This seminar will present the interim results of my investigation into the twelfth-century verse life of the fourth-century sex worker turned saint Thais, authored by the bishop Marbod of Rennes. This new rendering of an ancient conversion narrative enjoyed distinct early popularity, existing in at least 28 manuscripts, but is one of the least studied of the works of this polymathic poet-bishop.
I will talk through the various contexts in which we need to understand Marbod’s poem: its manuscripts, the wider intellectual culture in which it seems to be taking part, and the historical moment in which it was written. Thais’s story speaks in multiple voices – as one of several harlot saints’ lives, as an intervention into contemporary experiments in religious life, as a model of integrated style and substance from an authoritative poet. I will report on my progress examining each of these angles on the text.
I will also make connections with the broader reception history of the Thais narrative in medieval literature and culture and suggest why Marbod’s adaptation took the forms it did, both in its initial context of composition and in its later reception.
For further information on this seminar, please contact Institute Secretary Cynthia Watson at: email@example.com
Image: New York, Morgan Library MS M.672-5, IV fol. 137v