NameGarrison, Jennifer Marie (author), Scanlon, Larry (chair), Chism, Christine (internal member), Klein, Stacy (internal member), Waters, Claire (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectLiteratures in English,
Lords supper in literature,
English literature--Middle English, 1100-1500--History and criticism
DescriptionFor later medieval England, the Eucharist lay at the center of orthodox piety and was fundamental to heated debates surrounding the relationship between lay believer, ecclesiastical authority, and the divine. This dissertation argues that the Eucharist also inspired a range of Middle English literary texts, texts which use poetic strategies in order to engage their assumed lay audience in key theological debates. Previous literary scholarship on the Eucharist has tended either to focus on the heretical writings of the Lollards or to depict lay eucharistic piety as a wholly affective experience centered on the believer's personal and emotional identification with Christ's crucified body. Both these approaches oversimplify the complexity and diversity of orthodox Middle English writings. In contrast, my study examines writers who press the social, political, and theological implications of the Eucharist while remaining within the boundaries of orthodoxy. Drawing primarily on literature written between 1300, when eucharistic doctrines began to be rigidly codified, and 1409, when Archbishop Arundel's Constitutions effectively banned vernacular theology, I show that Middle English texts often conceive of encounters with the Eucharist as moments in which believers are unable to identify with Christ. I focus on four texts that interrogate the fraught relationship between the lay believer, the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and Christ's eucharistic body: Robert Mannyng's Handlyng Synne, Pearl, William Langland's Piers Plowman, and Julian of Norwich's A Revelation of Love. These texts use the Eucharist's apparent failure in order to generate theology that not only challenges readers to question their own relationship to the divine, but also affirms orthodox doctrine. I argue that, by insisting on the Eucharist as a mediated experience which reveals one's difference from the divine, Middle English texts affirm the necessity of the mediator between God and humanity: the institutional Church.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 194-213)
Noteby Jennifer Marie Garrison
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.