“Preaching and History: The Audience of Ranulf Higden’s _Ars componendi sermones_ and _Polychronicon_” by Jane Beal

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My academic essay, “Preaching and History: The Audience of Ranulf Hidgen’s Ars componendi sermones and the Polychronicon,” now appears in Medieval Sermon Studies 62:1 (2018): 17-28.

ABSTRACT:

In his Ars praedicandi sermones, in traditional yet rich metaphoric language, Ranulf Higden compares Christ to a fountain, a shepherd, a rock, a lily, a rose, a violet, an elephant, a unicorn, and a youthful bridegroom wooing his beloved spouse. Ranulf encourages preachers to use such metaphors while using them himself, rendering his text a performed example of what he encourages. This text is clearly linked to two others: Ranulf’s Latin universal history, the Polychronicon, and John Trevisa’s English translation of it. In the Polychronicon, Ranulf relates the life of Christ, utilizing some of his own rhetorical suggestions from his preaching manual. He also depicts a cross-section of good and bad preachers, including Gregory, Wulfstan, Eustas, St Edmund, and one William Long- Beard and his kinsman, who exemplify (in different ways) the wisdom conveyed in Ranulf’s instruction in the Ars praedicandi. This essay suggests that the literary relationship between the preaching manual and the Polychronicon supplies additional support for the idea that the audience of the latter was not noblemen exclusively, but also clergymen who preached and had responsibility for the care of souls (cura animae).

Also available here… & here: 0 BEAL – Preaching and History – The Audience of Ranulf Higden’s _Ars componendi sermones_ and _Polychronicon_ (Published Version).

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“Who is Tom Bombadil?” by Jane Beal

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by kimberly80

My academic essay, “Who is Tom Bombadil? Interpreting the Light in Frodo Baggins and Tom Bombadil’s Role in the Healing of Traumatic Memory in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings,” now appears in The Journal of Tolkien Research 6 (2018): Iss. 1, Art. 1, 1-34.

ABSTRACT: 

In Rivendell, after Frodo has been attacked by Ringwraiths and is healing from the removal of the splinter from a Morgul-blade that had been making its way toward his heart, Gandalf regards Frodo and contemplates a “clear light” that is visible through Frodo to “eyes to see that can.” Samwise Gamgee later sees this light in Frodo when Frodo is resting in Ithilien. The first half of this essay considers questions about this light: how does Frodo become transparent, and why, and what is the nature of the light that fills him? As recourse to Tolkien’s letters shows, the light is related to the virtues of Frodo’s character: love, self-sacrifice, humility, perseverance. The light in Frodo also is related to the light in the Phial of Galadrial, which comes from the Earendil’s Silmaril set in the heavens above Middle-earth, which is called the Morning Star. Because “Morning Star” is a name for Jesus in the New Testament, the light within Frodo may be interpreted, symbolically, as the Christ-light.

The second half of this essay considers how this light was ignited in Frodo, specifically by asking: who is Tom Bombadil, and what does he have to do with the light inside of Frodo? The essay explores multiple explanations for the long-standing, critically-debated mystery of Tom Bombadil’s identity, ultimately showing that he must be interpreted at multiple levels of meaning simultaneously. Intriguingly, Tom Bombadil has parallels to the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus, especially in his role as “Eldest” (or ab origine) and in his ability to bring light to Frodo in the grave of the barrow-wight, save him from death by his song, and heal him from spiritual “drowning” – a word that Tom uses to describe Frodo’s terrifying experience in the barrow and which relates to Frodo’s original childhood wound: the primal loss of his parents, who drowned in a tragic accident. When Frodo receives healing from this trauma, he is strengthened to endure what he later experiences on his quest to destroy the Ring.

 

 

“Tolkien, Eucatastrophe, and the Rewriting of Medieval Legend” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 8.19.16 PMMy essay, “Tolkien, Eucatastrophe, and the Re-writing of Medieval Legend,” appears in Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society 58 (Winter 2017).

