International Medieval Congress 1

12/7/05

Today is the second of my three days at the Leeds International Medieval Congress. Yesterday was an unusually truncated start, since I only arrived mid-afternoon (and thus missed papers by several of my friends). The highlight of the one session I did get to was Danuta Shanzer on the souls of children in late antiquity. Starting from a reference in Virgil’s description of hell to the souls of children, who may not be the ordinary ahoroi but instead aborted foetuses, she looked at examples of Christian texts discussing the souls of children and especially those who had not been baptised (and thus were
technically not saved). The Apocalypse of Peter and the Visio Wettini have images of aborted and exposed children denouncing their parents in hell for their killing of them, and in some versions seem to imply that the children themselves are not in hell, but able to look down there from some better place. It’s a very striking image – good job the pro-lifers haven’t taken up that one yet. Danuta was also looking at the treatment of the Holy Innocents in the afterlife and how they were said to have been baptised by martyrdom to avoid the problem that they are otherwise unbaptised. Her overall point was a
question about what such treatment of such marginal souls represents. Is this some variant of popular religion, that doesn’t think that ‘innocent’ children should be sent to hell, or is there a developed theological view on such topics?
Most off-putting bit of the day meanwhile: finding out that I hadn’t got a job I applied for only when I meet/hear from a friend of mine who has got it. (Second time in a few months). I’m pleased for them, but it’d be helpful if universities could at least tell you when the decision is going to be made so you know you haven’t got it.

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