Lay Writers and the Politics of Theology in Medieval England From the Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries
Carola Louise Mattord
Doctor of Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences, Georgia State University, English Dissertations, Paper 44, May (2009)
This dissertation is a critical analysis of identity in literature within the historical context of the theopolitical climate in England between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. The narratives under consideration are The Lais of Marie de France , The Canterbury Tales , and The Book of Margery Kempe . A focus on the business of theology and the Church’s political influence on identity will highlight these lay writers’ artistic shaping of theopolitical ideas into literature. Conducting a literary analysis on the application of theopolitical ideas by these lay writers encourages movement beyond the traditional exegetical interpretation of their narratives and furthers our determination of lay intellectual attitudes toward theology and its political purposes in the development of identity and society.
Scholars have long acknowledged the importance of theology in the critical analysis of late-medieval English literature, especially in the formulation of selfhood. Within this context, I concentrate my critical analysis on three literary narratives of the period: the Lais of Marie de France, The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer, and The Book of Margery Kempe. These lay writers differ in the times that they lived, their social standing, education, subject material, and in the theological and political discourses that interested them. Their commonality centers on an acute awareness of these discourses and their artistic abilities to narrate them to their lay audiences for serious contemplation and debate.