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date: 07 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Scholars of the late twentieth century effectively contested the longstanding assumption that saints were principally understood in the Middle Ages as exemplars of piety. Saints could also exemplify political, religious, social, and sexual dissent; they could even be bad examples. This broader view opens promising lines of research for the twenty-first century, several of which are explored in this essay. One such line is reconsideration of the still-common assumption that exemplarity was gendered—that male saints were models for male readers, and female saints for female readers. A second is greater attention to lives written in the French of England, whose complex and various approaches to exemplarity foreshadow trends in fifteenth-century hagiography in English. The essay in turn encourages greater attention to the fifteenth century, when Middle English saints’ lives became both more literary and more engaged with controversies of the day, secular and religious.

Keywords: saints, hagiography, martyrs, behavior, vernacular theology, gender, heresy, Lollardy, John Capgrave, Osbern Bokenham, John Lydgate, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Paris, Katherine Group, South English Legendary, Second Nun’s Tale, Douce 114, Tanner 17

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