Place, paradise, and perfection: the narrative function of three Middle English versions of paradise

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Robert Richard Brandon II (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Denise Baker

Abstract: This dissertation explores the concept of paradise as it is used as a physical space within Middle English literature. In examining the narrative function of this space, the fundamental question that it explores is whether the image carries with it any special weight. In exploring this issue, it considers three texts popular in later medieval England: Pearl, The South English Legendary Saint Brendan's Journey, and The Booke of Ghostlye Grace. Ultimately, it asserts that the inclusion of such an important cultural icon has a profound effect on readers' interpretation of a text. Because this image carries with it such cultural weight, readers cannot help but carry their understanding of its significance to the text. Whether it is represented as a pristine wilderness, a perfect cityscape, or a union with the divine, paradise by its very definition represents humanity's attempt to define perfection. Because that which exists in paradise is by definition perfect itself, the image becomes an important tool for critiquing or affirming cultural values and social practices. In examining these three texts, this dissertation asserts that the image plays an important narrative role in each. Because the perfection of this space is nearly universally accepted, the texts make use of its innate social context. By making paradise the locus of action, these texts are able to justify certain ways of seeing and understanding the world, ultimately promoting certain religious, political, or social ideals.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Heaven, Mechtild of Hackeborn, Paradise, Pearl, Saint Brendan, Space
English literature $y Middle English, 1100-1500 $x History and criticism.
Heaven in literature.
Paradise in literature.
Christian poetry, English (Middle)

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