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Dr. Mary Dzon (’95) Dr. Mary Dzon (’95)Although the Gospels are largely silent about Our Lord’s childhood, medieval devotions to the Christ Child led many believers to seek out apocryphal accounts, which went on to shape the piety of the Middle Ages. An associate professor of English at the University of Tennessee, Dr. Mary Dzon (’95) has thoroughly documented and examined these various accounts in The Quest for the Christ Child in the Later Middle Ages, recently published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

The Quest for the Christ Child in the Later Middle AgesApocryphal legends about the child Jesus, Dr. Dzon finds, left their mark on theological, devotional, and literary texts of their age. The publisher’s information that accompanies the book cites a few notable examples: the Cistercian abbot Aelred of Rievaulx urged his monastic readers to imitate the Christ Child’s development through spiritual growth; St. Francis of Assisi encouraged his followers to emulate the Christ Child’s poverty and rusticity; St. Birgitta of Sweden provided pious alternatives in her many Marian revelations. St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, believed that apocryphal stories about the Christ Child would encourage youths to be presumptuous.

The Quest for the Christ Child in the Later Middle Ages fills a major lacuna in the history of affective piety: the importance of the Christ Child in lay and clerical devotion from the twelfth to the fifteenth century,” says Dr. William MacLehose, a lecturer in history of science and medicine at University College London. “This book is a timely and novel exploration of terra incognita, with methodological relevance to scholars outside the fields of medieval spirituality.”

After graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1995, Dr. Dzon earned an M.A. from the University of Dallas and a certificate in Byzantine studies from Catholic University of America. She obtained her doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Toronto in 2004. Prior to joining the English faculty at the University of Tennessee, she served as a visiting assistant professor of English at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The Quest for the Christ Child in the Later Middle Ages is available through the University of Pennsylvania Press and Amazon.com.