The Gothic Visionary Perspective

The Gothic Visionary Perspective

Barbara Nolan
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 310
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x14vw
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    The Gothic Visionary Perspective
    Book Description:

    Barbara Nolan contends that attitudes toward the meaning of history, prophecy, and vision developed by religious writers of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries fundamentally affected the shape of literary narrative and religious art for two centuries. In these essays, she explores some of the most important moments in this Gothic visionary perspective.

    The author first follows the history of Apocalypse commentaries from Bede to Alexander of Bremen, focusing particularly on twelfth-century interpretation ofRevelationas a spiritual guidebook for the contemporary Christian. She shows that innovative interpretations in these texts have parallels in the cathedral art of St.-Denis and Chartres, the illuminations for later medieval illustrated Apocalypses, and the invention of new "anagogical" literary modes.

    Professor Nolan's close study of theVita Nuovaindicates that in his earliest work Dante used a prophetic voice and a graded series of visions to shape his conventional love story into a book of revelation. Examination of the thirteenth-century spiritual quest reveals that French writers, transforming older monastic forms, gave new importance to the process of conversion by way of vision.Pearl and Piers Plowmanparticipate in the tradition of the spiritual quest even asPiersmarks a final moment in its history.

    Originally published in 1977.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7055-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-2)
    Barbara Nolan
  5. ONE NEW DIRECTIONS IN TWELFTH-CENTURY SPIRITUALITY
    (pp. 3-34)

    At least from the time of Eusebius, the whole history of the world from Adam until the Apocalypse had been divided into six ages. The first five ages had already been thoroughly detailed in sacred scripture. The early Fathers, by studying types and antitypes in the Old and New Testaments, had made it clear that there was a progressive improvement in the quality of human time through the course of the Old Testament to the coming of Christ; that is, they demonstrated that the intensity and fullness of the divine presence was greater at the time of the Incarnation than...

  6. TWO ANAGOGY, AEVUM AND TWO LATER MEDIEVAL VISIONARY ARTS
    (pp. 35-83)

    As Richard of St. Victor analyzes the cognitive nature of St. John’s visions in his commentary on the Apocalypse, he offers a full definition of “anagogical” vision. This concept, which Richard drew both from theCelestial Hierarchyof Pseudo-Dionysius, and from Hugh of St. Victor’s commentary on that extraordinary work, suggested specific new possibilities for visionary experience not only to saints and mystics in the evening of the world, but also to artists concerned with visions.¹ Abbot Suger would use it in describing his experience of the renovated Abbey of St.-Denis and Dante in shaping theCommedia. The newly developed...

  7. Figures 1–22
    (pp. None)
  8. THREE THE VITA NUOVA: DANTE’S BOOK OF REVELATION
    (pp. 84-123)

    The earliest recorded critic of theVita Nuova(1291–93) was Dante himself. In theConvivio, brought to its partial completion thirteen years or more after hislibello, he places his youthful effort within the context of his subsequent intellectual growth.¹ It is, he argues in theConvivio, an adolescent work, “fervida e passionata” (1, 1, 16). Yet the older poet does not reject his juvenilia, and indeed, he discovers a continuity between the perceptions recorded in theVita Nuovaand those he had subsequently acquired by diligent study: “I was by natural ability, not by study, already seeing many...

  9. FOUR THE LATER MEDIEVAL SPIRITUAL QUEST: THROUGH TIME TO AEVUM
    (pp. 124-155)

    From the beginning of the thirteenth century onward, a number of writers in the vernacular experimented with a narrative quest which carries a pilgrim on a visionary journey toward an eschatological conclusion. Raoul de Houdenc’sSonge d’EnferandVoie de Paradis,¹ Huon de Méri’sTournoiement Antechrist, Rutebeuf’sVoie de Paradisall represent narrators traveling through visionary realms and all share common thematic and stylistic elements. Like the illustrated Apocalypses of the thirteenth century, these narratives were descended in part from older monastic forms and tradition. And like their pictorial counterparts, they reflect fundamentally new attitudes toward their principal theme, the...

  10. FIVE PEARL: A FOURTEENTH-CENTURY VISION IN AUGUST
    (pp. 156-204)

    Perhaps half a century separates Dante’s final paradisal vision from the writing of the Middle EnglishPearl. During that time, the Thomistic twining of reason and faith, sense and spirit which had so fully supported Dante in his search for God no longer obtained. Both on the Continent and in England, theologians and philosophers began to posit the unknowability of God and to prefer the study of human will; or they reverted to an older Augustinian and monastic awe for an omnipotent deity. William of Ockham and his followers defended the power of free will tomeritheaven, while neo-Augustinians...

  11. SIX WILL’S DARK VISIONS OF PIERS THE PLOWMAN
    (pp. 205-258)

    BothPearlandPiers Plowmanwere produced in the latter half of the fourteenth century,¹ and both participate in the great theological debates and spiritual difficulties of that period. But the two poets differ widely, though they use a common literary tradition, conventions, and techniques. As if retreating to an earlier, calmer time, thePearlpoet devises elaborate symmetries to represent a simple, almost sweet trust in divine providence. By contrast, Langland’s long, wandering work—the last great visionary quest of the Middle Ages—clearly defines a final stage in the mode’s history.² In a poem which, likePearl, ostensibly...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 259-268)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 269-269)