Pearl & Contemplative Writing

By Annika Sylen Lagerholm
August 2005
Lund University Press
ISBN: 9197402370
195 pages, 6" x 8 "
$79.50 Paper Original


A work of remarkable beauty and depth, "Pearl" is one of the most captivating poems of the Middle Ages. This study places "Pearl" in a context neglected by previous research: that of works by the English fourteenth-century contemplative writers (mystics) and other theological treatises.

In the course of the analysis, a fundamental similarity becomes apparent: "pearl" and the works of Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle and the author of "The Cloud of Unknowing" all share a concern with attempting to express an inexpressible divine dimension.

The book discusses generic and narrative distinctions between "pearl" and texts by the contemplative writers, and it goes on to present "Pearl" in the context of the affective strain in fourteenth century English contemplative and devotional writing.

It then analyses the concept of hierarchy and the idea of a transcendent, but also of an immanent, divine dimension as described in the Pseudo-Dionysian corpus, in the works of the English contemplative writers and in "Pearl". Throughout its engagement with these aspects of medieval religious thought, this book draws attention to the theme of comprehending, and speaking about, a transcendent referent.

Poetry; Literary Criticism
Lund Studies in English, No. 108

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