Women, Dance and Parish Religion in England, 1300-1640
Title Details

268 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

Series: Gender in the Middle Ages

Series Vol. Number: 19

Imprint: Boydell Press

Women, Dance and Parish Religion in England, 1300-1640

Negotiating the Steps of Faith

by Lynneth Miller Renberg

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A lively exploration of the medieval and early modern attitudes towards dance, as the perception of dancers changed from saints dancing after Christ into cows dancing after the devil.


WINNER: 2022 Guittard Book Award


The devil's cows, impudent camels, or damsels animated by the devil: late medieval and early modern authors used these descriptors and more to talk about dancers, particularly women. Yet, dance was not always considered entirely sinful or connected primarily to women: in some early medieval texts, dancers were exhorted to dance to God, arm-in-arm with their neighbors, and parishes were filled with danced expressions of faith. What led to the transformation of dancers from saints dancing after Christ into cows dancing after the devil?
Drawing on the evidence from medieval and early modern sermons, and in particular the narratives of the cursed carolers and the dance of Salome, this book explores these changing understandings of dance as they relate to religion, gender, sin, and community within the English parish. In parishes both before and during the English Reformations, dance played an integral role in creating, maintaining, uniting, or fracturing community. But as theological understandings of sacrilege, sin, and proper worship changed, the meanings of dance and gender shifted as well. Redefining dance had tangible ramifications for the men and women of the parish, as new definitions of what it meant to perform one's gender collided with discourses about holiness and transgression, leading to closer scrutiny and monitoring of the bodies of the faithful.
Introduction
Chapter 1: Reforming and Redefining True Religion
Chapter 2: Dance and Protecting Sacred Space
Chapter 3: Dance and Disrupting Sacred Time
Chapter 4: "Satan Danced in the Person of the Damsel"
Chapter 5: "In Her Dance She Had No Regard Unto God"
Chapter 6: Performing Dance, Sin, and Gender
Conclusions

Appendix
Bibliography
Index

Lynneth Miller Renberg is an Assistant Professor of History at Anderson University. She teaches and publishes on religion, gender, performance, and emotion in medieval and early modern Europe.

"A fascinating study of ecclesiastical attitudes to dance in pre-modern England" Church Times
"Women, Dance and Parish Religion represents a new and welcome contribution within dance historical research, bringing to light a textual archive never before mined for what it tells us about premodern and early modern attitudes toward dance, gender, and religion." CHURCH HISTORY
"References and Appendices are extremely comprehensive and I must commend the use of Old English characters (Thorn and Yogh for instance) in printed excerpts of sermons. This isn't a book for the general reader, but as an academic publication, I would highly recommend it." FACHRS

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Title Details

268 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

Series: Gender in the Middle Ages

Series Vol. Number: 19

Imprint: Boydell Press