Middle English Marvels: Magic, Spectacle, and Morality in the Fourteenth Century

Author:   Tara Williams
Publisher:   Pennsylvania State University Press
ISBN:  

9780271079646


Pages:   184
Publication Date:   15 June 2019
Format:   Paperback
Availability:   In Print   Availability explained
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Middle English Marvels: Magic, Spectacle, and Morality in the Fourteenth Century


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Overview

This multidisciplinary volume illustrates how representations of magic in fourteenth-century romances link the supernatural, spectacle, and morality in distinctive ways. Supernatural marvels represented in vivid visual detail are foundational to the characteristic Middle English genres of romance and hagiography. In Middle English Marvels, Tara Williams explores the didactic and affective potential of secular representations of magic and shows how fourteenth-century English writers tested the limits of that potential. Drawing on works by Augustine, Gervase of Tilbury, Chaucer, and the anonymous poets of Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, among others, Williams examines how such marvels might convey moral messages within and beyond the narrative. She analyzes examples from both highly canonical and more esoteric texts and examines marvels that involve magic and transformation, invoke visual spectacle, and invite moral reflection on how one should relate to others. Within this shared framework, Williams finds distinct concerns-chivalry, identity, agency, and language-that intersect with the marvelous in significant ways. Integrating literary and historical approaches to the study of magic, this volume convincingly shows how certain fourteenth-century texts eschewed the predominant trends and developed a new theory of the marvelous. Williams's engaging, erudite study will be of special interest to scholars of the occult, the medieval and early modern eras, and literature.

Full Product Details

Author:   Tara Williams
Publisher:   Pennsylvania State University Press
Imprint:   Pennsylvania State University Press
Dimensions:   Width: 15.20cm , Height: 22.90cm , Length: 22.90cm
Weight:   0.322kg
ISBN:  

9780271079646


ISBN 10:   0271079649
Pages:   184
Publication Date:   15 June 2019
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Professional & Vocational
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Availability:   In Print   Availability explained
This item will be ordered in for you from one of our suppliers. Upon receipt, we will promptly dispatch it out to you. For in store availability, please contact us.

Table of Contents

Reviews

A well-written, accessible, and insightful volume, and one of clear interest to scholars of Middle English literature, particularly of romance. And it may well prove very useful, too, for teaching. . . . The value of this study is in the further speculation on texts like those discussed it stimulates, and on larger questions about language and literary tradition-and the role wonder can play in our own ethical engagement with the world. -Lisa M. C. Weston, Modern Philology An insightful study that examines literary magic in fourteenth-century England on its own terms. Through a series of subtle readings, Tara Williams identifies a previously unnoticed concatenation of magic, spectacle, and reflections on morality among a group of vernacular romances that construct their own view of the marvelous. This book makes a valuable contribution to magic studies and to affect studies through the ethical use of wonder. -Lee Manion, author of Narrating the Crusades: Loss and Recovery in Medieval and Early Modern English Literature Williams's deft survey of fourteenth-century Middle English literary texts reveals a moral theory of the marvelous, which she traces from the actions it provokes in Orfeo and Lybeaus Desconus to the reflections it inspires in the Canterbury Tales. Through investigations of spectacle and the cognitive effects of wonder, situated in contexts ranging from genre to manuscripts to history and philosophy, Middle English Marvels offers a new understanding of how magic encourages moral contemplation in characters and readers, then and now. -Myra Seaman, coeditor of Fragments for a History of a Vanishing Humanism A subtle, readable, and learned analysis of the `theory of the marvelous' developed by writers of Middle English romances. This book makes a significant contribution not only to romance studies itself but also to the growing body of work on the flexible relationships between the different types of medieval wonder and on their aesthetic and ethical implications. Middle English Marvels will be of equal interest to scholars and their students. -Nicholas Watson, coeditor of The Writings of Julian of Norwich: A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and A Revelation of Love Presents a fascinating perspective on perceptions of the marvellous and magical in the high Middle Ages, especially in terms of how it relates to other aspects of the study of mediaeval magic. -Fortean Times A universal appeal underlies this book's particular exploration of how Middle English literary spectacles function in a handful of 14th-century texts. . . . Williams contributes to the scholarly discussion material that will be useful for understanding traditional elements such as plot, character, and theme and also postmodern interest in identity and alterity. -A. P. Church, Choice


