We want to explore the relation between medieval faith and deviance of all sorts — theological, sexual, social, psychological, aesthetic, political — across a range of medieval genres, languages, cultures, and historical periods. We hope to pay particular attention to the ways that contemporary theory might help unlock what Slavoj Žižek has called “the perverse core of Christianity.” Our focus will tend, by definition, toward figures of marginality — heretics, the persecuted, criminals, and all those who stood beyond or in opposition to law, custom, and propriety. But of equal or even greater interest will be representations and cultural practices where orthodox faith is shown to have invented, fomented, or otherwise depended on deviance, obscenity, mendacity, disobedience, blasphemy, evil, ugliness, amorality, abjection, hedonism, hypocrisy, carnival, immoderation, skepticism, or unbelief. How does the ludic and performative nature of medieval ritual draw upon the deviance at the heart of Christian culture, its predication on a condemned rule-breaker and his outcast followers? How does the legacy of Paul — as a Jew, an erstwhile persecutor of Christianity, rival of Peter, and an advocate for what sometimes appears as radical antinomianism — set the conditions for a weird kind of normalcy that encompasses abnormality? How did medieval people, in their commentaries on scripture, sermons, devotional poetry, plays, romances, saints’ lives, music, and art, manage the vast conundrums of Christian doctrine, each of which had been subject, and was still open, to charges of perversion: the fulfillment of Judaism, a mortal God, the consumption of his body, the resurrection of the (un)dead, and so forth?
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