ABSTRACT: 

Using comparative literary analysis, this essay examines three case studies from J.R.R. Tolkien’s oeuvre, in which Tolkien practiced eucatastrophic rewriting: his folk-tale, “Sellic Spell,” in which he re-creates the Old English poem Beowulf; his poem, “Princess Mee,” in which he re-envisions aspects of the myth of Narcissus and the Middle English dream vision poem, Pearl; and the character of Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings, in which he re-imagines the fate of Brynhild, a shield-maiden and valkyrie from Norse legend. In each case, Tolkien rewrites the original so that sorrow is transformed into happiness in Tolkien’s new versions. As part of the analysis of these transformations, this essay also considers a possible personal motivation as well as a larger purpose behind Tolkien’s artistic choices: his relationship to his beloved wife, Edith, and a desire to convey to others the hope he found in his own Christian faith.

  • This essay also appears here.

“Mapping Desire in Chaucer’s ‘To Rosemounde,’ Shakespeare’s ‘Rape of Lucrece,’ and Donne’s ‘A Valediction: Of Weeping'” by Jane Beal

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My academic essay, “Mapping Desire in Chaucer’s ‘To Rosemounde,’ Shakespeare’s ‘Rape of Lucrece,” and Donne’s ‘A Valediction: Of Weeping,'” now appears in Peregrinations: A Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture 6:3 (2018): 105-29.

EXCERPT: 

“The poets Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and John Donne were aware of the existence of medieval world maps. Evidence from their writings clearly shows that the poets were familiar with the genre and had seen cartographic examples of it. They may also have read prose descriptions of the whole world that sometimes journeyed with, and sometimes journeyed separately from, cartographic mappaemundi. The poets each used such maps metaphorically in their poems about women, juxtaposing woman- as-map in their reader-viewer’s inner eye in poetic contexts they created to represent male desire. That desire is figured in a would-be lover’s lament that turns to satiric complaint in Chaucer’s “To Rosemounde” and in a conqueror’s lust that turns to violent assault in Shakespeare’s “Rape of Lucrece,” while in Donne’s “A Valediction: Of Weeping,” it is expressed with tender empathy in an increasingly complex, metaphorical meditation on the tears shed by both lover and beloved on an occasion of parting.1 In order to understand this thematic sexualization of the mappaemundi, it is relevant first to consider the contemplative and educational functions of world maps in medieval Christian culture.”

“Ending Dystopia: The Feminist Critique of Culture in Suzanne Collins’ _Hunger Games_ Trilogy” by Jane Beal

WorldsGoneAwry-EssaysonDystopianFictionMy chapter, “Ending Dystopia: The Feminist Critique of Culture in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy” now appears in Worlds Gone Awry: Essays on Dystopian Fiction, eds. John Han, C. Clark Triplett, and Ashley G. Anthony (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2018), 122-138.

EXCERPT:

More’s purpose in Utopia was not, of course, to inform his highly educated, Latinate, mostly male readers about a “good place,” a utopian country in the New World, but rather to critique a dystopian country in his own Old World: England.

Virtually all subsequent utopian/dystopian fiction in the western tradition is generically defined by elements found in More’s Utopia, and feminist utopian writings and contemporary feminist dystopian fiction are no exceptions. The later development of the genre branches out from its roots (Christian humanist satire), producing distinctly different fruit (literary works), because it hybridizes the tree (the genre). Whereas More’s Utopia, like Platonic dialogues, is a conversation between men, feminist dystopias expand the conversation that critiques culture by:

  • internalizing it in their female protagonists, where its very interiority can give women power to resist male-dominated cultural forces of violence, deception, manipulation, corruption, and destruction in the dystopian environment;
  • externalizing and articulating it between female as well as male characters;
  • making part of it solely between women in their texts;
  • focusing it on the human rights of women, especially the right to life, the right to freedom of the will, mind, heart, and body, and the right to self-determination in their relationships and roles in the world;
  • and emphasizing the importance of alliance between women and children, women and men, women and women, women and the environment, and women and sources of cultural power in their world.

Authors of feminist dystopian fiction frequently take as a given that the world their female protagonists live in is being represented to those women as utopian, as a “good place” that is culturally and politically organized for their benefit, but they emphasize in no uncertain terms that the world is in fact dystopian. They show that the male-dominated cultural forces in their fictions consistently seek to exploit women’s bodies, in violation of their will, at the expense of their minds and to the detriment of their emotional wellbeing.  They do not hesitate to show how some female characters living in dystopia accept these forces while others actually become perpetuators of them, and they may also highlight how male characters are not only oppressors but may be oppressed by the mechanisms of injustice in dystopia.

