Charles M. Jenkins is an Associate Professor of English at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches Medieval Literature and prepares pre-professional secondary English teachers. He obtained his PhD at The Claremont Graduate University.
2003 0-7734-6845-5 Studies in Medieval Literature No. 25
This study reveals how mysticism was the religious, and subsequently the artistic, basis of later symbolic and allegorical literary expressions in English medieval literature. By laying a mystical template over the writings of the period, interpretations of these texts are enhanced, often with surprising results. It starts with the paradox of the mystical text: the mystic’s attempt to convey mystical secrets and enigmas through immanent human language. Inevitably, the attempts to approximate the ineffable mystical experience in the mystical text led to conventionality and formalism, evidenced by the conventional dream vision genre. To demonstrate the extent of mysticism’s influence, the study examines Scriptural and Patristic influences; and then theological, historical, and artistic expressions, in pagan mysticism as reflected in Anglo-Saxon runes, riddles and charms, and later in Christian mysticism in the works of Bede, Aelfric, Caedmon, and Cynewulf. In Middle English, the study examines The Pearl, and Chaucer’s The Book of the Duchess, and Troilus and Criseyde, and finally examines Margery Kempe.