Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Screening sanctity : modern visual theory and divine visions in thirteenth-century female saints' lives from the Low Countries
Author: Spencer-Hall, A. D.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
Acknowledging their powerful visual element, theological historian Bernard McGinn maintains that medieval saints’ lives are ‘something like modern film’. My thesis interrogates this assertion by bringing theoretical perspectives from twenty-first century film studies to analyse the Latin biographies of the group known as the ‘Holy Women of Liège’. Commonly (though not always accurately) considered to be ‘beguines’, these women were practitioners of a new form of female spiritual practice that emerged in the thirteenth century in the Low Countries. Practitioners of this new form of devotion typically lived unenclosed in semi-organised communities (beguinages). They embraced work in society, such as tending the sick and the poor, while simultaneously devoting themselves to God. Written shortly after the protagonists’ death by a collection of anonymous and clerical authors, the Liège vitae are filled with dramatic visions of God and intense physical unions with Christ which run alongside, and justify, tales of the women’s involvement in social, political, and religious spheres. These texts — controversial and polemical in their own time and since — demonstrate the problematic division of body and soul, Christ and human, in the period, revealing the potential of text to transmit visual experiences. Following the advice of medievalist Stephen G. Nichols, my analyses of these texts consider medieval scholarship in conversation with modern theories and questions. Recent developments in visual theory allow for fresh perspectives on the conceptualisation and function of the holy Liégeoises’ divine visions. I include chapters focusing on different strands of such theory: embodied spectatorship, the relationship of film to time and mortality, celebrity studies, and digital environments. Through theoretically informed close readings of the vitae, I argue for a spectrum of visual experience running from the medieval to the modern period, a non-hierarchical and interconnected series of possible viewing positions which inform both medieval and modern experiences.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available