My Book: Medieval Saints and Modern Screens - Out Now

When I was little, books were everything to me. Let's face it, even now books are everything to me. When I couldn't sleep, I'd read through the night. And when my eyes got too tired, and I started to drop the book on my face in fits of asleep-ness, I'd absorb myself in planning how I'd write my own book. I had some serious plans about including a playlist of songs to listen to with each chapter, let me tell you. But the book itself, the content and the words, never really materialized in those dreamy planning sessions. It's like I couldn't imagine what book I'd actually write, you know? It was too big a desire - to write a book! my very own! I couldn't pin down the specifics inside the book flaps.

Today - and I mean literally today, my official publication date is 1st December - you can buy my book. A book I wrote, with words and thoughts and arguments and everything. It's not the book I would have imagined I'd write. For a start, there are no feisty heroines taming rugged cowboys, and having sex in Chapter 6. Maybe that'll be book two or three. And no, there's no playlist taped in the back of every copy. But this book, it is not just mine, in a very direct way it is me. It's the result of seven years of work and thinking. It originates substantially in my PhD, which I started in autumn 2010. And in all the years since, I've refined my thinking and developed my work, my style, and my scholarship. I'm proud of this book, and terrified by this book. It says what I want to say, in the way I want to say things. That is a scary prospect indeed, given, like, the fact that people may actually read it? 

Alright, so what is the book actually about? Here's the blurb:

Book cover for Medieval Saints and Modern Screens: Divine Visions as Cinematic Experience, by Alicia Spencer-Hall. Published 01/12/17 by Amsterdam University Press. It's mah booke. 

Book cover for Medieval Saints and Modern Screens: Divine Visions as Cinematic Experience, by Alicia Spencer-Hall. Published 01/12/17 by Amsterdam University Press. It's mah booke. 

This ground-breaking book brings theoretical perspectives from twenty-first century media, film, and cultural studies to medieval hagiography. Medieval Saints and Modern Screens stakes the claim for a provocative new methodological intervention: consideration of hagiography as media. More precisely, hagiography is most productively understood as cinematic media. Medieval mystical episodes are made intelligible to modern audiences through reference to the filmic - the language, form, and lived experience of cinema. Similarly, reference to the realm of the mystical affords a means to express the disconcerting physical and emotional effects of watching cinema. Moreover, cinematic spectatorship affords, at times, a (more or less) secular experience of visionary transcendence: an 'agape-ic encounter'. The medieval saint's visions of God are but one pole of a spectrum of visual experience which extends into our present multi-media moment. We too conjure godly visions: on our smartphones, on the silver screen, and on our TVs and laptops. This book places contemporary pop-culture media - such as blockbuster movie The Dark Knight, Kim Kardashian West's social media feeds, and the outputs of online role-players in Second Life - in dialogue with a corpus of thirteenth-century Latin biographies, 'Holy Women of Liège'. In these texts, holy women see God, and see God often. Their experiences fundamentally orient their life, and offer the women new routes to knowledge, agency, and belonging. For the holy visionaries of Liège, as with us modern 'seers', visions are physically intimate, ideologically overloaded spaces. Through theoretically informed close readings, Medieval Saints and Modern Screens reveals the interconnection of decidedly 'old' media - medieval textualities - and artefacts of our 'new media' ecology, which all serve as spaces in which altogether human concerns are brought before the contemporary culture's eyes.

In Medieval Saints and Modern Screens, I'm trying to force us to reckon with the ways in which media, even and especially pop-cultural media, means things to us. It does things to us. And I'm trying to establish a community of sorts, a collective including people who read things, who see things, and then feel things. Context is important, so there's a fair amount of detail on the contours of thirteenth-century sainthood and writing about saints back then. Not to mention a fair amount of detail about things we normally dismiss as fluff unworthy of attention: the ways we interact online, the things that social media does, the way film gets under our skin. Of course I hope you like it. More than that though, I hope it makes you reflect on the ways in which you navigate our twenty-first century media ecology, the ways media makes meaning for you and you make meaning out of media. Let me know what you think, what you agree with, what made you angry - all of it, I'm interested. Hit me up on Twitter or through the contact form here, or in the comments section below, and we can chat.

To the nitty gritty: 

If you'd like to buy the book, it's on Amazon here. It's also on the Amsterdam University Press website here. I highly recommend you use the latter link, if only because I have promo codes to share! If you use the code "Pub_MedievalSaintsandModernScreens" (no quotations) before 1 February 2018, then you'll get 20% off. 

Academic books are ridiculously expensive. You need to know it's worth the expense. So we're making available the full Table of Contents and Introduction, which lays out my methodology alongside the key ideas of the book and offering chapter summaries. On the Amsterdam University Press site, click on the "look inside" tab and it'll take you to the file. You can also download it directly from my academia.edu page

If you'd like access to the book, but just can't afford it get in touch with me. We can figure out a workaround, like getting the Press to ask nearby libraries to order a copy or I can mobilize my author discount. 

Official book flyer for Medieval Saints and Modern Screens. Feel free to share with wild abandon.

Official book flyer for Medieval Saints and Modern Screens. Feel free to share with wild abandon.