Illness and Authority: Disability in the Life and Lives of Francis of Assisi

By Donna Trembinski

© 2020

Illness and Authority examines the lived experience and early stories about St. Francis of Assisi through the lens of disability studies. This new approach re-centres Francis’s illnesses and infirmities and highlights how they became barriers to wielding traditional modes of masculine authority within both the Franciscan Order he founded and the church hierarchy. So concerned were members of the Franciscan leadership that the future saint was compelled to seek out medical treatment and spent the last two years of his life in the nearly constant care of doctors. Unlike other studies of Francis’s ailments, Illness and Authority focuses on the impact of his illnesses on his autonomy and secular power, rather than his spiritual authority.

From downplaying the comfort Francis received from music to disappearing doctors in the narratives of his life, early biographers worked to minimize the realities of his infirmities. When they could not do so, they turned the saint’s experiences into teachable moments that demonstrated his saintly and steadfast devotion and his trust in God. Illness and Authority explores the struggles that early authors of Francis’s vitae experienced as they tried to make sense of a saint whose life did not fit the traditional rhythms of a founder-saint.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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  • AVAILABLE NOV 2020

    From: $48.75

    Regular Price: $65.00

    ISBN 9781487507411
  • AVAILABLE DEC 2020

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    Regular Price: $65.00

Quick Overview

Illness and Authority is the first monograph-length study to examine a well-known medieval saint from the perspective of disability studies.

Illness and Authority: Disability in the Life and Lives of Francis of Assisi

By Donna Trembinski

© 2020

Illness and Authority examines the lived experience and early stories about St. Francis of Assisi through the lens of disability studies. This new approach re-centres Francis’s illnesses and infirmities and highlights how they became barriers to wielding traditional modes of masculine authority within both the Franciscan Order he founded and the church hierarchy. So concerned were members of the Franciscan leadership that the future saint was compelled to seek out medical treatment and spent the last two years of his life in the nearly constant care of doctors. Unlike other studies of Francis’s ailments, Illness and Authority focuses on the impact of his illnesses on his autonomy and secular power, rather than his spiritual authority.

From downplaying the comfort Francis received from music to disappearing doctors in the narratives of his life, early biographers worked to minimize the realities of his infirmities. When they could not do so, they turned the saint’s experiences into teachable moments that demonstrated his saintly and steadfast devotion and his trust in God. Illness and Authority explores the struggles that early authors of Francis’s vitae experienced as they tried to make sense of a saint whose life did not fit the traditional rhythms of a founder-saint.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Author Information

    Donna Trembinski is an associate professor of Medieval History at St. Francis Xavier University.
  • Table of contents

    Abbreviations
    Acknowledgments

    Introduction
     
    Framework and Methodology
    Sources and the Franciscan Question

    Works Attributed to Francis
    Formal Lives of Francis
    Informal Lives of Francis
    The Vexed Franciscan Question

    1. Francis Over-diagnosed and Undiagnosed

    2. Re-centring Illness and Infirmity in Francis’s Lived Experience

    Francis’s Ailments and Impairments in His Own Words and Writing
    Brother Leo’s Testimony in the Dedication of Francis’s Breviary

    3. Et licet infirmus fuisset semper: Testimonies of Illness in the Early Lives of St. Francis

    Captivity and Conversion: 1202–1210
    Negotiating Ministry and Illness: 1210–1219
    Travel and Retreat from Leadership: 1219–1221

    Resignation
    Chapter of the Mats
    Adopting a Protector for the Order

    Withdrawal and Contemplation: 1222–1224
    Unseeing Eyes and Broken Body: 1224–1226

    4. Disability and Tensions in Francis’s Lived Experience

    The Needs of the Delicate Body and the Requirements of Asceticism
    Medicine, Doctors, and Perfect Obedience 
    The Problem with Blindness
    Disability and Leadership 

    5. The Hagiographers’ Search for Meaning

    Disappearing Blindness
    Asceticism and Medicine
    Disappearing Doctors
    The Changing Role of Guardians
    Disappearing Humanity, New Sanctity

    6. On Disability, Power, and Gender: A Speculative Conclusion

    Resistance and Power in Francis’s Lived Experience 
    Reshaping Francis’s Authority: The Work of Early Hagiographers
    Francis in the Feminine Mode?
    Practising Piety in the Feminine Mode
    Demonstrating Power in the Feminine Mode

    Post-Script: On the Importance of Disability as a Category of Analysis

    Appendices

    Appendix I: Re-centring Illness: A Revised Chronology of Francis’s Life

    Notes
    Bibliography
    Index

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