Adam's Grace: Fall and Redemption in Medieval Literature

Adam's Grace: Fall and Redemption in Medieval Literature

Brian Murdoch
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81gmx
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  • Book Info
    Adam's Grace: Fall and Redemption in Medieval Literature
    Book Description:

    The theme of 'Adam's Grace' is the interplay of theology and literature across a wide range of genres and vernaculars: in particular, the use of medieval literary texts to explain the balance of the Fall and Redemption, the universality of original sin, and the identity of mankind with its first parents, Adam and Eve. The process begins with the Christian tradition of apocryphal Adam-lives, which live on and develop in many vernaculars. Later, Adam is used as a literary model, on whom many well-known Christian figures of the middle ages - knights, popes, emperors, kings and saints - can be seen to be based. They include Gregorius, the "medieval Oedipus", whose case demonstrates the resolution of the paradox of the 'felix culpa'; Parzival, searching for the Holy Grail and for God in the hostile world into which he has been ejected; and the many medieval figures (literary and even historical) associated with the legends of leprosy, blood and healing which reflect the sacrifice in the Redemption. The last part of the book looks at the drama, first of all the medieval representations of the Fall and the Passion, and then the rather different portrayal of Adam on stage in the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. BRIAN MURDOCH is Professor of German at Stirling University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-001-2
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
    BOM
  4. INTRODUCTION: INTERPRETING ADAM
    (pp. 1-20)

    It is appropriate to begin any work which centres upon Adam and Eve with a comment by Milton, although this is not from Paradise Lost, but from his essay on education:

    The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright . . . But because our understanding cannot in this body found itself but on sensible things, as by orderly conning over the visible and inferior creature, the same method is necessarily to be followed in all discreet teaching. . . . I deem it to be an old...

  5. ONE AFTER EDEN: THE APOCRYPHAL ADAM
    (pp. 21-49)

    We may begin with three quite separate problems associated with the reflection in medieval European literature of the Fall and the Redemption, both of which are based on literary constructs, the brief narrative of Adam and Eve at the beginning of Genesis, and the rather longer Gospel narrative. The first problem is a simple one: the story of Adam and Eve is too short, a remarkably slender basis on which to place Paul’s anthropology, Irenaeus’s theory of recapitulation, and the entire doctrine of original sin. The second problem is both a logical and a literary one: Adam was created pure...

  6. TWO WRITTEN IN TABLETS OF STONE: ADAM AND GREGORIUS
    (pp. 50-75)

    The life of gregory, pope and saint, was well known throughout the Middle Ages.¹ The French metrical Vie du Pape Saint Grégoire, which may have originated in the ambit of Henry II of England and Queen Eleanor, exists in several different versions from the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. An edition was a desideratum for a long time, and now that we have it, with eight rhymed versions (including two critical ones based on the London and the Tours manuscripts respectively) printed in parallel columns, with a couple of late versions added as an appendix, it is one of...

  7. THREE STULTUS ET INSIPIENS: ADAM, PARZIVAL AND THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
    (pp. 76-101)

    That medieval biblical commentary was a weighty matter might be tested fairly literally, provided one could one find a suitably accommodating librarian, by the simple process of weighing first a Bible, and then the collected volumes of Migne’s Patrologia – the Latina alone should suffice to make the point. One might wonder, equally, whether literary works on the Fall and the Redemption do not also simply add to the weight on the wrong side of the scales. However, unlike specifically theological texts, a literary work will, in conforming to the principle of prodesse and delectare, typically use the latter to lead...

  8. FOUR INNOCENT BLOOD: REDEMPTION AND THE LEPER
    (pp. 102-125)

    When the unnamed traveller is set upon on the way to Jericho, the Good Samaritan treats his wounds with oil and wine. In allegorical literature, however, the wounds require rather more than that. In Langland’s Vision of Piers the Plowman, once again, even Faith and Hope – which is what the oil and the wine are usually taken as representing – have fled from the wounded traveller, and the Samaritan is left to explain the situation:

    ‘Haue hem excused’, quod he · ‘her help may litel auaille;

    May no medcyn on molde · the man to hele brynge,

    Neither Feith ne fyn...

  9. FIVE PROMISES TO ADAM: THE FALL, THE REDEMPTION AND MEDIEVAL DRAMA
    (pp. 126-151)

    At the start of a play written in 1527 and performed before King John III of Portugal and Queen Catherine in Almeira, and entitled (without undue modesty) Breve sumário da história de Deus,¹ a brief summary of the divine plan, the Spanish/Portuguese dramatist Gil Vicente announced his theme:

    E porque o tenor

    da resurreição de nosso Senhor

    tem as raizes naquele pomar,

    ao pé, d’aquela árvore que ouvistes contar,

    onde Adão se fez pecador,

    convém se lembrar.

    (It is well to remember why the essence of our Lord’s resurrection has its roots in the same orchard, at the foot of...

  10. SIX BY THE SCRIPTURES ALONE? PLAYING ADAM IN THE REFORMATION AND BEYOND
    (pp. 152-176)

    We may begin this chapter with an unusual literary image from a period well before the Reformation. A seventh-century bishop is being addressed by a well-dressed and well-preserved anonymous, but apparently ancient, corpse found in St Paul’s cathedral. When conjured to do so by Saint Erkenwald,¹ the corpse explains that Christ had somehow neglected to redeem his soul at the time of the Harrowing. As a result the corpse has had to remain

    Dwynande in þe derke deth, þat dyZte vs oure fader,

    Adam, oure alder, þat ete of þat appull,

    Þat mony a plyZtles pepul has poysned for euer....

  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 177-200)
  12. BIBLICAL INDEX
    (pp. 201-201)
  13. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 202-205)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 206-206)