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Chapter 20 - Holiness

from Part III - Humans, the World and Beyond

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2019

Ian Johnson
Affiliation:
University of St Andrews, Scotland
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Summary

Although much about holiness in Chaucer’s works remains disputed, elliptical, or even contradictory, many of his images of religious devotion and popular piety are themselves situated in a broader cultural context than is usually recognised. For Chaucer, as for most late medieval Christians of his day, holiness was instantiated in matter, present and manifest in shrines, relics, holy objects and in the natural world, and he shows himself attentive to such materiality in his images of popular religion. Many of the Tales celebrate orthodox Christian materiality in ways that align his devotional interests with those found in a broad range of English religious writings by authors with whom he is not typically connected, including Julian of Norwich and the Carthusian Nicholas Love. Other Tales offer an incisive critique of holiness in the context of contemporary practices within the Church. Chaucer’s many-sided works hold these glimmering tensions in balance.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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