Text and Matter: New Critical Perspectives of the Pearl-Poet

Text and Matter: New Critical Perspectives of the Pearl-Poet

Text and Matter: New Critical Perspectives of the Pearl-Poet

Text and Matter: New Critical Perspectives of the Pearl-Poet

Synopsis

"... 'Text and Matter' offers fourteen original, never- before-published essays on all four Pearl-poet poems. A fifteenth essay... summarizes [an] earlier book-length study.... Each essay has something to teach us and each essay adds to the critical momentum of Text and Matter, making it a valuable scholarly resource." South Atlantic Review

Excerpt

Although overshadowed by their sister poems in the Cotton Nero A.x. manuscript--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl -- Cleanness (or Purity) and Patience have recently become objects of critical scrutiny. Within the last ten years, for instance, Cleanness scholars have examined the influence of Biblical paraphrases and fourteenth-century artes praedicandi upon the poem or have explored important narrative and symbolic patterns, particularly the employment of a homiletic structure. Still other studies of Cleanness have focused upon the scriptural underpinnings of concepts (Kynde) or episodes (Sodom and Gomorrah), have called attention to vessel, threshold, and city imagery, have explored enclosed space as a reference point for optical perspective, have concentrated upon the function and meaning of significant themes (daunger and judgment), or have illuminated the hierarchical design in and the "festive decorum" of the work. Finally, in some analyses of Cleanness, the traditional concern with questions of style and authorship has been revived. For a few scholars, at least, stylistic variables--especially disparate syntactic patterns--may be amassed in order to refute the argument for common authorship of the Cotton Nero poems, whereas other critics have provided evidence identifying John Mascy of Sale with the Pearl- Poet.

Both the number and variety of interpretations of Cleanness are reflected in current Patience range from genre studies (sermon and missal), discussions of symbolic patterns and narrative perspectives, and investigations of figural typology (Jonah as Christ or the whale as Hell) to more untraditional treatments--the application of Saussure's theories to the poem and the thematic significance of poynt (punctus), a geometric figure rooted in scholastic background. Other useful studies examine the work's sources, particularly the questions of how and why the Beatitudes and the Book of Psalms shape the theme and narrative of Patience; the emergence of important patterns (cosmic space and visual perspective), symbols (heart), or themes (suffering); the key images (munster dor, the cities) woven into the poem; the narrative roles of Jonah and God; and the links between poetic style and authorship identification.

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