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The eleventh and early twelfth centuries were a period of intense debate over ecclesiastical reform in western Europe. This book examines the debates from a new perspective, exploring the ways in which contemporary political writers conveyed messages about 'public' life through textual and sometimes visual images of the 'private' life of the Church. It argues that the images they used - of bishops as husbands of their sees, of the laity as the sons of Mother Church, and of the pope as father of bishops - were shaped not only by intellectual and ritual traditions, but also by contemporary ideas about sexuality and gender. Megan McLaughlin reveals that the boundaries between the 'public' and the 'private' were extremely fluid in the central Middle Ages - because of both the realities of political life in that period and the changing nature of life within European households.
Megan McLaughlin is Associate Professor of History, with additional appointments in the Departments of Gender and Women's Studies, and Religion, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests focus particularly on two areas of medieval European history: the intersection between religion and social/economic/culture structures; and the history of women and gender in medieval Europe. Her previous publications include Consorting with Saints: Prayer for the Dead in Early Medieval France (1994).