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The Inner Lives of Medieval Inquisitors [Hardcover]

Karen Sullivan

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Book Description

25 Mar 2011
There have been numerous studies in recent decades of the medieval inquisitions, most emphasizing larger social and political circumstances and neglecting the role of the inquisitors themselves. In this volume, Karen Sullivan sheds much-needed light on these individuals and reveals that they had choices - both the choice of whether to play a part in the orthodox repression of heresy and, more frequently, the choice of whether to approach heretics with zeal or with charity. In successive chapters on key figures in the Middle Ages - Bernard of Clairvaux, Dominic Guzman, Conrad of Marburg, Peter of Verona, Bernard Gui, Bernard Delicieux, and Nicholas Eymerich - Sullivan shows that it is possible to discern each inquisitor making personal, moral choices as to what course of action he would take. All medieval clerics recognized that the Church should first attempt to correct heretics through repeated admonitions and that, if these admonitions failed, it should then move toward excluding them from society. Yet more charitable clerics preferred to wait for conversion, while zealous clerics preferred not to delay too long before sending heretics to the stake. By considering not the external prosecution of heretics during the Middles Ages, but the internal motivations of the preachers and inquisitors who pursued them, as represented in their writings and in those of their peers, "The Inner Lives of Medieval Inquisitors" explores how it is that the most idealistic of purposes can lead to the justification of such dark ends.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (25 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226781674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226781679
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,769,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Karen Sullivan's book is a major contribution to the literary history of the inquisition. She has carefully read the self-portraits that six inquisitors have left us in their writings concerning their motivations, inner spiritual lives, and religious commitments. There are moments when her book reads like a good novel - an extension of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose." (Brian Stock, University of Toronto)"

About the Author

Karen Sullivan is professor of literature at Bard College. She is the author of The Interrogation of Joan of Arc and Truth and the Heretic: Crises of Knowledge in Medieval French Literature, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 1 May 2014
By Horatio Gavins - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Sullivan has done a very admirable job of researching and presenting a very difficult subject. She attempts to answer some difficult questions about the psyche of those who were involved in propagating and enforcing the inquisition. Excellent material, excellently presented.
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