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Staging Contemplation: Participatory Theology in Middle English Prose, Verse, and Drama (Paperback)
  • Staging Contemplation: Participatory Theology in Middle English Prose, Verse, and Drama (Paperback)
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Staging Contemplation: Participatory Theology in Middle English Prose, Verse, and Drama (Paperback)

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£22.50
Paperback 256 Pages / Published: 05/09/2018
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What does it mean to contemplate? In the Middle Ages, more than merely thinking with intensity, it was a religious practice entailing utter receptiveness to the divine presence. Contemplation is widely considered by scholars today to have been the highest form of devotional prayer, a rarified means of experiencing God practiced only by the most devout of monks, nuns, and mystics. Yet, in this groundbreaking new book, Eleanor Johnson argues instead for the pervasiveness and accessibility of contemplative works to medieval audiences. By drawing together ostensibly diverse literary genres-devotional prose, allegorical poetry, cycle dramas, and morality plays-Staging Contemplation paints late Middle English contemplative writing as a broad genre that operated collectively and experientially as much as through radical individual disengagement from the world. Johnson further argues that the contemplative genre played a crucial role in the exploration of the English vernacular as a literary and theological language in the fifteenth century, tracing how these works engaged modes of disfluency-from strained syntax and aberrant grammar, to puns, slang, code-switching, and laughter-to explore the limits, norms, and potential of English as a devotional language. Full of virtuoso close readings, this book demonstrates a sustained interest in how poetic language can foster a participatory experience of likeness to God among lay and devotional audiences alike.

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226572178
Number of pages: 256
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"In her fine new book, Eleanor Johnson argues for the essentially performative character of the late Middle English literature of Christian contemplation and the essentially cognitive character of the sensory contemplative experience it seeks to further. Situating its readings carefully in the historical moment when English was most conscious of its status as a vernacular, the book moves easily between deft analyses of the style of contemplative texts and scripts and the effects these seek to produce in, and on, their readers and audiences. Staging Contemplation will energize the study and enlarge the readership of some of the most remarkable works of the English literary tradition."--Nicholas Watson, Harvard University
"Eleanor Johnson's bold wager in Staging Contemplation pays off richly: let's think of contemplation as bodily, social, staged, and above all participatory. . . . A beautifully coherent, fresh, and persuasive argument."--James Simpson, author of Under the Hammer: Iconoclasm in the Anglo-American Tradition

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