Disputed Saints

Dr. Janine Peterson awarded fellowship at Fordham's Center for Medieval Studies

Researching and writing on contested saints in Medieval Italy

POUGHKEEPSIE (April 8, 2014) – Dr. Janine Peterson, associate professor of history, is spending her spring 2014 sabbatical at her alma mater, Fordham University, where she was appointed a Medieval Fellow at its Center for Medieval Studies, which is supporting the final stages of her research and writing of her current book, “Contested Sanctity and Communal Identity in North-Central Italy, 1250-1400.” Dr. Janine Peterson

The Center awards two to three fellowships each academic year to support writing and research with the use of their collections, library, and office space. Fellows are expected to participate in the center’s activities. Dr. Peterson recently contributed to a “Professional Issues” graduate student workshop on “From Paper to Presentation to Publication”; delivered a talk on “Between Sanctity and Heresy: Suspect Saints in Late Medieval Italy,” as part of the center’s spring lecture series; and will be one of the judges for its two graduate essay prizes this spring.

“Dr. Peterson's success in gaining national recognition for her research is matched by her skill in the classroom,” says Dr. Martin Shaffer, dean of the School of Liberal Arts. “She has developed several new courses that translate her scholarship into accessible and engaging material for students.”

Dr. Peterson’s research investigates the conjunction of religion and politics in north-central Italy circa 1250 – 1400 through the lens of “contested” or “disputed” saints. These were individuals that became the focus of civic saint’s cults, supported by both the local clergy and the laity, even though their holiness had been challenged or explicitly condemned by popes or inquisitors. She argues that the existence of these cults was the result of communities questioning the efficacy of the brand-new canonization and inquisitorial processes and challenging the right practice prior to 1200. Unauthorized civic saint’s cults allowed Italian towns to express not only their political autonomy from the pope, who was a terrestrial lord in much of the area, but also to independently address their particular religious needs.

Dr. Peterson’s teaching at Marist explores questions of religion, politics, and culture not only through survey courses such as Medieval Europe and Early Modern Europe, but also through specialized courses including History of Witchcraft and Sorcery, Medieval Cultures in Contact, and Medieval Misfits. She co-founded the Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor and serves as a co-advisor to the College’s branch of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society.

In addition to the fellowship, Dr. Peterson has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend; a Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant from the American Historical Association; the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award from the American Catholic Historical Association; and a Biblioteca Ambrosiana Microfilms Travel Grant from Notre Dame University.

Dr. Peterson received her B.A. and M.A. in Medieval Studies from Fordham. She received a Ph.D. certificate in Medieval Studies and Ph.D. in History (dual program in Medieval History and Cultural History) from Indiana University, Bloomington.

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