Miri Rubin's erudite study explores medieval culture through its unifying symbol, the eucharist, inquiring into the ways religious culture created a language by which order, power and private devotion found voice. She writes, ''The drama of the eucharist is the drama of human creativity and of human frailty: its force deriving from the tension inherent in human action, between the capacity to construct meaning-laden symbols, and the consequent imperatives of living by them, adhering to them and maintaining their meanings when they become susceptible to the vagaries and vicissitudes of human interpretation.'' Undertaken initially as a study of the feast of Corpus Christi, Rubin's treatise grew to incorporate not only the utterance (the ritual practice itself) but also the language which gave that utterance meaning, constructing a framework that would ultimately govern a culture. A lecturer in medieval history at Oxford, Rubin begins with a discussion of the Eucharist's design and practice (c. 1000), construing its theological and cultural implications amidst both clergy and laity and demonstrating the conditions under which the feast of Corpus Christi came to be. Her final chapters examine the many readings of the Eucharist as symbol amidst mystic, heretic and layman, concluding that while such systems (and symbols) are ''inescapable inasmuch as we share life with others, we must learn how to negotiate liberating meanings within them.''
An Eighth Day View:
This book studies later medieval culture (c. 1150-1500) through its central symbol: the eucharist. From the twelfth century onward the eucharist was designed by the Church as the foremost sacrament. The claim that this ritual brought into presence Christ's own body, and offered it to believers, underpinned the sacramental system and the clerical meditation upon which it depended. The book explores the context in which the sacramental world was created and the cultural processes through which it was disseminated, interpreted and used. With attention to the variety of eucharistic meanings and practices, the book moves from the "design" of the eucharist in the twelfth century to its redesign in the sixteenth--a story of the emergence of a symbol, its use and interpretation and final transformation.