The Litille Thinge the Quantite of a Hasselle Nutte: Recovering the Significance of Julian of Norwich's Short Text

Austin, Hayley, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Shuve, Karl, AS-Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Fowler, Elizabeth, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

This thesis argues that Julian of Norwich’s Short Text is subject to a story that places it artificially in the guise of a first draft. Such a narrative limits our experience of the text, and forecloses an opportunity to read the originary document that the ST represents as the first witness to a self-consciously female-authored text known in English. The ST presents the thought of Julian of Norwich in a unique argument with distinctive features of other contemporary practices and genres as well symbolic modes unique to this text. Section 1, through a consideration of the medieval understanding of authorship, highlights the anachronism in imagining the ST as the raw, experiential material that requires revising into the LT as well as the passive concept of authorial agency upon which this narrative is dependent. Section 2 argues for a ritualistic structure visible in the ST, and notes the text’s use of performative speech to effect experience for the reader. This is part of a broader attempt to show how the ST is rhetorically and ritually engaged in producing just such an experience for its reader. In Section 3, I describe how the ST uniquely constructs space for the female narrative voice by invocation of symbolically invested female figures; I compare its use of these symbolic women to similar invocations of them in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—and so relate them to gendered female speech and authority forms. I suggest how such intertextual symbolic relationships may create difficulties for feminist readings of the ST, in literary or theological modes of study. These three close readings work to showcase the intricacy of this literary and theological document.

MA (Master of Arts)
Short Text, Authorship, Authority, Voice, Ritual, Performativity, Symbol, Space, Anchorhold, Women’s Voices, Female Authorship
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