Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate 1952–
Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate 1952–
Born April 10, 1952; married, 1978. Education: University of Bonn, B.A., 1974; Rutgers University, B.A., 1975; Princeton University, Ph.D., 1980.
Scholar, educator, writer, and editor. University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, lecturer in the departments of Romance languages and Germanic language, 1980-81, associate professor, 1994-98, professor, 1998—, director of the Medieval & Renaissance Studies Program, 1996-2003, director of graduate studies, 2002—; Columbia University, New York, NY, Mellon Fellow and lecturer in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities, 1981-83, assistant professor, 1983-89, associate professor, 1989-93. Visiting appointments include the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 1990; the University of Minnesota, 1993; and Princeton University, 2000-01, 2003-04.
Modern Language Association, International Center for Language Studies, Hagiography Society (program director, 1999-2003).
Harold W. Dodds fellow, 1979-80; Mellon Postdoctoral fellow, 1981-83; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1991-92; American Council of Learned Societies fellow, 2008.
Not of Woman Born: Representations of Caesarean Birth in Medieval and Renaissance Culture, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1990.
(Editor, with Timea Szell) Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1991.
(Editor) The Selected Writings of Christine de Pizan: New Translations, Criticism, translated by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Kevin Brownlee, W.W. Norton & Co. (New York, NY), 1997.
Reading Myth: Classical Mythology and Its Interpretations in Medieval French Literature, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1997.
(Editor, with K. Brownlee, Mary Speer, and Lori Walters) Translatio Studii: Essays by His Students in Honor of Karl D. Uitti for His Sixty-fifth Birthday, Rodopi (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2000.
(Editor, with Luise von Flotow and Daniel Russell) The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, University of Ottawa Press (Ottawa, Canada), 2001.
(Editor, with Duncan Robertson and Nancy Bradley Warren) The Vernacular Spirit: Essays on Medieval Religious Literature, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2002.
Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 2006.
Contributor to books, including The Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1982-89; A New History of French Literature, edited by D. Hollier, Harvard University Press, 1989; The Encyclopedia of Childbearing: Critical Perspectives, edited by Barbara Katz Rothman, Oryx, 1993; The City of Scholars: New Approaches to Christine de Pizan, edited by M. Zimmermann and D. de Rentiis, De Gruyter, 1994; New Trends in Feminine Spirituality: The Holy Women of Lige and Their Impact, edited by Juliette Dor, Lesley Johnson, and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Brepols, 1999; The Feminist Encyclopedia of French Literature.
In her first book, Not of Woman Born: Representations of Caesarean Birth in Medieval and Renaissance Culture, the author examines the religious, ethical, and cultural questions concerning abdominal delivery in Europe from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. Tracing the revolution of cesarean birth from early midwives to later male surgeons of the Renaissance, the author draws on representations in art, legend, medical treatises, and manuscript illumination to tell her story. In the process, Blumenfeld-Kosinski reveals how a still existent medical misogyny arose, and she also discusses the etymology of the term "Caesarian section."
As the author points out in her book, Caesarean birth in the Middle Ages presented a religious dilemma. Usually performed when the mother was dead or near death, the likelihood of the child still living after being cut from the mother's womb remained small. However, the baby could be baptized after birth. The midwife, however, found herself at the center of a dilemma: if the child was born dead, then it was not allowed to be buried on consecrated ground, but if it remained in the womb inside the mother, then it could be buried in consecrated ground along with the mother, thus assuring both mother and child of salvation. This dilemma placed the midwives between the clergy and lay surgeons, both with their own views of what should be done for both the mother and the child.
"Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski's book is the first study of cesarean birth in the Middle Ages and Renaissance to take full account of the iconography of the operation," wrote Karen Reeds in ISIS. "Her attention to the images … pays off in a new understanding of the roles of midwives and surgeons and of the symbolism of birth, midwifery, and motherhood." Genevieve Stuttaford, writing in Publishers Weekly, called Not of Woman Born "a captivating and revealing work."
