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‘To Love and Be Loved:’ The Medieval Monastic Community as Family, 400-1300

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Title: ‘To Love and Be Loved:’ The Medieval Monastic Community as Family, 400-1300
Author: Mallon, Jack
Department: Department of History
Program: History
Advisor: Murray, Jacqueline
Abstract: This thesis expands how the medieval monastic family can be understood to parallel the traditional nuclear family founded upon the heterosexual union of husband and wife for the purpose of procreation. From the fourth to thirteenth centuries, monastic communities functioned as same-sex family units because they both differentiated from the larger associations of kin and community, and contained human relations that were very different from those outside the monastery. Medieval monasteries were composed of three generations of monks that fulfilled the familial and affective roles of fathers, brothers, and children. The monastic family incorporated components of the Roman and Hebraic families, but also created emotional bonds and affective experiences that are not mirrored by the medieval secular family. Monks were able to adopt fluid and reflexive affective roles that, according to the twelfth-century abbot, Bernard of Clairveaux, permitted a monk to be “both a mother and a father, both a brother and a sister.”
Date: 2015-01
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