Relics and Writing in Late Medieval England

Relics and Writing in Late Medieval England

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Relics and Writing in Late Medieval England
    Book Description:

    Relics and Writing in Late Medieval Englanduses the literary study of relics to address issues of clerical and lay cultures, orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and writing and reform.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6325-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Relic Discourse
    (pp. 3-24)

    Sometime on Monday, 13 June 2011, a parishoner whom witnesses describe as “unusually aggressive in trying to see or touch” a relic of St Anthony of Padua allegedly stole the holy object for herself. The irony of this theft – St Anthony’s patron duty is to find things – was not lost on reporters.¹ In the wake of the 2008 economic crash, Rev. Jose Magaña, pastor of the parish in Long Beach, California, decided in June 2011 to display the relic for the first time since 2002. He hoped that this object would reassure parishioners, many of whom had experienced...

  5. Part One: Relic Discourse and the Cult of Saints
    • Chapter One Representing Relics
      (pp. 27-56)

      Both this and the next chapter take up works from the early twelfth century, when translating the relics of major cathedral saints to bigger and more ornate shrines became popular, to the early sixteenth century, when encasing such relics in a feretory shrine was the common practice. It would be imprudent to suggest that relic discourse suddenly appeared with the first such translation; examples of relic custodians, for instance, or pious supplicants, survive from Wulfstanʹs tenth-century Anglo-Latin poem,Narratio metrica de S. Swithuno, with which John Leland, a sixteenth-century antiquary, was familiar.¹ But it does seem clear that the later...

    • Chapter Two The Commonplaces of Relic Discourse: The Pilgrim at the Shrine
      (pp. 57-98)

      A miracle story from John LydgateʹsExtra Miracles of St Edmund, c. 1444, suggests that Lydgate instills in his supplicants a willingness to recognize St Edmundʹs shrine both as Edmundʹs miracle-working centre and as Edmund himself:¹

      Alle of assent with reuerence we shal seke

      Thyn hooly place, oold and yong of age,

      With greet avys, lowe our selff and meke,

      Contryt of herte, sobre of our visage.

      With this avowh come on pylgrymage

      Affor thy shryne to thy royal presence,

      Prostrat afor the with ffeithfful hool corage,

      To our prayere tyl thou yive audience. (EM313–20)²

      This passage predicates...

  6. Part Two: The Trouble with Relic Discourse
    • Chapter Three English Grail Legends and the Holy Blood
      (pp. 101-124)

      The Holy Grail may well be the most famous, and most mysterious, pseudo-blood relic in late medieval literature. But, oddly, critics have rarely considered its importanceas relic, something that the English literature of the period, by contrast, emphasizes.¹ This chapter shows that several English narratives in the Grail tradition – the late fourteenth-century alliterativeJoseph of Arimathie, Henry Lovelichʹs fifteenth-centuryThe History of the Holy Grail, and Thomas Maloryʹs late fifteenth-centuryLe Morte dʹArthur– use relic discourse to present Joseph of Arimathea as a globe-trotting relic custodian and the questing knights as supplicants.² The first part of this...

    • Chapter Four Relic Discourse in the Pardonerʹs Prologue and Tale and Troilus and Criseyde
      (pp. 125-159)

      In a book about relics and relic discourse, it is impossible not to talk about the Pardoner. One of Chaucerʹs most frequently discussed characters, the Pardoner himself resembes a relic, exposed to the daylight for everyone to see. Students are riveted (in disgust, usually) by Chaucer-the-pilgrimʹs description of him: stringy hair, bulbous eyes, connoisseur (ahem) of fashion, and bringing up the rear of the company with his friend the Summoner, a man so vile he frightens children. At first glance, the Pardoner represents everything that is corrupt about religion and commerce: as he freely admits, he subverts his own motto...

    • Chapter Five Wycliffite Texts and the Problem of Enshrinement
      (pp. 160-182)

      When dissenter Joan Boughton was being executed in 1494, she appealed to the Virgin Mary for help. After she was dead, adherents to her way of thinking gathered up her ashes and deposited them in a simple reliquary – an ʺerthen pott.ʺ These and other Wycliffites were clearly not troubled by relics, provided that they were appropriately housed in a simple and unadorned shrine.³ By contrast, William White and his disciples held that relics were not to be venerated, regardless of how simple and unadorned their containers. This chapter will take, as its central images, Boughtonʹs ʺerthyn pottʺ and Whiteʹs...

  7. Coda: The Cultural Work of Relic Discourse
    (pp. 183-189)

    The number of recent scholarly and popular studies about relics attests to the continuing importance of these devotional objects and their cults.¹ Contrary to what we might expect, these objects are not vestiges of a more superstitious past, but, as Peter Manseau suggests, at the very centre of some of the most controversial news stories of the twenty-first century:

    In the news every night we hear of the difficulty of finding peace in the Middle East and Central Asia, regions both at war with outside forces and bitterly divided between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Broadly speaking, the Shiites revere relics;...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 190-256)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-288)
  10. Index
    (pp. 289-298)