Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 by Caroline Walker Bynum from Columbia University Press:

Caroline Walker Bynum's The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 from Columbia University Press

 

Bynum seeks to explore antique and medieval ideas about embodiment through the medium of doctrines about resurrection, not vice versa. “[T]he basic conclusion…is that a concern for material and structural continuity showed remarkable persistence even where it seemed almost to require philosophical incoherence, theological equivocation, or aesthetic offensiveness.” (p. 11)

The title describes the book’s scope efficiently, although rather than coverage of a continuous development 200-1336 C.E., the chronological emphases are Late Antiquity (ca. 200 and ca. 400) and the High-to-Late Middle Ages (12th century and ca. 1300). There is a lacuna between Augustine and Peter Lombard. It is “not…a complete survey,” but instead explores particular junctures in which “bodily resurrection…was debated, challenged, reaffirmed and/or redefined.” (p. 22)

While the subject matter is essentially history of theology (a province within intellectual history), Bynum’s method incorporates cultural history, with an emphasis on visual culture and the critical apprehension of root metaphors. The theme and problems of embodiment (much in vogue in the 1990s) are central to the text.

It is an effective problematization of simultaneous distaste and need for the human body in the history of Western Christian culture. [via]

 

 

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