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Sacred and Profane in Chaucer and Late Medieval Literature

Sacred and Profane in Chaucer and Late Medieval Literature: Essays in Honour of John V. Fleming

Essays in Honour of John V. Fleming
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 256
  • Book Info
    Sacred and Profane in Chaucer and Late Medieval Literature
    Book Description:

    Using late Medieval English literature the essays in this collection do not try to define a secular realm distinct and separate from the divine or religious, but instead analyze intersections of the sacred and the profane, suggesting that these two categories are mutually constitutive rather than antithetical.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8610-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: The Sacred, the Profane, and Late Medieval Literature
    (pp. 3-29)

    In hisElementary Forms of the Religious Life, Emile Durkheim proposed that the social study of religion take as its starting point a fundamental distinction between the sacred and the profane. All human cultures, indeed every human mind, according to Durkheim, made a distinction between these two domains, and all forms of religious life were built upon differentiations between these categories. Constituting the most basic, universal feature of ‘religion,’ this distinction would allow comparative anthropologists to explain how individual cultures varied in their particular ways of establishing relationships between sacred objects, activities, and realms of thought on the one hand...

  5. 2 Bathsheba in the Eye of the Beholder: Artistic Depiction from the Late Middle Ages to Rembrandt
    (pp. 30-45)

    The story of Bathsheba and King David remains perhaps the best-known exemplum of voyeurism and its consequences in biblical tradition. The focus in exegesis and literary paraphrase has been overwhelmingly on King David: his lust, abuse of power, murder of Bathsheba’s noble husband, Uriah, his later exposure by Nathan the prophet and abject repentance, captured in the magnificent biblical poem ‘Misere mei domine’ (Ps. 51). But the manuscript illustrators, print makers, and painters have tended to linger over the first scene, unable to turn the eyes of their imagination, perhaps, from the fair Bathsheba herself:

    In the mean time it...

  6. 3 Susanna’s Voice
    (pp. 46-67)

    Susanna’s story, which can be found in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Daniel, snakes its way through medieval and early modern texts.¹ It might be more accurate to refer to Susanna’s stories, since there are a number of ways of using her and, consequently, of providing her with a voice. The story itself is a disturbing one, transgressing ideas of female inviolability, of the sanctity of the household, of civil justice. Susanna is the chaste wife of a wealthy man, Joachim. While bathing in her own garden, she is spied upon and accosted by two judges of Israel...

  7. 4 The Ends of Love: (Meta) physical Desire in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
    (pp. 68-90)

    In the view of a medieval Christian reader, Criseyde no doubt speaks a great truth. Placed as it is in Book four, the book of Fortune’s transmutations, the passage above evokes an appropriately Boethian sentiment, recalling one of the few explicit comments on the dangers of sensual love in theConsolation of Philosophy: the ‘delyces of body’ (corporis uoluptatibus) whose ‘desirynges ben ful of anguyssch, and the fulfillynges… ben ful of penance’ (appetentia quidem plena est anxietatis, satietas uero paenitentiae [–4]).² As with all false goods, ‘the issues of delices ben sorweful and sorye’ (tristes uero esse uoluptatum exitus...

  8. 5 Troilus in the Gutter
    (pp. 91-112)

    The interest in ancient Troy evidenced in Chaucer’sTroilus and Criseydeis so careful and thoroughgoing that we might use the adjective ‘archaeological’ to describe it. In relation to the bulk of vernacular poetry on antique themes produced in the Middle Ages, Chaucer’s Trojan poem stands out as a remarkable exercise of the historical imagination, dwelling as much on the distance that separated the ancient world from fourteenth-century England as on commonalities, borrowing elements from ancient books that emblematize cultural shifts as much as those that suggest transhistorical continuities. By combing through poems of antiquity such as Virgil’sAeneidand...

  9. 6 The Suicide of the Legend of Good Women
    (pp. 113-128)

    At the beginning of the prologue to Chaucer’sLegend of Good Women,the narrator presents himself as fundamentally a reader, one devoted to old books and ready to accept what they say. From the start, the poem draws on the reader’s own habits of acceptance of literary convention: it is easy to take for granted the fact that the narrator’s musings and reminiscences take the form of rhyming couplets, set in a world built out of elements of courtly poetry and dream vision.¹ Even after the narrator has interpolated a complete ballade into the story of his dream, it may...

  10. 7 Sacred Commerce: Chaucer, Friars, and the Spirit of Money
    (pp. 129-145)

    Thanks in large part to the dedicatee of this volume, we think we understand chaucer’sSummoner’s Tale. In an influential pair of articles drawing on his expertise in Franciscan and antifraternal literature, John Fleming demonstrated ‘how Chaucer incorporates traditional antimendicant materials into his most extended satire of the friars,’ and revealed the friar of theSummoner’s Taleas ‘a kind of “stage friar” who sums up everything that is wrong with the mendicant orders from a fourteenth-century English secular point of view.’¹ As such, the friar embodies the perversion of Francis’s apostolic ideals, in his extravagant lechery, his brazen hypocrisy,...

  11. 8 How (Not) to Preach: Thomas Waleys and chaucer’s Pardoner
    (pp. 146-178)

    Medieval arts of preaching (artes praedicandi) survive in great numbers, but most of them offer little or no guidance on how to deliver a sermon to a live audience.¹ Typically, the chief concerns in such treatises are formal: how to select and divide the theme of a sermon and how to structure and amplify the development of that theme. Most arts of preaching also address the qualifications of the preacher, including his credentials and his moral suitability, and some of them treat such topics in considerable detail.² It is not unusual for the authors of the arts of preaching...

  12. 9 The Radical, Yet Orthodox, Margery Kempe
    (pp. 179-204)

    Since its first publication in 1934,The Book of Margery Kempehas elicited critical reactions ranging from categorical rejection to complete acceptance – acceptance that became tangible when it gained a place in theNorton Anthology of English Literaturein 1986, thereby entering the canon of English literature.¹ One way of accounting for this profound change in the reception ofThe Book of Margery Kempeis to trace how developments in medieval studies, particularly the advent of feminist scholarship within the field, made this unusual spiritual autobiography a legitimate object of study for both scholars and students. Nancy Bradley Warren’s recent...

  13. 10 Preface to Fleming
    (pp. 205-220)

    The position advanced in this little piece (part essay, part memoir, part encomium) is that John Fleming’s scholarship was intellectually more independent than our field is quite comfortable with, and that his achievement has therefore been only imperfectly understood; that he adheres to principles of historical interpretation different not only from most contemporaries and successors, but also from his most immediate predecessors, including (in certain important ways) his teacher D.W. Robertson, Jr; that these principles held him aloof from a literary ‘historicism’ that some, my younger self included, expected him to find sympathetic, and that they were prescient of the...

  14. 11 Bibliography of the Scholarship of John V. Fleming
    (pp. 221-226)
  15. Contributors
    (pp. 227-228)
  16. Index
    (pp. 229-238)