"All May Na Man Have in Talle": The Parabiblical Imaginary in Medieval English Literature
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CitationTilley, Brandon Rhys. 2016. "All May Na Man Have in Talle": The Parabiblical Imaginary in Medieval English Literature. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis is a study of four fourteenth-century narrative poems written in a parabiblical mode. The poems—Cursor Mundi (c. 1300), Cleanness, Patience and Pearl (all c. 1380s)—are substantially and thematically concerned with retelling, in English, portions of the Vulgate Bible. “Substantially,” I say, because each poem engages extensively and complexly with the plots of Scripture it stakes out, and “thematically” because each consciously foregrounds the activity of re-telling from prior biblical scripts, from pretexts, as it were, in the double sense that the Bible furnishes both authoritative exemplars and ulterior interests.
After situating these texts in their (diachronic and synchronic) historical conditions, the thesis considers biblical and theological curiosities that drive these texts’ shared interest in “biblical disidentity,” then turns to a linked series of poem-specific studies. Cursor Mundi revisits the Bible as a place it has never before been and recuperates something it has never possessed—namely, a Bible larger than itself and constituted by a diversity of texts and traditions exceeding the Bible’s usual canonical bounds. Cursor Mundi’s thematic vastness provides an imaginative warrant for the subsequent texts, each of which applies the principle of imagining the Bible “in para” in order to conduct a specific visionary experiment. Cleanness finds in the Bible powers of beatific vision outstripping traditional limits upon that doctrine; Patience grows frustrated with the Bible’s unavailability to human need and imagines expressive alternatives to strict biblicity; and Pearl recalibrates the canons of human reason, establishing a habitus of non-Truth vis-à-vis a Scripture whose teeming it cannot contain. Taken together, our experimental texts help constitute a new mode of imaginative literature.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33840700
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