Be a Perfect Man
Christian Masculinity and the Carolingian AristocracyUniversity of Pennsylvania Press The Middle Ages Series
The life of an aristocratic Carolingian man involved an array of behaviors and duties associated with his gender and rank: an education in arms and letters; training in horsemanship, soldiery, and hunting; betrothal, marriage, and the virile production of heirs; and the masterful command of a prominent household. In Be a Perfect Man, Andrew J. Romig argues that Carolingian masculinity was constituted just as centrally by the performance of caritas, defined by the early medieval scholar Alcuin of York as a complete and all-inclusive love for God and for fellow human beings, flowing from the whole heart, mind, and soul. The authority of the Carolingian man depended not only on his skills in warfare and landholding but also on his performances of empathy, devotion, and asceticism.
Romig maps caritas as a concept rooted in a vast body of inherited Judeo-Christian and pagan philosophies, shifting in meaning and association from the patristic era to the central Middle Ages. Carolingian discussions and representations of caritas served as a discourse of power, a means by which early medieval writers made claims, both explicit and implicit, about the hierarchies of power that they believed ought to exist within their world. During the late eighth, ninth, and early tenth centuries, they creatively invoked caritas to link aristocratic men with divine authority. Romig gathers conduct handbooks, theological tracts, poetry, classical philosophy, church legislation, and exegetical texts to outline an associative process of gender ideology in the Carolingian Middle Ages, one that framed masculinity, asceticism, and authority as intimately interdependent. The association of power and empathy remains with us to this day, Romig argues, as a justification for existing hierarchies of authority, privilege, and prestige.
List of Abbreviations
Introduction. Ideology, Gender, and Discourse in the Carolingian World
Chapter 1. The Authority of the Ascetic Male
Chapter 2. Manifestos of Carolingian Power
Chapter 3. Louis the Pious and the Manliness of Forgiving
Chapter 4. Questioning Caritas in the Time of Troubles
Chapter 5. The Emergence of the Secular-Spiritual Hybrid
Conclusion. Manliness and Empathy
"[I]ntelligent, well written, and provocative . . . In the Carolingian era, Adam Romig argues in this stimulating new study, the discourse surrounding perfect masculinity was concerned less with a set of traits and behaviours than it was with 'a profound cultural valuation of love, emotional sensitivity, and care for others' . . . The conclusion artfully draws together the analytical strands of the study and suggests some of its implications for the rest of the Middle Ages and beyond."—Early Medieval Europe
"[T]his book is a tremendous contribution to how we think about early medieval Europe. It shows how words and ideas move history, how important it is to always remember that the periods we study were populated by real live human beings who cared about things, and how important it is to forsake scholarly pieties and return ad fontes in order to listen to what they really were trying to say to their own time."—The Medieval Review
"Be a Perfect Man is a bold and well-crafted book that engages with the history of emotions, the cognitive turn in the humanities, divinity studies, and Carolingian history. Andrew J. Romig confronts and overturns current readings of Carolingian lay masculinity in ways that will prompt controversy."—Lynda Coon, University of Arkansas
"Be a Perfect Man is a pathbreaking book. It not only takes an innovative approach to the relationships among gender, authority, and agency but also deftly weaves these culturally contingent relationships together between the shifting poles of secularity and nonsecularity in the Carolingian era. It is a well-written, evocative, and engaging history that will inspire others to pursue the kind of broader, comparative, literary-critical, and philosophical questions that it poses."—Courtney M. Booker, University of British Columbia