The politics of Middle English parables examines the dynamic intersection of fiction, theology, and social practice in translated Gospel stories. Parables occupy a prominent place in Middle English literature, appearing in dream visions and story collections as well as in lives of Christ and devotional treatises. While most scholarship approaches these scriptural stories as stable vehicles of Christian teachings, this book characterises Gospel parables as ambiguous, riddling stories that invited audience interpretation and inspired the construction of new, culturally inflected narratives. In parables related to labour, social inequality, charity, and penance, the book locates a creative theological discourse through which writers reconstructed scriptural stories and, in doing so, attempted to shape Christian belief and practice. Analysis of these diverse retellings reveals not what a given parable meant in a definitive sense but rather how Middle English parables inscribe the ideologies, power structures, and cultural debates of late medieval Christianity.
The church as sacred space places the reader at the heart of medieval
religious life, standing inside the church with the medieval laity in order to
ask what the church meant to them and why. It examines the church as a building,
idea, and community, and explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church
was crucial to its place at the centre of lay devotion and parish life. At a
time when the parish church was facing competition for lay attention, and
dissenting movements such as Lollardy were challenging the relevance of the
material church, the book examines what was at stake in discussions of sanctity
and its manifestations. Exploring a range of Middle English literature alongside
liturgy, architecture, and material culture, the book explores the ways in which
the sanctity of the church was constructed and maintained for the edification of
the laity. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary theoretical approaches, the
book offers a reading of the church as continually produced and negotiated by
the rituals, performances, and practices of its lay communities, who were
constantly being asked to attend to its material form, visual decorations, and
significance. The meaning of the church was a dominant question in late-medieval
religious culture and this book provides an invaluable context for students and
academics working on lay religious experience and canonical Middle English
Middle English literature registers intimate concerns with sleep and the spaces in which it takes place. These concerns about sleep, and the intersecting medical and moral discourses with which they engage, have been overlooked by studies more concerned with what sleep sometimes enables (dreams and dream poetry), or with what sleep sometimes stands in for or supersedes (sex). In the medieval English imagination, sleep is an embodied and culturally determined act, both performed and interpreted by characters and contemporaries; both subject to a particular habitus, and understood through particular, and pervasive, hermeneutic lenses. This book argues that sleep mediates thematic concerns and questions in ways that carry specific ethical, affective and oneiric implications in the medieval English cultural imagination, and that also offer defining contributions to different Middle English genres: romance, dream vision, drama and fabliau. Concentrating particularly on the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, this book also attends to a longue durée in the literature and ideas about sleep circulating from the twelfth century to the early seventeenth. It focuses on continuities in the construction of sleep across this span – scientific, social, spiritual and spatial continuities – and explores the cultural specificity of premodern English literature’s widespread interest in sleep. Analysing the ways in which representations of sleep in a range of genres animate ethical codes and emotive scripts, this book’s contributions include establishing the significance of sleep-related motifs to Middle English romance, and offering a more embodied understanding of dream visions by Chaucer, Langland and the Pearl-poet.
This book is a study of cultural memory in and of the British Middle Ages. It works with material drawn from across the medieval period – in Old English, Middle English and Latin, as well as material and visual culture – and explores modern translations, reworkings and appropriations of these texts to examine how images of the past have been created, adapted and shared. It interrogates how cultural memory formed, and was formed by, social identities in the Middle Ages and how ideas about the past intersected with ideas about the present and future. It also examines how the presence of the Middle Ages has been felt, understood and perpetuated in modernity and the cultural possibilities and transformations this has generated. The Middle Ages encountered in this book is a site of cultural potential, a means of imagining the future as well as imaging the past. The scope of this book is defined by the duration of cultural forms rather than traditional habits of historical periodization and it seeks to reveal connections across time, place and media to explore the temporal complexities of cultural production and subject formation. It reveals a transtemporal and transnational archive of the modern Middle Ages.
Humankind has always been fascinated by the world in which it finds itself, and puzzled by its relations to it. Today that fascination is often expressed in what is now called ‘green’ terms, reflecting concerns about the non-human natural world, puzzlement about how we relate to it, and anxiety about what we, as humans, are doing to it. So-called green or eco-criticism acknowledges this concern. This book reaches back and offers new readings of English texts, both known and unfamiliar, informed by eco-criticism. After considering general issues pertaining to green criticism, it moves on to a series of individual chapters arranged by theme (earth, trees, wilds, sea, gardens and fields) that provide individual close readings of selections from such familiar texts as Malory's Morte D'Arthur, Chaucer's Knight's and Franklin's Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Langland's Piers Plowman. These discussions are contextualized by considering them alongside hitherto marginalized texts such as lyrics, Patience and the romance Sir Orfeo. The result is a study that reinvigorates our customary reading of late Middle English literary texts while also allowing us to reflect upon the vibrant new school of eco-criticism itself.
This study brings emergent methodologies of literary geography to bear upon the unique contents—or more to the point, the moving, artful, frequently audacious contents—of a codex known as London, British Library MS Harley 2253. The Harley manuscript was produced in provincial Herefordshire, in England’s Welsh Marches, by a scribe whose literary generation was wiped out in the Black Death of 1348–1351. It contains a diverse set of writings: love-lyrics and devotional texts, political songs and fabliaux, saints’ lives, courtesy literature, bible narratives, travelogues, and more. These works alternate between languages (Middle English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin), but have been placed in mutually illuminating conversation. Following an Introduction that explores how this fragmentary miscellany keeps being sutured into ‘whole’-ness by commentary upon it, individual chapters examine different genres, topics, and social groupings. Readers from literary history, medieval studies, cultural geography, gender studies, Jewish studies, book history, and more, will profit from the encounter. Harley 2253 is famous as medieval books go, thanks to its celebrated roster of lyrics, fabliaux, and political songs, and owing to the scarcity of material extant from this ‘in-between’ period in insular literary history. England’s post-Conquest/pre-plague era remains dimly known. Despite such potential, there has never been a monograph published on Harley 2253. Harley Manuscript Geographies orients readers to this compelling material by describing the phenomenon of the medieval miscellany in textual and codicological terms. But another task it performs is to lay out grounds for approaching this compilation via the interpretive lens that cultural geography provides.