For her next book, the author serves as editor with Timea Szell of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe. The book presents fourteen previously unpublished essays by medieval literature scholars, historians who specialize in religion, and art historians. Their focus is on advances in recent scholarship on medieval sainthood in its diverse contexts and functions. The essays begin by placing the texts studied within their political and social contexts and then focus on the texts within larger literary and artistic narratives. The book's final section looks at saintliness and gender. "The greatest success of this volume is the consistent ability of its authors to interrogate the nature of the genre, or rather genres, of hagiography," noted Thomas Head in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne wrote in Medium Aevum: "This welcome collection is more than the sum of its parts," and she added that the essays present "a lively yet sufficiently coherent sample of the new scholarship in a field."
In Reading Myth: Classical Mythology and Its Interpretations in Medieval French Literature, the author examines how French culture from the mid-twelfth century to approximately 1430 appropriated and transformed classical mythology. As the author explores this appropriation and transformation, she delves into issues such as the purposes of transforming classical myth and the techniques used by poets and writers to integrate classical subject matter into their own texts. Her examination includes a look at the myth in the Romans antiques, the Roman de la Rose, the Ovide moralise, the dits amoureux of Guillaume de Machaut and Jean Froissart, and the works of Christine de Piza. Writing in Modern Language Review, Rosalind Brown-Grant commented that the "book is particularly innovative in this field in that it examines how various writers from the mid-twelfth century to the early fifteenth approached the issue of mythic interpretation itself, each according to his own particular political, poetic, or polemical agenda." Medium Aevum contributor Sylvia Huot wrote: "Clearly written and persuasive in its arguments, this book will be enjoyed by specialists and students alike."
Blumenfeld-Kosinski is editor with Luise von Flotow and Daniel Russell of The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The book features essays that examine a variety of the political aspects of translation from Eusebius's Greek version of Virgil's Ecologue 4 to the use of Roman tragedy in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. Reflecting a strong appreciation of the political forces that have influenced culture, ideology, and translation, the essays are "at the intersection of translation studies with medieval and early modern studies," as noted by Will Robins in Letters in Canada. Robins went on to comment: "To read these eleven essays … is to return to highly charged moments of cultural change in Europe: the Christianization of the Roman Empire; the rise of monastic, aristocratic, and merchant communities; the emergence of national identities; and the effects of exploration, printing, and humanism."
Blumenfeld-Kosinski is also editor with Duncan Robertson and Nancy Bradley Warren of The Vernacular Spirit: Essays on Medieval Religious Literature. "This interdisciplinary collection of essays on the medieval vernacular (English, French, Flemish and German, and Spanish) ranges from the mid-twelfth to the late sixteenth century," noted Alexandra Barratt in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History. The thirteen essays in the volume explore the literary reactions to the growth of "vernacularization" of the divine that accompanied the Christian clergy's loss of a monopoly over biblical knowledge through a reliance on Latin.
Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417, published in 2006, tells the story of the Schism, which divided medieval Christendom into Western (Latin) and Eastern (Greek) branches. Instead of addressing it as a political or ecclesiastical event, the book focuses on how it was a significant crisis felt by ordinary Christians at all levels of society. "The Great Schism has been the topic of countless studies, and one might well question the necessity of another one," noted Kathleen G. Cushing in Church History. "This new book by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, however, adopts a quite different perspective by investigating what she terms the imaginaire of the Great Schism."
According to the author, "the imaginaire" is an emotional response to the division of Christendom as expressed in visions, letters, poetry, prophecies, and artistic representations. The author explores how the common Christians of the day tried to make sense of a profound crisis that threatened to undermine their faith in the clergy. The author closely examines how, for almost forty years, from 1378 to 1417, the Western church was divided in various rival camps that ended up creating three competing popes. In looking at the artistic, literary, and other responses to the schism, the author examines several groups that have been given little attention by historians studying the schism. These groups are saintly men and women, such as Catherine of Siena and Vincent Ferrer; politically aware and committed poets, such as Christine de Pizan; and prophets, such as the mysterious Telesphorus of Cosenza. The author writes about how these groups typically perceived the schism as an apocalyptic sign of the end of times; in addition, the author explores the images representing the schism, such as that of the Church as a two-headed monster or a suffering widow.
