Gower Bibliography

Affections of the Mind: The Politics of Marriage in Late Medieval English Literature

Lipton, Emma. "Affections of the Mind: The Politics of Marriage in Late Medieval English Literature." PhD thesis, Duke University, 1998.


“This dissertation explores the ways in which changing religious, political and social conditions interacted with literary tradition to transform the meaning of marriage in the literature of the later Middle Ages. Since the twelfth century, Latin monastic writings built on the exegetical tradition of the Song of Songs, envisioning mystical marriage to Christ as an allegory for the monastic contemplative life. In many vernacular works of the late Middle Ages, however, spiritual marriage was appropriated in the service of validating earthly marriage, thus blurring the boundaries between celibacy, the distinguishing feature of the clergy, and marriage, the sexual marker of lay status. This validation of marriage practices as spiritual can be linked to the growth of lay piety, which found an extreme expression in the increasingly visible Lollard heretics who made marriage part of their attack on clerical celibacy. As a uniquely lay sacrament which could legally be performed without the participation of the clergy, marriage also played a complex role in contemporary disputes over the sacraments, and the theological history of the development of the sacramental model of marriage provided crucial vocabulary for literature promoting the spirituality of marriage. Late Medieval English literature also appropriated the tradition of fin amors, the literary expression of aristocratic honor and identity, and transformed it into a validation of marriage and a medium for expressing bourgeois ideology. This generic appropriation can be linked to changes in the social structure of late medieval England, when the growth of the middle strata of society made the three estates model, traditionally used as a means of describing medieval society, an increasingly less accurate representation. My readings reveal that marriage was a particular preoccupation in the literature authored by and directed to these middle sections of society who were in search of a social identity and legitimizing ideology because they found in marriage a medium for appropriating clerical and aristocratic cultures and transforming them into a means of constructing bourgeois ideology. Individual chapters feature Chaucer's ‘Franklin's Tale,’ Gower's ‘Traitié Pour Essampler Les Amants Marietz,’ the 'Mary Plays from the N-Town Cycle' and The Book of Margery Kempe.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:Dissertation Abstracts International 60 (1999): 123A.
Subjects:Backgrounds and General Studies
Traité pour Essampler les Amants Marietz

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