Devils, Women, and Jews

Reflections of the Other in Medieval Sermon Stories

By Joan Young Gregg

Subjects: Women's Studies
Series: SUNY series in Medieval Studies
Paperback : 9780791434185, 275 pages, June 1997
Hardcover : 9780791434178, 275 pages, June 1997

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Devils in Medieval Sermon Stories

Exempla about Devils


D1. The Devil and St. Macarius in Church
D2. St. Macarius Defeats the Devil as Physician
D3. A Devil in the Form of a Toad
D4. An Ungrateful Son
D5. The Devil Disguised as a Pilgrim
D6. The Torment of Bishop Udo
D7. An Adulterer Punished by the Devil
D8. A Usurer Outsmarts Himself
D9. The Vision of a Drunken Pilgrim
D10. A Sinful Clerk's Cloak of Feathers
D11.The Devil and a Knight's Charity
D12. A DEvil Bows to the Host
D13. The Stone of Knowledge
D14. The Magician and His Student
D15. The Skeptical Knight and the Devil
D16. The Devil Who Rode with a Knight
D17. The Devil and a Clerk in Love
D18. Pope Sylvester and the Devil
D19. The Devil's Recordkeeping
D20. The Devil's Competition
D21. Devils Debate for a Usurer's Soul
D22. The Judgment of Peter the Tax Collector
D23. The Devil and St. Lawrence's Pot
D24. A Pilgrim to St. James Saved from the Devil
D25. The Devil Claims a Lecherous Priest
D26. The Unrepentant Knight
Source Notes to Exempla About Devils


3. Women in Medieval Sermon Stories

Exempla about Women


W1. A Gown with a Train of Devils
W2. The Lady Who Took Too Long to Get Dressed
W3. A Knight's Two Wives
W4. A Priest's Vision of His Mother
W5. A Woman Who Ate Her Husband's Eel
W6. A Woman Damned for Dying in Anger
W7. The Obedience of Wives
W8. An Abbess' Severed Corpse
W9. A Wife Reveals Her Husband's Secret
W10. A Riddle of a King, Wine, and Women
W11. A Woman Leads a Knight into a Murder
W12. A Saint's Skeptical Wife
W13. The Collier's Vision
W14. The Spectre of a Priest's Concubine
W15. A Lecherous Woman Fails to Reform
W16. A Bawd's Warning to Her Husband
W17. A Roper's False Wife
W18. The Witch and the Cowsucking Bag
W19. The Witch of Berkeley
W20. St. Bernard Delivers a Woman from a Fiend
W21. The Devil Seduces a Priest's Daughter
W22. A Mother Forgiven for Incest
W23. The Temptations of Devils as Women
W24. Women Called "Secular Monks"
W25. A Monk and A Saracen's Daughter
W26. A False Accusation against St. Macarius
W27. A Bishop Tempted by a Demonic Beauty is Saved by St. Andrew
W28. The Humble Nun
W29. A Nun Tears Out Her Eyes to Protect Her Chastity
W30. Of A Woman Who Would Rather Drown that Lose Her Chastity
W31. Thais, the Harlot Who Reformed
W32. The Trials of St. Theodora
W33. An Argument between the Virgin and the Devil
W34. The Virgin Helps a Deceived Anchoress
W35. The Virgin Defends a Matron against the Devil
W36. A Lustful Abbess
W37. The Virgin Puts Devils in the Stocks
Source Notes to Exempla about Women


4. Jews in Medieval Sermon Stories

Exempla about Jews


J1. A Jew Predicts St. Basil's Death
J2. Two Tales of St. Nicholas
J3. The Jew at the Devil's Council
J4. St. Helen and the True Cross
J5. Jews Attack a Christian's Crucifix
J6. Jews Attempt to Rebuild Jerusalem
J7. A Jew Falls into a Stinking Pit
J8. The Jew Who Would be a Bishop
J9. Theophilus, a Jew, and the Devil
J10. Jews Expecting the Messiah Are Deceived by a Clerk
J11. The Canon and the Jew's Daughter
J12. A Jew in Church
J13. Parisian Jews Bloody the Host
J14. An Easter Miracle of the Host Converts the Jews
J15. A Jew's Dog Rejects the Host
J16. A Jew Tests The Power of the Host with Pigs
J17. A Jew Debates the Virginity of Mary
J18. The Vigin Rescues a Jewish Merchant
J19. The Monk, the Virgin, and the Jew
J20. A Jewish Boy Is Saved from a Furnace (The Jew of Bourges)
Source Notes to Exempla about Jews






Analyzes and illustrates the demonization of women and Jews in medieval sermon stories, retelling over one hundred of these tales in modern English.


Contemporary misogyny and antisemitism have their roots in the demonization of women and Jews in medieval Christendom. In church art and mass preaching, the construct of the devil as an outcast from heaven and the source of all evil was linked both to the conception of women as sensual and malicious figures betraying man's soul on its arduous journey to salvation and to the notion of Jews as treacherous dissidents in the Christian landscape. These stereotypes, widely disseminated for over three hundred years, persist today.

The exemplum, or cautionary story incorporated into preachers' manuals and popular homilies, was an important mode of religious teaching for clerical and lay folk alike. Sermon narratives drawn from Hindu mythology, Arab storytelling, and secular folktales entertained all classes of medieval society while dispensing theological and cultural instruction.

In Devils, Women, and Jews, the vital genre of the medieval sermon story is, for the first time, made accessible to specialists and nonspecialists alike. Rendered in modern English, the tales provide an invaluable primary resource for medievalists, anthropologists, psychologists, folklorists, and students of women's studies and Judaica. Critical introductions and explanatory headnotes contextualize the tales, and comprehensive endnotes and a bibliography allow readers to follow up analogue and subject studies in their own areas of interest.

Joan Young Gregg is Professor at New York City Technical College, City University of New York. She is the author of Communication and Culture: A Reading-Writing Text; co-author of The Human Condition: A Rhetoric with Thematic Readings; Past, Present, and Future: A Reading-Writing Text; and Science and Society: A Reading-Writing Text; and editor of Soul Rebels: The Rastafari and To Listen, To Comfort, To Care.


"This book makes available, for the first time, a large body of exempla demonizing the medieval 'other' and forming, thus, medieval vernacular society's mentality regarding the psychology of evil. " — Katharina M. Wilson, coeditor of Wykked Wyves and the Woes of Marriage: Misogamous Literature From Juvenal to Chaucer

"The very parallels and implications of medieval sermon writers' equation of demons, Jews, and women speaks louder than many a polemic would. The author's analysis of prejudice, medieval theology, and the cultural/psychological/religious gains of 'otherizing' strikes me as spirited, fair-minded, measured, and compelling. " — Timea Szell, Barnard College, Columbia University