Theoretical Lives: Identity-Critique and Monastic Community in England, 1000-1259


ACLS Fellowship Program




This book project opens up a new line of inquiry into medieval literature in England in Latin, English, and French, based on the communal rhetoric of eleventh- and twelfth-century monastic authors. Monks and nuns acknowledged the reality of personal identities based on language, ethnicity, and politics, but they struggled to create an ideal “common life” (vita communis) that could contain and transcend such identities. Against the backdrop of the twelfth-century "discovery of the individual," they used collaborative books to imagine how a truly communal speech might be achieved in textual forms like prayer, song, compilation, and dialogue. “Theoretical Lives” draws on both original archival research and literary analysis to reframe critical debates around literary form and identity in high medieval literature in line with modern critiques of self, community, and social networks.