Devils, Women, and Jews
Reflections of the Other in Medieval Sermon Stories
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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