Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The seven essays collected in Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion were composed and published in various books and journals between 1982 and 1989. Although they were not designed to have a unifying thematic structure, they all address ways of understanding how issues concerning gender and the physical body were expressed in medieval religion. Most of the essays reveal how women’s experience of religion differed from the male-dominated view and practice of religion during the Middle Ages. They assert that the search for and inclusion of medieval women’s distinctive approach to religion enriches, enlarges, and in some cases, modifies modern historical interpretations of medieval religion and its social context.

The first three essays respond to theories articulated by scholars in three different disciplines. The first considers the anthropologist Victor Turner’s theory of liminality. The second looks at typologies established by sociologists Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch as they studied the sociology of religion. The third deals with the art historian Leo Steinberg’s arguments about the sexuality of Christ’s body as depicted in Renaissance art. In each case, Bynum’s inclusion of material based on her research into gender attitudes and behavior in medieval religion suggests modifications of these theories or arguments in disciplines outside the history of religion. At the same time,...

(The entire section is 539 words.)