A collection of essays providing an interpretive study of Saint Anne - the apocryphal mother of the Virgin - in the late medieval culture. "Interpreting Cultural Symbols" examines the different images of Saint Anne from a variety of sources including folklore, drama, ritual, the visual arts, local and political history, hagiographic narrative and theology. In their introduction, the editors trace the historical developments of the Saint Anne legend and offer a methodology for reading cultural symbols that challenges assumptions of discipline-bound scholarship. The essential metaphors of devotion to Saint Anne, as several essays show, focus on family and motherhood. Francesca Sautman traces the legend of Anne a s a child abandoned in an eagle's nest and raised by a deer. Gail Mc Murray Gibson examines two poems in which the invocation of Saint Anne reflects as a celebration of middle-class values and family ties. Two essays examine the political impact of Saint Anne. Roger J.Crum and David G.Wilkins discuss the iconography of Anne as a symbol of the Florentine revolt of 1343. Tracing the dispute over Saint Anne during the reformation in France, Myra D.Orth examines the unexpected political overtones of Louise of Savoy's devotion to Anne.
These essays challenge not only divisions between women's studies and traditional disciplinary study but also divisions between popular and elite cultures, folklore and theology, politics and religion. Whether engaging class, gender, or institutional ideology, "Interpreting Cultural Symbols" seeks to remove hagiographic materials from a sacrosanct position in medieval studies and to embed them within wider social discourses, both medieval and modern.