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
works of art have been produced, but some works using this approach have
been criticized for reckless generalization – extrapolating whole climates of
thought from small morsels of contemporary gossip or single anecdotes –
and for reading every text and historical situation for its analysis of power
relations, ignoring other motivations for the production of art and the practice of religion.
Among the historical studies produced in the second half of the twentiethcentury are a handful that drew attention to annotations in early printed
copies of The
, was expounded by Foucault mainly back at the Collège de
France, awareness of the extent to which the philosopher of discipline and
punishment had moved on from the dark materials of his carceral society
has only slowly percolated the anglophone academy, with the release of the
tape-recorded sessions. But as Eric Paras asserts in one of the few studies
yet to absorb the ‘mark 2 Foucault’, the significance of this late discovery of
‘life style’ can hardly be exaggerated, as it means that the same man ‘created
the twentiethcentury’s most devastating critique of the
M. Suzuki, Metamorphoses of Helen: Authority, Difference, and the Epic (Ithaca,
NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), p. 164.
47 R. Tuve, Elizabethan and Metaphysical Imagery: Renaissance Poetic and Twentieth-
Century Critic (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), p. 221.
48 Suzuki, Metamorphosis of Helen, p. 164.
49 This attitude comes particularly to the fore in the Old Arcadia, in which the narrator is more overt and borders on becoming homodiegetic. Here, he explicitly
declares his ‘compassion’ with Pyrocles (p. 25). The narrator’s affectionate view
.), Enterprise and Individuals in Fifteenth
Century Europe (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1991), pp. 132–50, p. 134.
45 Cohen, Symbolic Construction of Community, p. 50.
46 I will discuss this in detail in Chapter 3.
47 Smith, To Take Place, p. 104.
48 Brereton, ‘Sacred space’, p. 534.
49 Lefebvre, The Production of Space, p. 220.
50 Victor Turner, ‘Frame, flow, and reflection: ritual and drama as public
liminality’, in Michel Benamou and Charles Caramelo (eds), Performance
in Postmodern Culture (Milwaukee: Center for TwentiethCentury
Studies, University of Wisconsin
measurements, the manuscript closes resolutely with the phrase, ‘Finit Liber II. Amen’. 6 Nineteenth-century scholars such as John Josias Conybeare, Benjamin Thorpe, and Bernhard ten Brink assumed that the poem was fragmentary and that it must have been arranged in a piecemeal or even arbitrary fashion. 7 Friedrich Groschopp likewise saw structural incompatibilities in the poem owing to its blending of narrative-dramatic and hortatory-homi-letic elements. 8 These perceived shortcomings were reiterated in the twentiethcentury by scholars such as C. Abbetmeyer. 9