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Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion Paperback – September 9, 1992

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Zone Books; Reprint edition (September 9, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0942299620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0942299625
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


In 1188, the Benedictine monk Gervase of Canterbury wrote that, compared to the plodding chronicler, "the historian proceeds diffusely and elegantly." On the strength of her writing style and her sophisticated, sensitive deployment of prodigious knowledge, Caroline Bynum is surely a historian by Gervase"s standards.... She provides an encouraging model for both historical endeavor and the management of an increasingly fragmented modern existence." Christopher Hughes , Voice Literary Supplement

About the Author

Caroline Walker Bynum is University Professor at Columbia University. She is the author of Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336, and Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Body in Medieval Religion (Zone Books, 1991).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By saint eyebeat on March 29, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fragmentation and Redemption is a series of seven essays spanning the topics of gender, religious relics, sex, mortality, gender and the miraculous. The essays and the accompanying images are graphic and unforgettable. For example; "The ill clamored for the bathwater of would-be saints to drink or bathe in and preferred it if these would-be saints left skin and lice floating in the water." If you are interested in the cult of relics and medieval mysticism then this book will be a valuable resource. Ecstatic, erotic medieval religious frenzy are chronicled in detail in the highly readable and lively text. I find myself returning to these essays over and over again as I read other, more specific, books on western medieval religious traditions. This is a must have for your reference desk.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rachel L. Steen on October 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
In Fragmentation and Redemption, Carolyn Bynum refutes modern misconceptions about spirituality and symbols in the European Middle Ages. More importantly and relevant to her book, she addresses misinterpretations of female spirituality in the same period. The author faults some of the models of prominent modern social scientists, arguing that they are not suitable to explain the content of religious symbols of this time. Bynum instead counters this trends with an in-depth analysis of the cultural setting from which these symbols and spirituality emerged. Bynum also argues that the female aspect of spirituality has not been taken seriously and studied properly, thus giving rise to speculations and methods of analyses that do not elucidate properly about the experience of religious women in the late medieval period.

First, Bynum makes a critique of the application of Victor Turner's theory of liminality to the analysis of women spirituality of the late Middle Ages. Bynum specifically questions Turner's social drama analysis of narrative and ritual experience. According to Turner's theory, there is a phenomenon called liminality--the reversal or elevation of roles at the ritual level of a human's religious experience. Bynum cites the medieval texts about the lives of female saints and finds that liminality was not central to female spirituality. The term is applicable for male spirituality, because reversal of roles was a way to emphasize their rupture with wealth and status, and in general, to criticize the male-dominated established order. Men like Francis of Assisi took vows of poverty and often identified themselves in female terms. In this instance, Turner's theory of liminality applies to the study of male spirituality.

Female religious experience was different.
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