Friday, August 24, 2012

What Was It Like To Be A Man In The Middle Ages?

The study of medieval maleness is a growing field of intercontinental scholarship and two historians at the University of Huddersfield are playing a key role. They lately staged a conference which fascinated experts from about the world. And they have launched a new network, which will be an important forum for research in the field.
Dr Pat Cullum and Dr Katherine Lewis are the Huddersfield historians who organized the conference, permitted 'Religious Men in the Middle Ages'. Taking place over two days, it was attended by 50 delegates from 14 countries.

The Bishops Eye

Now Dr Cullum and Dr Lewis have announced the arrangement of a network named 'The Bishop's Eye'. Dr Lewis explained: "This network will cultivate new research into the lives, experiences and demonstration of medieval religious men, both those following a expertoccupation - bishops, monks and priests for example - and laymen.

Holiness and masculinity

It was 12 years ago that Dr Cullum and Dr Lewis helped to foster the subject of medieval maleness as a field of research, when they organized a conference on holiness and masculinity in the Middle Ages.
"At the time we were just opening to think about religious masculinity and there weren't any experts in the field - we were all very much pioneers," said Dr Cullum. "Katherine and I thought that after more than ten years it was a good time to return to the field and see how things are developing.

Covering a wide range of religious cultures

The recent University of Huddersfield conference covered a period of a thousand years - from the 6th to the 16th centuries - and the organizers were determined to cover a wide range of religious cultures.
"One of the things we wanted to do this time was to get people talking about more than just Catholic Christendom, so we had papers on Orthodoxy, Jewish masculinity and a comparison between St Francis of Assisi and the Buddha," said Dr Cullum.

Accepting the argument for celibacy

Celibacy for the clergy was one of the key topics. It was in the 10th century that Papacy and church began to argue that priests should be celibate, although it was some 200 years before the idea was widely accepted.
"There were a number of justifications, for example that a priest should imitate Christ, who was celibate, and there was an argument that priests who were handling the sacraments had to be unpolluted by sexual activity," explained Dr Cullum.
"There was also a practical argument that the church wanted to retain control of its property and if priests wanted to marry and have children they were always going to be tempted to give church property to their families."
One of the themes that emerged at the University of Huddersfield conference was that there considerably more resistance to clerical celibacy than previously thought, said Dr Cullum.
She added that research into medieval masculinity is a much more recent development than the study of women's lives in the Middle Ages - a well-established field.
"But we have had relatively little study of men as gendered beings, so we need to think about whether elements that we have identified as, for example, women's piety really were that or whether they were something that men participated in as well. We are trying to explore whether men did other things or did them differently," said Dr Cullum.
"It is about developing a recognition that both men and women are gendered beings."

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