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Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology, and the Daily Lives of the Poor

Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology, and the Daily Lives of the Poor

by Sharon Farmer

Paperback(New Edition)

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This book about poor men and women in thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century Paris reveals the other side of the "age of cathedrals" in the very place where gothic architecture and scholastic theology were born. In Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris, Sharon Farmer extends and deepens the understanding of urban poverty in the High Middle Ages. She explores the ways in which cultural elites thought about the poor, and shows that their conceptions of poor men and women derived from the roles assigned to men and women in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis—men are associated with productive labor, or labor within the public realm, and women with reproductive labor, or labor within the private realm.

Farmer proceeds to complicate this picture, showing that elite society's attitude toward an individual's social role and moral capacity depended not only on gender but also on the person's social status. Such perceptions in turn influenced the kinds of care extended or denied to the poor by charitable organizations and the informal self-help networks that arose among the poor themselves. Of particular interest are Farmer's discussions of society's responses to men and women who were disabled to the point of being incapable of any work at all.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801472695
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 12/12/2005
Series: Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.46(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sharon Farmer is Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the coeditor, with Barbara Rosenwein, of Monks and Nuns, Saints and Outcasts: Religion in Medieval Society and the author of Communities of Saint Martin: Legend and Ritual in Medieval Tours, both from Cornell.

What People are Saying About This

September 2002 Choice

"This small but rich study raises some basic questions about polarizations and social cleavages in late-13th and early-14th-century France, mirroring general issues in medieval Europe.... Touching many basic issues, this broad and learned book is recommended for all levels and collections."

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"Most non-poor Americans today have limited direct contact with poor people in their daily lives. Thus, attitudes and policy are based on unfounded generalizations undergirded by irrelevant moral value systems. A new book, Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris, shows that the present-day stereotyping of poor people is not so different from the 13th Century."

Steven Epstein

"Paris, the largest city in medieval western Europe, has been absent for far too long from debates on urban societies and their problems. Sharon Farmer's book will put Paris back on the map. This book redefines medieval poverty as a gendered experience, and deploys a dazzling array of sources to explain how church and state responded (or not) to the poor."

William Chester Jordan

"Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris is a major contribution to our understanding of poverty and gender in the most important urban environment in the medieval west."

Dave Postles

"We now understand more clearly than before... how the medieval urban poor managed and the place of affective social relationships in this milieu."

James R. Farr

"This book cautions us from thinking too simply about gender constructs, and, most importantly in my opinion, brings property and social status to the center of the discussion about what constitute masculinities and femininities which were, Farmer convincingly argues, various and several."

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