A well-written, accessible, and insightful volume, and one of clear interest to scholars of Middle English literature, particularly of romance. And it may well prove very useful, too, for teaching. . . . The value of this study is in the further speculation on texts like those discussed it stimulates, and on larger questions about language and literary tradition--and the role wonder can play in our own ethical engagement with the world. --Lisa M. C. Weston, Modern Philology An insightful study that examines literary magic in fourteenth-century England on its own terms. Through a series of subtle readings, Tara Williams identifies a previously unnoticed concatenation of magic, spectacle, and reflections on morality among a group of vernacular romances that construct their own view of the marvelous. This book makes a valuable contribution to magic studies and to affect studies through the ethical use of wonder. --Lee Manion, author of Narrating the Crusades: Loss and Recovery in Medieval and Early Modern English Literature Williams's deft survey of fourteenth-century Middle English literary texts reveals a moral theory of the marvelous, which she traces from the actions it provokes in Orfeo and Lybeaus Desconus to the reflections it inspires in the Canterbury Tales. Through investigations of spectacle and the cognitive effects of wonder, situated in contexts ranging from genre to manuscripts to history and philosophy, Middle English Marvels offers a new understanding of how magic encourages moral contemplation in characters and readers, then and now. --Myra Seaman, coeditor of Fragments for a History of a Vanishing Humanism Presents a fascinating perspective on perceptions of the marvellous and magical in the high Middle Ages, especially in terms of how it relates to other aspects of the study of mediaeval magic. --Fortean Times A universal appeal underlies this book's particular exploration of how Middle English literary spectacles function in a handful of 14th-century texts. . . . Williams contributes to the scholarly discussion material that will be useful for understanding traditional elements such as plot, character, and theme and also postmodern interest in identity and alterity. --A. P. Church, Choice A subtle, readable, and learned analysis of the 'theory of the marvelous' developed by writers of Middle English romances. This book makes a significant contribution not only to romance studies itself but also to the growing body of work on the flexible relationships between the different types of medieval wonder and on their aesthetic and ethical implications. Middle English Marvels will be of equal interest to scholars and their students. --Nicholas Watson, coeditor of The Writings of Julian of Norwich: A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and A Revelation of Love


An insightful study that examines literary magic in fourteenth-century England on its own terms. Through a series of subtle readings, Tara Williams identifies a previously unnoticed concatenation of magic, spectacle, and reflections on morality among a group of vernacular romances that construct their own view of the marvelous. This book makes a valuable contribution to magic studies and to affect studies through the ethical use of wonder. -Lee Manion, author of Narrating the Crusades: Loss and Recovery in Medieval and Early Modern English Literature Williams's deft survey of fourteenth-century Middle English literary texts reveals a moral theory of the marvelous, which she traces from the actions it provokes in Orfeo and Lybeaus Desconus to the reflections it inspires in the Canterbury Tales. Through investigations of spectacle and the cognitive effects of wonder, situated in contexts ranging from genre to manuscripts to history and philosophy, Middle English Marvels offers a new understanding of how magic encourages moral contemplation in characters and readers, then and now. -Myra Seaman, coeditor of Fragments for a History of a Vanishing Humanism A subtle, readable, and learned analysis of the `theory of the marvelous' developed by writers of Middle English romances. This book makes a significant contribution not only to romance studies itself but also to the growing body of work on the flexible relationships between the different types of medieval wonder and on their aesthetic and ethical implications. Middle English Marvels will be of equal interest to scholars and their students. -Nicholas Watson, coeditor of The Writings of Julian of Norwich: A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and A Revelation of Love Presents a fascinating perspective on perceptions of the marvellous and magical in the high Middle Ages, especially in terms of how it relates to other aspects of the study of mediaeval magic. -Fortean Times A universal appeal underlies this book's particular exploration of how Middle English literary spectacles function in a handful of 14th-century texts. . . . Williams contributes to the scholarly discussion material that will be useful for understanding traditional elements such as plot, character, and theme and also postmodern interest in identity and alterity. -A. P. Church, Choice


Author Information

Tara Williams is Associate Dean of the Honors College and Associate Professor of English at Oregon State University and the author of Inventing Womanhood: Gender and Language in Later Middle English Writing.

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