The concept of Purgatory in Middle English didactic writings is explored through examination of visions of the afterlife, sermons, homiletic treatises, and lyrics.Purgatory has been the focus of much literary and historical attention since Jacques Le Goff's important Naissance du Purgatoire(1981), but this is the first book-length study to trace its development, reception and influence in Middle English literature.Following a survey of the doctrine of Purgatory and its cultural reception, the book explores the two major Middle English genres in which it is discussed, visions of the afterlife, and didactic and homiletic treatises on death. In a detailed examination of these, along with sermons and lyrics, the author argues that such writings tend to be structured around the dualism of salvation and damnation, heaven and hell, with no intermediary alternative; at the same time the efficacy of intercession in the alleviation of suffering is repeatedly stressed. The book goes on to suggest that the influence of Purgatory was to provide a more pragmatic and optimistic attitude towards death and the afterlife, as reflected in such poems as the Vernon lyrics.
TAKAMI MATSUDAis Associate Professor in the Department of English and American Literature at Keio University.
7 black and white illustrations
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This careful, wide-ranging study traces the effects of the popularization of the concept of Purgatory on English vernacular literature on death and the afterlife... A welcome contribution to the recent burgeoning interest in medieval representations of death and the afterlife. MEDIUM AEVUM An important study of two vast, linked, preoccupations of medieval culture, devotion and literature. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW