paper will explore the episodes of intrusive thoughts in the aforesaid women's biographies in the context of medieval writings on temptation and virginity. Specifically, I will argue that the episodes do not represent temptation to sexual sin, but rather temptation to despair - best understood as proto-scrupulosity/proto-OCD.