Jews, Christian Society, and Royal Power in Medieval by Elka Klein
By Elka Klein
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17 INTRODUCTION Chapters Five and Six of this book, this kind of queer identification may have implications for both the medieval and the modern readers of Old French saints’ lives. Scope and Content My analysis of Old French hagiography in this study ranges across a variety of texts. Although pointing to some of the specific values of certain texts, I have tried as far as possible to draw links between works from different periods, geographical areas and dialectical domains. Rather than classifying saints into types or treating male and female saints separately, I have attempted to juxtapose saints that are often considered to belong to discrete categories.
This logic informs a wide range of gifts in saints’ lives, from almsgiving to physical sacrifice, suggesting that they can be seen on a continuum. The gift in saints’ lives reveals an attitude to the material world that interprets it from the perspective of God’s creation. What this means in practice is that the saint’s gifts acknowledge and make visible a principle that runs counter to human economic logic: namely, that what is given is never possessed by the saint in the first place. However, if gifts to God express an inability to possess what is given up, they nonetheless require the saint to renounce what he or she is considered to possess in human social networks.
The giving of alms to the poor man is a gift to God that is both reflected in and reciprocated by the widow’s donation. This donation is not only the gift of a wealthy widow, it is also a gift transmitted from God to the saint: it is, after all, God who ultimately determines the amount written on the cheque that the lady hands over. However, the fact that the saint’s act of charity to the beggar never takes place as originally intended results in a more complex exposure of the inner workings of the triangle of donation.