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  • Series: Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture x
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Between earth and heaven

Liminality and the Ascension of Christ in Anglo-Saxon literature

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Johanna Kramer

This book offers readers a new understanding of the methods of religious instruction and the uses of religious texts in Anglo-Saxon England, capturing the lived significance of these texts to contemporary audiences. An examination of Anglo-Saxon texts based on their didactic strategies, succeed at teaching theology, and blended cultural influences allows us to evaluate both celebrated and neglected texts more even-handedly and in a new light. The book first deals with the history and character of the theology of Christ's Ascension. It traces the history of Ascension theology from its scriptural roots to its patristic elaborations and to its transmission in Anglo-Saxon England, presenting those doctrines and themes that become most relevant to insular authors. The history of Ascension theology shows that Anglo-Saxon authors make deliberate and innovative choices in how they present the inherited patristic theology to their contemporary audiences. The book then contends that both the martyrologist and the Blickling homilist recognize the importance of liminality to Ascension theology and use the footprints as the perfect vehicle to convey this. It also examines the ways in which Anglo-Saxon authors construct spatial relationships to establish symbolic relationships between three major Christological events: the Ascension, the Harrowing of Hell, and Christ's Entry into heaven. Analysing individual Rogationtide and Ascension homilies, both Latin and vernacular, the book moves from the formal preaching of theology to the spatial practices of Rogationtide liturgy to the popular beliefs about boundaries and the earth.

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Helen Barr

What happens when Chaucer turns up where we don’t expect him to be? Transporting Chaucer draws on the work of the British sculptor Antony Gormley alongside more traditional literary scholarship to show that Chaucer’s play with textual history and chronological time prefigures how his poetry becomes incorporate with later (and earlier) texts. The shuttling of bodies, names, and sounds in and amongst works that Chaucer did write anticipates Chaucerian presences in later (and earlier) works that he did not. Chaucer’s characters, including ‘himself’ refuse to stay put in one place and time. This book bypasses the chronological borders of literary succession to read The Canterbury Tales and Chaucer’s Dream Vision poetry in present company with Chaucerian ‘apocrypha’, and works by Shakespeare, Davenant and Dryden. Conventional models of source and analogue study are re-energised to reveal unexpected (and sometimes unsettling) literary cohabitations and re-placements. Transporting Chaucer presents innovative readings of relationships between medieval texts and early modern drama, and between literary texts and material culture. Associations between medieval architecture, pilgrim practice, manuscript illustration, and the soundscapes of dramatic performance reposition how we read Chaucer’s oeuvre and what gets made of it. Written for scholars and students (undergraduate and graduate) who work in medieval English literary studies and early modern drama, Transporting Chaucer offers a new approach to how we encounter texts through time.

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Performing women

Gender, self, and representation in late medieval Metz

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Susannah Crowder

Performing women takes on a key problem in the history of drama: the ‘exceptional’ staging of the life of Catherine of Siena by a female actor and a female patron in 1468 Metz. These two creators have remained anonymous, despite the perceived rarity of this familiar episode; this study of their lives and performances, however, brings the elusive figure of the female performer to centre stage. Beginning with the Catherine of Siena play and broadening outward, Performing women integrates new approaches to drama, gender, and patronage with a performance methodology to trace connections among the activities of the actor, the patron, their female family members, and peers. It shows that the women of fifteenth-century Metz enacted varied kinds of performance that included and extended beyond the theatre: decades before the 1468 play, for example, Joan of Arc returned from the grave in the form of a young woman named Claude, who was acknowledged formally in a series of civic ceremonies. This in-depth investigation of the full spectrum of evidence for female performance – drama, liturgy, impersonation, devotional practice, and documentary culture – both creates a unique portrait of the lives of individual women and reveals a framework of ubiquitous female performance. Performing women offers a new paradigm: women forming the core of public culture. Networks of gendered performance offered roles of expansive range and depth to the women of Metz, and positioned them as vital and integral contributors to the fabric of urban life.

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The politics of Middle English parables

Fiction, theology, and social practice

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Mary Raschko

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.

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Edited by: Eva von Contzen and Anke Bernau

Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain explores how sanctity and questions of literariness are intertwined across a range of medieval genres. “Sanctity” as a theme and concept figures as a prominent indicator of the developments in the period, in which authors began to challenge the predominant medieval dichotomy of either relying on the authority of previous authors when writing, or on experience. These developments are marked also by a rethinking of the intended and perceived effects of writings. Instead of looking for clues in religious practices in order to explain these changes, the literary practices themselves need to be scrutinised in detail, which provide evidence for a reinterpretation of both the writers’ and their topics’ traditional roles and purposes. The essays in the collection are based on a representative choice of texts from the fourteenth to the early sixteenth centuries, covering penitential literature, hagiographical compilations and individual legends as well as romance, debates, and mystical literature from medieval and early modern England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. For researchers and advanced students of medieval literature and culture, the collection offers new insights into one of the central concepts of the late medieval period by considering sanctity first and foremost from the perspective of its literariness and literary potential.

