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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The Digby Mary Magdalen and Lewis Wager’s Life and Repentaunce of Marie Magdalene
Tamara Atkin

10 Reforming sanctity: the Digby Mary Magdalen and Lewis Wager’s Life and Repentaunce of Marie Magdalene Tamara Atkin Sanctity, the quality of being holy, is by definition an inviolable state.1 This chapter takes as its subject two plays that give dramatic shape to the life of Mary Magdalene, the sinner turned saint whose conversion might best be read as a crash course in becoming holy. They are: the Digby Mary Magdalen (c. 1490s), which survives in a single manuscript, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 133; and Lewis Wager’s Life and Repentaunce of Marie

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
The Scottish Legendary as a challenge to the ‘literary turn’ in fifteenth-century hagiography
Eva von Contzen

9 Narrating vernacular sanctity: the Scottish Legendary as a challenge to the ‘literary turn’ in fifteenth-century hagiography Eva von Contzen In the fifteenth century, it has been argued, hagiography underwent a ‘turn to more “literary” saints’ lives’.1 This turn, which is characterised by a new depiction of saintly exemplarity and a new selfunderstanding among the authors of hagiographic writings, is said to have inaugurated the saint’s life as a literary genre.2 Chaucer’s Second Nun’s Tale marks the turning point, although the change is fully realised half a

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
Anna Siebach Larsen

11 The humanist grammar of sanctity in the early Lives of Thomas More Anna Siebach Larsen In the dedicatory epistle of his Life of Sir Thomas More, Nicholas Harpsfield refers to his text as ‘a garlande decked and adorned with pretious pearles and stones’, fashioned from the ‘pleasaunt, sweete nosegaye of most sweete and odoriferous flowers’ of William Roper’s own, earlier Lyfe of Sir Thomas Moore.1 Collapsing temporal and technological boundaries, Harpsfield’s description encompasses his subject, his style, and – in its evocation of the verdant borders of the

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
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Sanctity as literature
Eva von Contzen

Introduction: sanctity as literature Eva von Contzen What does it mean to approach sanctity as literature? ‘Literature’ is often used as the umbrella term for any kind of writing produced in the medieval period, but this is not the kind of literature the title of this collection refers to. Instead, ‘literature’ is used synonymously with ‘the literary’ or ‘literariness’ – that is, a special quality of some texts. The explicit aim of this volume is not to provide an exhaustive definition of the literary in the late medieval period. Such an attempt can only fail

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
Kate Ash

1 St Margaret and the literary politics of Scottish sainthood Kate Ash Canonised in 1250, Queen Margaret of Scotland is perhaps one of the most familiar Scottish saints to modern readers, yet surprisingly little material relating to her life (beyond brief mentions in chronicles) survives from the Middle Ages. Furthermore, there has been little scholarly consideration of the literariness of ­representations of Margaret. What work has been done focuses on Margaret as a historical figure, or uses material relating to her sanctity as evidence for the existence of

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
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From doctrine to debate in medieval Welsh and Irish literature
Helen Fulton

of transition from the mortal world to the next world, that moment when sanctity, the purification achieved by suffering, might be possible.5 In showing the soul’s difficulty in achieving heaven, the genre occupies itself with the imperfections of the earthly body and implies that sanctity is only for the very few. Based on the perception of a fundamental binary opposition between the flesh and the spirit, as preached in the New Testament and discussed by early Church authorities, the debate form appears in early Greek and Hebrew texts before emerging into other

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
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Calendar time in balade form
Catherine Sanok

:34 Reforming calendar Afterword: sanctity time in balade form 229 ‘literature’, which generally take as axiomatic its difference from instrumental texts. The use of verse in a premodern text such as this one does not complicate this classification, since verse often had a clear functional role in aiding memory in this period. Indeed, Bokenham’s stanza is a mnemonic on the order of a much better known Middle English kalende, ‘Thirty days hath November’, though it is clumsier, and surely less effective than this lyric, which is, of course, still in use in only slightly

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
Reading the virtue of soldier-saints in medieval literary genres
Andrew Lynch

that actual knights claimed for themselves a form of religious virtue on the grounds of their bodily trials.2 Yet secular knighthood and Christian sanctity are by no means a perfect match. Although soldier saints were popular in the early Church,3 it has been argued by Diarmaid MacCulloch that ‘the legacy of Christianity to state violence was contradictory’, with Pauline ‘imperial loyalty’ contending against Christ’s command to Peter to put away his sword.4 MacCulloch suggests that that early Christians had a ‘negative attitude to military service’ because of its

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain
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Self-fashioning and sanctity in late medieval English mystical literature
Jessica Barr

4 Modelling holiness: self-fashioning and sanctity in late medieval English mystical literature Jessica Barr ‘Dere lord Ihesu mercy, þat welle art of mercy, why wyl not myn herte breste and cleue in-two?’1 So begins the shorter of Richard Rolle’s Meditations on the Passion, a fourteenth-century affective devotional text that describes the speaker’s imagined witnessing of Christ’s passion. Noteworthy here is the use of pronouns: while the Meditations is in a large sense for its audience’s spiritual benefit, the speaker’s focus is on his own emotional state; it is

in Sanctity as literature in late medieval Britain