Medieval Academy of America 1
Medieval and Modern Perceptions of Transgression, Karen Christianson,
Dangerous Liaisons? Nuns, Monks, and the Sexual Indiscretions of Monastic Life, Michelle Armstrong-Partida, University of California,
Forgery, Crime, and Punishment in the Central Middle Ages, Robert F. Berkhofer III, Western Michigan University
Roving Nuns and Cistercian Realities: The Cloistering of Religious Women in the Thirteenth Century, Erin L. Jordan, University of Northern Colorado
Behaviors that seem obviously wrong today—immoral, illegal, even criminal—sometimes were perfectly acceptable to Europeans during the Middle Ages. The opposite case also arises, where actions that would scarcely raise an eyebrow today resulted in severe punishments. At the same time, some behaviors labeled transgressive by medieval prescriptive and legal sources appear in fact to have been widely practiced and accepted. The papers in this panel will engage a variety of documents of practice to unearth, in specific cases, how—and why—medieval people defined certain acts as transgressions, and they ways they enforced or chose not to enforce instances of wrongdoing.
Michelle Armstrong-Partida’s paper explores monks and nuns in Catalunya engaging in sexual relationships—apparent cut-and-dried instances of transgressive behavior. But visitation records reveal a more nuanced story, with gender and social class determining whether and how the individuals involved were punished, and even whether they were required to end the errant relationships. Robert Berkhofer examines the issue of forging documents in medieval