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Water and fire

The myth of the Flood in Anglo-Saxon England

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Daniel Anlezark

The story of the Flood, inherited by the Anglo-Saxons during their conversion to Christianity, was transformed by them into a vital myth through which they interpreted the whole of history and their place in it. The dual character of the myth, with the opposition between threatened destruction and hope of renewal, presented commentators with a potent historical metaphor, which they exploited in their own changing historical circumstance. This book explores the use of this metaphor in the writings of the Anglo-Saxons. It is the integration of a well-known biblical story into the historical and cultural self-definition of a group of people converted to Christianity and its worldview. The Flood in the Bible is clearly a punishment, though the sin is not so well defined. This forms part of a historical pattern of sin and punishment extending back to Eden, and progressed to the sin and exile of Cain. For Bede the historian, the Flood was a key event in the earlier history of the world; for Bede the theologian, the Flood was an event replete with mystical significance. In Exodus and Andreas all the poems share an interest in two themes, which emerge from the biblical story of the Flood and its theological interpretation: covenant and apocalypse. Noah is the 'one father' not only of Israel, but of the whole human race, and his introduction widens the concept of 'inheritance' in the Exodus. The book concludes with a detailed discussion of the significance of the Flood myth in Beowulf.

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Contemporary Chaucer across the centuries

Essays for Stephanie Trigg

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Edited by: Helen M Hickey, Anne McKendry and Melissa Raine

For 700 years, Geoffrey Chaucer has spoken to scholars and amateurs alike. How does his work speak to us in the twenty-first century? This volume provides a unique vantage point for responding to this question, furnished by the pioneering scholar of medieval literary studies, Stephanie Trigg: the symptomatic long history. While Trigg's signature methodological framework acts as a springboard for the vibrant conversation that characterises this collection, each chapter offers an inspiring extension of her scholarly insights. The varied perspectives of the outstanding contributors attest to the vibrancy and the advancement of debates in Chaucer studies: thus, formerly rigid demarcations surrounding medieval literary studies, particularly those concerned with Chaucer, yield in these essays to a fluid interplay between Chaucer within his medieval context; medievalism and ‘reception’; the rigours of scholarly research and the recognition of amateur engagement with the past; the significance of the history of emotions; and the relationship of textuality with subjectivity according to their social and ecological context. Each chapter produces a distinctive and often startling interpretation of Chaucer that broadens our understanding of the dynamic relationship between the medieval past and its ongoing re-evaluation. The inventive strategies and methodologies employed in this volume by leading thinkers in medieval literary criticism will stimulate exciting and timely insights for researchers and students of Chaucer, medievalism, medieval studies, and the history of emotions, especially those interested in the relationship between medieval literature, the intervening centuries and contemporary cultural change.

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Affective medievalism

Love, abjection and discontent

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Thomas A. Prendergast and Stephanie Trigg

This book destabilises the customary disciplinary and epistemological oppositions between medieval studies and modern medievalism. It argues that the twinned concepts of “the medieval” and post-medieval “medievalism” are mutually though unevenly constitutive, not just in the contemporary era, but from the medieval period on. Medieval and medievalist culture share similar concerns about the nature of temporality, and the means by which we approach or “touch” the past, whether through textual or material culture, or the conceptual frames through which we approach those artefacts. Those approaches are often affective ones, often structured around love, abjection and discontent. Medieval writers offer powerful models for the ways in which contemporary desire determines the constitution of the past. This desire can not only connect us with the past but can reconnect present readers with the lost history of what we call the medievalism of the medievals. In other words, to come to terms with the history of the medieval is to understand that it already offers us a model of how to relate to the past. The book ranges across literary and historical texts, but is equally attentive to material culture and its problematic witness to the reality of the historical past.

Open Access (free)

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James Paz

Anglo-Saxon ‘things’ could talk. Nonhuman voices leap out from the Exeter Book Riddles, telling us how they were made or how they behave. In The Husband’s Message, runic letters are borne and a first-person speech is delivered by some kind of wooden artefact. Readers of The Dream of the Rood will come across a tree possessing the voice of a dreaming human in order to talk about its own history as a gallows and a rood. The Franks Casket is a box of bone that alludes to its former fate as a whale that swam aground onto the shingle, and the Ruthwell monument is a stone column that speaks as if it were living wood, or a wounded body.

This book uncovers the voice and agency that these nonhuman things have across Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture. It makes a new contribution to ‘thing theory’ and rethinks conventional divisions between animate human subjects and inanimate nonhuman objects in the early Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon writers and craftsmen describe artefacts and animals through riddling forms or enigmatic language, balancing an attempt to speak and listen to things with an understanding that these nonhumans often elude, defy and withdraw from us. The active role that things have in the early medieval world is also linked to the Germanic origins of the word, where a þing is a kind of assembly, with the ability to draw together other elements, creating assemblages in which human and nonhuman forces combine. Anglo-Saxon things teach us to rethink the concept of voice as a quality that is not simply imposed upon nonhumans but which inheres in their ways of existing and being in the world; they teach us to rethink the concept of agency as arising from within groupings of diverse elements, rather than always emerging from human actors alone.

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Visions and ruins

Cultural memory and the untimely Middle Ages

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Joshua Davies

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.