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Title: Envisioned environments and the social imaginary in medieval English literature : interactions of mind, culture, and narrative, 700-1400 AD
Author: Baker, Michael Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7962 6056
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2019
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This diachronic analysis of narrative in Old and Middle English texts from the eighth to fifteenth centuries builds upon recent cognitive explorations in both medieval literature and narratology to identify and contrast certain enduring themes in OE and ME visionary texts. In attending to the evolution of conceptions of the self, and each conception's embeddedness in the social imaginary of a place and time, multi-layered new readings emerge of the Old English poems The Dream of the Rood, and Guðlac A and Guðlac B (in addition to the prose Life of St Guðlac); and the Middle English poems St Erkenwald; Pearl; and Piers Plowman. While previous studies have noted the importance of society to the role of the fourteenth-century 'public poet', this analysis proposes a much earlier, enduring link between medieval narratives of dream, visions, and marvels; the thinking, speaking self; and the larger social imaginary. The application of extended cognition to envisioned people, objects, and environments in poetic English narrative moves critical discussion beyond the formation of the dream-vision genre, toward an awareness that medieval authors could treat any environment as more or less imagined and sense-bearing. As the worked examples demonstrate, destabilisation of social structures is reflected in the disorganisation of these envisioned environments. Individual focalisation both 'personalises' these stresses and attempts to articulate a new, stable environment through reorganisation of elements of the social imaginary.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available