Mary Agnes Edsall's picture

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Biography: 

I received my Ph.D. in English And Comparative Literature, subfield Medieval Literature, from Columbia University, and I have taught in the Core Humanities Program at Villanova University, at Bowdoin College, and at University of Massachusetts Boston. I then received a year and a half of funding from both the Solmsen Fellowship Program at University of Wisconsin Madison and the American Council of Learned Societies. These funds allowed me two years in residence at UW Madison’s Institute for Research in the Humanities. An independent scholar since then, I continue to present at conferences, to publish, and to work on my monograph

Current research areas: 

My dissertation focused on monastic reading practices and their influence on devotional literature for the laity, especially lay women. My publications on Christine de Pizan and Anselm of Canterbury, for example, built on my dissertation work, but my work has broadened to address the various ways that the emotions were appealed to and were reformed during the Christianization of individuals and cultural groups.
My current book project argues that the Fourth- to Fifth-Century synthesis of Stoic-Platonic epistomology and Christian teaching established a set of rhetorical theories and practices for strongly impressing images and ideas on the minds of converts and congregations. Recent work on ancient and medieval ideas of memory has renewed awareness of the role the emotions play in making things memorable. My work takes this a step further by revealing the degree to which becoming a Christian meant, ideally, learning a new set of emotions—and this did not change as the Church continued forming Christians in those centuries during which the post-Roman world turned into the Middle Ages. In the end, the book is intemded to provide scholars of later medieval literature and culture a new perspective from which to understand the highly emotional and vividly imaginative devotional culture of the later Middle Ages.

Recent scholarly activity: 

In May 2015, I presented on “Shame, Disgust, and Pity: The Emotional Repertoire of a Letter by Hugh of Fouilloy” at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo.

Recent publications: 

2014-15 saw the publication of an article: “Arma Christi Rolls or Textual Amulets?: Narrow Roll Format Manuscripts of ‘O Vernicle’” in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft 9.2 (2014): 179-209.
A book chapter also finally saw the light of day: “The Arma Christi before the Arma Christi: Rhetorics of the Passion in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.” Arma Christi: Objects, Representation, and Devotional Practice in Medieval and Early Modern Culture. ed. Lisa H. Cooper and Andrea Denny-Brown. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. 21-52.

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