"Medieval Saints and Modern Screens sparkles with moments of provocation and insight. It offers hope that modern life and thought might one day yield a true vision of life in the past. I expect that Spencer-Hall’s next book will truly dazzle us." - Lisa Bitel, University of Southern California, H-France Review, Volume 18 (2018)
"Medieval Saints produces a robust response to decades of neglect of hagiographical sources. Through her trans-temporal, transmedia study, Spencer-Hall repeatedly demonstrates how much the narratives of holy women might contribute to a number of studies outside the direct field of hagiography, including lay theology; the theorisation of vision and time; discussions of medieval self-creation; textual production and performance studies. While the lives of these women have frequently been marginalised in scholarship Spencer-Hall powerfully demonstrates their immediacy and relevance for our current times." - Daisy Black, University of Wolverhampton, Medievally Speaking. Read the full review online.
"Medieval Saints and Modern Screens is a lively and engrossing book that brings theories from contemporary media studies together with medieval women mystics, particularly from the Liégeois corpus ... The book will be of particular interest to scholars interested in the application of modern media studies to medieval contexts, and it should also prove useful to scholars who teach medieval hagiography, as it offers wonderful hooks for drawing students into these (frequently difficult) texts." - Jessica Barr University of Massachusetts Amherst, The Medieval Review. Read the full review online.
This ground-breaking book brings theoretical perspectives from twenty-first century media, film, and cultural studies to medieval hagiography. Medieval Saints and Modern Screens stakes the claim for a provocative new methodological intervention: consideration of hagiography as media. More precisely, hagiography is most productively understood as cinematic media. Medieval mystical episodes are made intelligible to modern audiences through reference to the filmic - the language, form, and lived experience of cinema. Similarly, reference to the realm of the mystical affords a means to express the disconcerting physical and emotional effects of watching cinema. Moreover, cinematic spectatorship affords, at times, a (more or less) secular experience of visionary transcendence: an 'agape-ic encounter'. The medieval saint's visions of God are but one pole of a spectrum of visual experience which extends into our present multi-media moment. We too conjure godly visions: on our smartphones, on the silver screen, and on our TVs and laptops. This book places contemporary pop-culture media - such as blockbuster movie The Dark Knight, Kim Kardashian West's social media feeds, and the outputs of online role-players in Second Life - in dialogue with a corpus of thirteenth-century Latin biographies, 'Holy Women of Liège'. In these texts, holy women see God, and see God often. Their experiences fundamentally orient their life, and offer the women new routes to knowledge, agency, and belonging. For the holy visionaries of Liège, as with us modern 'seers', visions are physically intimate, ideologically overloaded spaces. Through theoretically informed close readings, Medieval Saints and Modern Screens reveals the interconnection of decidedly 'old' media - medieval textualities - and artefacts of our 'new media' ecology, which all serve as spaces in which altogether human concerns are brought before the contemporary culture's eyes.
Alicia Spencer-Hall is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Language, School of Language, Linguistics and Film at Queen Mary, University of London (UK). She specializes in comparative analyses of medieval literature and modern critical theory. She is an expert in medieval hagiography, with her work foregrounding interrogations inflected by contemporary visual, media, and cultural studies. Her first book, Medieval Saints and Modern Screens, came out in December 2017 with Amsterdam University Press. At present, she is finishing up work on her second book, Medieval Twitter, forthcoming with ARC Humanities.