But in response to the “big lie” that women are living in utopia, when the actual conditions of their existence are mercilessly dystopian, authors send their female protagonists on a journey of personal and relational growth.  The journey inevitably includes acquisition of new knowledge, new strength, and new, previously unknown, and virtually unimaginable freedom.This trajectory is especially clear when reading the endings of feminist dystopian fictions.

Because feminist dystopian fiction is very much in keeping not only with utopian satire but also with the fairy-tale tradition, it engages the human psychological realities of hope and fear, but often—quite purposefully—without the consolation of a traditional “happy ending.”  This raises a key question:  since the endings are clearly not wish-fulfillment fantasies, intended for the temporary satisfaction of readers, what purposes are being accomplished by the endings of feminist dystopian fictions?  To explore the question, my chapter focuses on the ending of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (2008-2010).  As we shall see, her fiction makes new use of the generic elements of the utopian satirical tradition—classical learning, Christian ethics, and the discovery of a new world—in a “bad place” where the development of the psychological complexity of her female protagonist on her journey drives the critique of the real dystopia: the postmodern world inhabited by the author and her readers at the turn of the twenty-first century.

 

APPROACHES TO TEACHING THE MIDDLE ENGLISH PEARL edited by Jane Beal and Mark Bradshaw Busbee

My co-edited volume, Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl, is now in print from the Modern Language Association.

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Abstract

The moving, richly allegorical poem Pearl was written in Middle English by the anonymous who likely also penned Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In it, a man in a garden, grieving the loss of a beloved pearl, dreams of the Pearl-Maiden, who appears across a stream. She teaches him the nature of innocence, God’s grace, meekness, and purity. Though granted a vision of the New Jerusalem by the Pearl-Maiden, the dreamer is pained to discover that he cannot cross the stream himself and join her in bliss—at least not yet. This extraordinary poem is a door into late medieval poetics and Catholic piety.

Part 1 of this volume, “Materials,” introduces instructors to the many resources available for teaching the canonical yet challenging Pearl, including editions, translations, and scholarship on the poem as well as its historical context. The essays in part 2, “Approaches,” offer instructors tools for introducing students to critical issues associated with the poem, such as its authorship, sources and analogues, structure and language, and relation to other works of its time. Contributors draw on interdisciplinary approaches to outline ways of teaching Pearl in a variety of classroom contexts.

Table of Contents

  • With many thanks to my co-editor, our editors at the MLA, and all of our contributors!
  • To learn more about “Pearl,” see Medieval Pearl.

“Three Approaches to Teaching the Middle English ‘Pearl’: Introduction to Literature, British Literature I, and the Mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 7.44.11 AMMy pedagogical essay, “Three Approaches to Teaching  ‘Pearl’: Introduction to Literature, British Literature I, and the Mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien” now appears in The Once and Future Classroom (Spring 2016), Art. 6. Ejournal.

EXCERPTS: 

Pearl is an extraordinarily beautiful, fourteenth-century, dream vision poem. It is infinitely rewarding to teach, but notoriously difficult to do so. That is because the poem requires a level of literacy that college students do not always possess. In order to read Pearl, whether in Middle English or in a Modern English translation, students must be brave enough to encounter not only poetry, but medieval poetry; not only medieval poetry, but a specific dream vision poem densely packed with biblical and classical allusion; not only a dream vision with a literal meaning, but one with several layers of meaning: literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical. Although students may not come to the poem with the skills to understand the poem at first, by reading key precursor texts and studying Pearl in different contexts, students can learn to read Pearl, and in the process, learn how to become better readers overall.”

•How is the symbol of the pearl transformed throughout the poem?

•What is the nature of the relationship between the Pearl-Maiden and the Dreamer?

•How might we interpret this poem literally, allegorically, morally, and anagogically? What parable, fable, and fairy-tale motifs appear in the poem?

•Is the dreamer consoled at the end of the poem? If not, why not? If so, how?

To learn more about teaching Pearl,

please visit:

https://medievalpearl.wordpress.com/teaching/

THE SIGNIFYING POWER OF PEARL by Jane Beal

beal-signifyingcvr-2016My new book, The Signifying Power of Pearl: Medieval Literary and Cultural Contexts for the Transformation of Genre, is now available from Routledge.

