History | Seminar--Medieval European History
H710 | 3034 | Elliott

A portion of the above section reserved for majors


Hagiography (the lives of saints) was one of the most popular genres
in the Middle Ages and an exceptionally rich source for the study of
medieval culture.  But since the hagiographer was invariably partisan
on behalf of his/her holy client, given to exaggeration, and indebted
to formulae – saints’ lives present unparalleled challenges to the
historian.  This seminar focuses on hagiography and related genres
(such as processes of canonization, miracle books, and visions), with
a view to historicizing successive views of sanctity and the changing
functions of “the holy.”  It will also suggest ways in which saints’
lives can be applied to less obvious ends.  (For example, accounts of
miracles can provide invaluable information about medieval diseases
and their cures; cults of saints may work as propaganda on behalf of
different royal or noble families.)  Students will become acquainted
with the major primary and secondary works in the field.  They will
be required to deliver several oral reports, to write a short paper
on several secondary works in an area that reflects their research
interests, and to develop an abstract for a research paper (with
bibliography).  All of these exercises will lay the groundwork for a
research paper.  The last weeks of classes will be dedicated to
presenting and discussing each other’s papers.