Medieval Crossover

  • Reading the Secular against the Sacred

  • by Barbara Newman

  • 416 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 , 12 halftones

  • Paperback | 9780268036119 | May 2013

  • Hardcover | 9780268206574 | September 2022

  • eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268161392 | May 2013

  • eBook (EPUB) | 9780268161408 | May 2013

  • Conway Lectures in Medieval Studies


The sacred and the secular in medieval literature have too often been perceived as opposites, or else relegated to separate but unequal spheres. In Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred, Barbara Newman offers a new approach to the many ways that sacred and secular interact in medieval literature, arguing that (in contrast to our own cultural situation) the sacred was the normative, unmarked default category against which the secular always had to define itself and establish its niche. Newman refers to this dialectical relationship as "crossover"—which is not a genre in itself, but a mode of interaction, an openness to the meeting or even merger of sacred and secular in a wide variety of forms. Newman sketches a few of the principles that shape their interaction: the hermeneutics of "both/and," the principle of double judgment, the confluence of pagan material and Christian meaning in Arthurian romance, the rule of convergent idealism in hagiographic romance, and the double-edged sword in parody.

Medieval Crossover explores a wealth of case studies in French, English, and Latin texts that concentrate on instances of paradox, collision, and convergence. Newman convincingly and with great clarity demonstrates the widespread applicability of the crossover concept as an analytical tool, examining some very disparate works. These include French and English romances about Lancelot and the Grail; the mystical writing of Marguerite Porete (placed in the context of lay spirituality, lyric traditions, and the Romance of the Rose); multiple examples of parody (sexually obscene, shockingly anti-Semitic, or cleverly litigious); and René of Anjou's two allegorical dream visions. Some of these texts are scarcely known to medievalists; others are rarely studied together. Newman's originality in her choice of these primary works will inspire new questions and set in motion new fields of exploration for medievalists working in a large variety of disciplines, including literature, religious studies, history, and cultural studies.