This study explores the somewhat neglected area of dramatic genres of early English religious lyric and illuminates the functions of dialogue as an instrument of devotion and cognition in the context of medieval culture. The book focuses on short poems in dialogue form, semi-dialogic prayers and dramatic monologues, and alleged dialogic configurations of the lyrics, stressing their potential for performance. Devotional dialogues, as between Jesus and Mary, are shown to have the form of mutual begging, in accordance with the central medieval ritual of supplication. Dialogue as heteroglossia provides the basis for readings of selected prayers from Cædmon to Lydgate, highlighting a variety of cultural transactions involved in addressing heaven. Tracing the ways the poems overcome the limits of language in search of transcendent communication leads to insights into vernacular poetics and theology inherent in early English religious verse.
Table of contents
Chapter One: Dramatic interactions in dialogue lyrics and dialogic groups of lyrics 31
Chapter Two: Cultural transactions in prayer poems 93
Chapter Three: A latent metaphysics of communication 147
Chapter Four: In lieu of conclusion: continuations of dialogic poetics in Renaissance religious lyric 207
Index of names 245
Index of medieval texts 251
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