"The work should introduce scholars who have concentrated too much on politics to a world of discourse which is not very familiar," wrote Margaret Harvey in the Catholic Historical Review. "One strength of the book is its discussion of some relatively unfamiliar authors whose works may not be readily accessible to students." Canadian Journal of History contributor Joelle Rollo-Koster commented: "This engaging book will satisfy any academic or layperson interested in the history of the Church, but also in the history of mentalities at large. The book is well-written and comprehensive at many levels."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, February 29, 1992, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 174.
American Historical Review, June, 1991, Helen Lemay, review of Not of Woman Born: Representations of Caesarean Birth in Medieval and Renaissance Culture, p. 861.
Antioch Review, summer, 1992, Barbara Beckerman Davis, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 589.
Canadian Journal of History, spring-summer, 2007, Joelle Rollo-Koster, review of Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417, p. 90.
Canadian Literature, winter, 1995, Judy Z. Segal, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 195.
Canadian Woman Studies, winter, 1993, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 117.
Catholic Historical Review, April, 1992, John Howe, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 277; July, 2006, Margaret Harvey, review of Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417, p. 306.
Choice, December, 1992, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 583; September, 1998, C.M. Reno, review of Reading Myth: Classical Mythology and Its Interpretations in Medieval French Literature, p. 135; January, 2002, R. Cormier, review of The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, p. 873.
Church History, June, 1995, Paul Lachance, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 277; March, 2007, Kathleen G. Cushing, review of Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417, p. 170.
French Review, February, 1999, Raymond Cormier, review of Reading Myth, p. 567.
French Studies, January, 2000, Penny Eley, review of Reading Myth, p. 67.
Isis, September, 1991, Karen Reeds, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 557.
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January, 1997, Thomas Head, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 139; April, 2004, Alexandra Barratt, review of The Vernacular Spirit: Essays on Medieval Religious Literature, p. 369.
Journal of Religion, January, 1995, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 175.
Journal of the History of Ideas, October, 1991, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 695.
Journal of the History of Science in Society, September, 1991, Karen Reeds, review of Not of Woman Born, pp. 557-558.
Letters in Canada, winter, 2003-2004, Will Robins, review of The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, pp. 181-182.
Medieval Review, July, 2007, Michael P. Kuczynski, review of Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417.
Medium Aevum, spring, 1993, Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 109; fall, 1999, Sylvia Huot, review of Reading Myth, p. 333.
Modern Language Review, October, 2000, Rosalind Brown-Grant, review of Reading Myth, p. 1082.
Publishers Weekly, January 26, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 410; September 20, 1991, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 131.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2002, review of The Vernacular Spirit, p. 191.
Signs, autumn, 1993, Suzanne F. Wemple, review of Images of Sainthood in Medieval Europe, p. 269.
Sixteenth Century Journal, winter, 1992, Barbara A. Hanawalt, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 858.
Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, April, 1992, Monica H. Green, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 380; October, 2002, review of Reading Myth, p. 1244; October, 2004, Laurie Postlewate, review of The Vernacular Spirit, p. 1041; October, 2007, Amy Ogden, review of Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417, p. 967.
Times Literary Supplement, July 20, 1990, Mary Ritter Beard, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 784; December 11, 1998, review of Reading Myth, p. 33.
Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, fall, 1992, Margaret Ferguson, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 337.
University of Toronto Quarterly, winter, 2003, review of The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, p. 181.
Wilson Library Bulletin, June, 1990, Peg Padnos, review of Not of Woman Born, p. 136.
University of Pittsburgh Web site,http://www.pitt.edu/ (June 22, 2008), faculty profile of author.