Love's Leap : Incarnational Poetics in Late Medieval England

Cervone, Cristina Maria, Department of English, University of Virginia
Spearing, Anthony, Department of English, University of Virginia
Fowler, Elizabeth, Department of English, University of Virginia
Nolan, Barbara, Department of English, University of Virginia
Hays, Gregory, Department of Classics, University of Virginia

"Love's Leap: Incarnational Poetics in Late Medieval England" identifies an undercurrent in medieval thought that points toward the Incarnation as a nexus linking key moments in salvation history and a model for thinking through the relationship of God and man.

Recent scholarship has tended to reinforce a long-standing perception that affective Passion devotion was the definitive mode of late medieval piety. "Love's Leap" shifts attention to works that envision Christ's physical, human body as something other than a human body. When writers incorporate ''the Word made flesh" into their writing, they make language itself a central issue. In late medieval England, such Incarnational experiments strike at the heart of an important controversy: the latent potential for subversion then thought to be inherent to religious writing in the vernacular.

"The Word made flesh" (John 1.14) forces an interpretation of metaphor that presumes there is no metaphor: the formal awareness of an Incarnational poetic must be linguistic, with a focus on the individual word, and may be rhetorical, with a focus on the structure of literary works. In the first chapter, deixis is brought to bear on the Charters of Christ to elucidate how the encoding of time, place, and subjectivity in language can take on special significance when the incarnate Christ is the subject. The second chapter, on Julian of Norwich's Revelation of Love, engages language's capacity to elude the traditional literal versus figurative divide when qualities or aspects of a subject approach embodiment through near-personifications. The Piers Plowman chapter further pursues this topic into language's embodied manifestations in personification allegory, with particular emphasis on how related literary and devotional traditions such as the Truelove tradition and the leaps of Christ appear to have been linked to a variety of late medieval Incarnational investigations, both literary and cultural, such as the lily crucifixion.

When Incarnational forms occur together within a work, their meaning can be seen to lie not primarily in isolated metaphor or verbal patterns but in the connections the underlying structures invite, in the interpretive leaps inherent to an Incarnational poetic.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-17 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:37:53.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: