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Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious…

Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval… (original 1987; edition 1988)

by Caroline Walker Bynum

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363529,902 (4.19)10
Title:Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (The New Historicism : Studies in Cu
Authors:Caroline Walker Bynum
Info:University of California Press (1988), Paperback
Collections:Your library

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Holy Feast and Holy Fast by Caroline Walker Bynum (1987)



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I love books where scholars take seriously the words and experiences of women. So of course I was going to swoon over this. Walker Bynum manages to corral a vast amount of fragmentary documentation into something resembling a coherent shape, while making a damn persuasive case that modern understanding of female religious experience and symbols ignores the social and cultural context of those experiences and symbols. I think she understates the extent, depth, and breadth of medieval misogyny, but that does not materially change the point that women managed to make themselves a religious world in which their needs were paramount.

Also, the epilogue, in which Walker Bynum briefly discusses some implications of her study on modern ideas about food, damn near made me cry. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 30, 2013 |
An extremely interesting and absorbing look at female religiosity and food in medieval western Europe from three angles: the religious meaning of food for women; the forms of medieval asceticism for them; and the significance of gender roles within religious experience. I agree with a lot of her conclusions, though not perhaps how she reaches them. I don't quite buy her final conclusion on male vs female use of symbolism, which seems too universalising for me, and her discussion of anorexia nervosa as we understand it has dated badly in the twenty years since the book was first published. Overall, though, I thought her point about viewing asceticism not as a flight out of the body, but further into it, was well made, particularly with regards to how we as moderns view medieval expressions/denial of sexuality. Scholarship in the field has built a lot on this since it was first written, but it is still worth the read to see what its origins are—though perhaps not if you have an aversion to tales of saints drinking pus or eating lice. ( )
1 vote siriaeve | Jun 13, 2009 |
Great reference book on Medieval Church and Food. ( )
  SeraSolig | Feb 18, 2009 |
Bynum looks at the kinship medieval women felt with Jesus Christ, through the medium of both giving of their bodies to provide food. Examining the writings of many hitherto neglected medieval female mystics, she explores how food became a point of connection that brought women into a deeper and more personal understanding of Christianity. ( )
1 vote klg19 | Jan 25, 2008 |
An absolutely essential book for anyone interested in the Middle Ages or the history of Christianity. Bynum does an amazing job of exploring her topic in depth and taking a bunch of practices that seem really weird to the modern reader and making them seem perfectly reasonable - she gets you into the mindset of these medieval women so that you can see why they behave the way they do. The book is getting a little outdated because it is pretty feminist, but it is still an amazing landmark in medieval studies. ( )
1 vote Gwendydd | Jan 23, 2008 |
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Examines the role of food in the religion of women in the Middle Ages and argues that food practices enabled women to exert power in the family and define their religious vocations.

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