St. Margaret of Antioch was one of the most popular saints in medieval England and, throughout the Middle Ages, the various Lives of St. Margaret functioned as a blueprint for a virginal life and supernatural assistance to pregnant women during the dangerous process of labor. In her narrative, Margaret is accosted by various demons and, having defeated each monster in turn, she is taken to the place of her martyrdom where she prays for supernatural boons for her adherents. This book argues that Margaret’s monsters are a key element in understanding Margaret’s importance to her adherents, specifically how the sexual identities of her adherents were constructed and maintained.

More broadly, this study offers three major contributions to the field of medieval studies: first, it argues for the utility of a diachronic analysis of Saints’ Lives literature in a field dominated by synchronic analyses; second, this diachronic analysis is important to interpreting the intertext of Saints’ Lives, not only between different Lives but also different versions of the same Life; and third, the approach further suggests that the most valuable socio-cultural information in hagiographic literature is found in the auxiliary characters and not in the figure of the saint him/herself.

chapter |14 pages


chapter 1|15 pages

The monastic Margaret

The Life of St. Anthony and Gregory’s Dialogues in the Life

chapter 2|17 pages

In the belly of the beast

Sexual surrender and resistance in the Life

chapter 3|31 pages

The devil made me do it

Audience partitioning and the Life of St. Margaret

chapter 4|30 pages

Circumcising Olibrius

Threatening sexuality and religious alterity in the Life of St. Margaret

chapter 5|36 pages

Paging Dr. Margaret

Prayers and pregnancy in the Life of St. Margaret

chapter |9 pages


The metamorphosis of monsters