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Mother of God

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most powerful, influential and complex of all religious figures. The focus for women, the inspiration of faith, the subject of innumerable paintings, sculptures, pieces of music and churches, Mary is so entangled in our world that it is impossible to conceive of the history of Western culture and religion without her. Mother of God is the story of that presence and a book that raises profound questions about the human experience.
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About the Author

Miri Rubin is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London. She is the author of the acclaimed, late medieval volume in the Penguin History of Britain series, The Hollow Crown, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture and Gentile Tales: Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews. She lives in Cambridge.


At first glance, it would seem that attempts to write histories of biblical characters must be hampered by the sparsity of extracanonical writings that inform our understandings of the Bible's people. But sometimes an individual rises from the pages of Scripture to take on a role so central, so important to Christendom's self-understanding that legend and devotion supersede historical verities. Rubin, professor of history at Queen Mary University of London, brings to this work a panoramic view of Mary's impact on the evolution and growth of Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity. Mary emerges in this study as a multifunctional Swiss army knife of spirituality, variously used as a model of motherhood, an object of devotion and a focal point of conflict among Christian believers. But she also serves as a useful tool to help all believers "reflect on the uses of the feminine in private yearnings and public supplications." In the end, Mary is as complex as is Christianity itself. Rubin's study goes a long way toward helping readers understand Mary and deserves a wide readership. 32 color, 8 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Miri Rubin [is] one of the most interesting and original of British medieval historians ... There is room for a whole book on this subject and Rubin is uniquely equipped to write it ... a capacious and vastly learned book ... a treasury -- Rowan Williams * Financial Times * a wonderfully illuminating history of the mother of Jesus * Telegraph * A remarkable, ambitious and wide-ranging account ... sympathetic and eloquent -- Melanie McDonagh * Evening Standard *

Rubin (history, Queen Mary Univ. of London) follows Mary, the mother of Jesus, from her obscure beginnings in the gospels to her present nearly universal stature today. Rubin ties Mary's legacy to the growth of Christianity in early medieval Europe (c.1000 C.E.) and offers a chronological history of Marian ideas, practices, and images from earliest Christian expressions to around 1600 C.E. Rubin's varied Marys include the Imperial Mary of the Christian East and the Islamic Mary, two short but valuable historical discussions, and a study of the usual Marian personifications: deified Mary, Mary the mediator, biblical Mary, Mary the mother, and suffering Mary. Rubin ties her historical arguments to rich considerations of Marian representations, as diverse as the cultures and times surveyed. She concludes that "Mary was made in important ways by men and [was] thus rejected as a route to the exploration of femininity and spirituality" until modern feminism could release her from patriarchal captivity. Offering a Eurocentric chronological approach, Rubin has strengths that lie in representational theories as well as non-European perspectives on Mary. Recommended where interest warrants.-Sandra Collins, Byzantine Catholic Seminary Lib., Pittsburgh Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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