Abstract: 

This book enhances our understanding of the exquisitely beautiful, fourteenth-century, Middle English dream vision poem Pearl. Situating the study in the contexts of medieval literary criticism and contemporary genre theory, Beal argues that the poet intended Pearl to be read at four levels of meaning and in four corresponding genres: literally, an elegy; spiritually, an allegory; morally, a consolation; and anagogically, a revelation. The book addresses cruxes and scholarly debates about the poem’s genre and meaning, including key questions that have been unresolved in Pearl studies for over a century:

  • What is the nature of the relationship between the Dreamer and the Maiden?
  • What is the significance of allusions to Ovidian love stories and the use of liturgical time in the poem?
  • How does avian symbolism, like that of the central symbol of the pearl, develop, transform, and add meaning throughout the dream vision?
  • What is the nature of God portrayed in the poem, and how does the portrayal of the Maiden’s intimate relationship to God, her spiritual marriage to the Lamb, connect to the poet’s purpose in writing?

Noting that the poem is open to many interpretations, Beal also considers folktale genre patterns in Pearl, including those drawn from parable, fable, and fairy-tale. The conclusion considers Pearl in the light of modern psychological theories of grieving and trauma. This book makes a compelling case for re-reading Pearl and recognizing the poem’s signifying power. Given the ongoing possibility of new interpretations, it will appeal to those who specialize in Pearl as well as scholars of Middle English, Medieval Literature, Genre Theory, and Literature and Religion.

“Ruth Stone” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 6.55.40 PM.jpgMy new biographical essay, “Ruth Stone,” now appears in American Writers, Vol. XXVII, ed. Jay Parini (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2017), 249-65.

Excerpt:

“With three daughters to raise on her own, Stone began a series of poetry residencies and visiting teaching positions at a number of colleges and universities across the United States, beginning with a two-year poetry fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When she was not teaching, she would return with her family to a farmhouse she had purchased in Goshen, Vermont. Her itinerant life ended after twenty-five years when she was awarded tenure at the State University of New York at Binghamton in her seventies. After her retirement, she received an honorary doctorate from Middlebury College in Vermont. She published thirteen print collections of poetry in her lifetime and received many awards, including a Pushcart Prize and the National Book Award; her book What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Her verses express, with often acerbic wit, what has been called her “tragicomic vision”: an unrelenting and incisive commentary on poverty, loss, the human body, relationships between men and women, odd characters on the edges of American communities, old age, the universe, and poetry itself. At times bawdy, at times profound, her poems never fail to make a sharp point.”

“In the Next Galaxy”

Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not
have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.

Ruth Stone

 

“Patience on Pilgrimage: Job in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” by Jane Beal

brill-job-2016My new book chapter, “Patience on Pilgrimage: Job in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” now appears in the Brill Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, edited by Franklin T. Harkins and Aaron Canty.

Excerpt: 

“In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer invokes the name of Job in the Wife of Bath’s Tale, Clerk’s Tale, Tale of Melibee, Friar’s Tale, and Parson’s Tale. In each case, Job serves as an archetypal, almost allegorical figure of the virtue of patience or long-suffering; he is also associated with the related virtues of humility and contrition. He participates in a wider network of meaning that connects him to issues of good moral character in marital conflicts, deserved and undeserved suffering inflicted by devils, and the penitence appropriate to people in general and pilgrims in particular. To understand Chaucer’s use of Job’s figural power, it is important to examine the biblical and extra-biblical textual milieu that influenced Job’s reception in the Middle Ages, Job’s multiple appearances in the Canterbury Tales, and the overall role that Job—and the virtue of patience—plays on the pilgrimage to Canterbury.”

“Reading in a Roundtable, Socratic Dialogue, and Other Strategies for Teaching SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT” by Jane Beal

GGK_94.jpgMy pedagogical essay, “Reading in a Roundtable, Socratic Dialogue, and Other Strategies for Teaching Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” now appears in SMART: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 23:2 (Fall 2016): 73-100.

Excerpt:

“The lai of Lanval thus shows the complex nature of medieval literary depictions of love in a courtly context as well as how very important chivalric courtesy really is in that context. Just as importantly, our discussion of Lanval introduces the character and reputation of Gawain, “the knight of courtesy,” who appears as Lanval’s friend in the romance and aids him in his difficulties. Therefore, students have a foundation upon which we can build as we discuss the following key questions about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in our roundtable:

  • What codes govern Gawain’s life, and how do they come into conflict in this poem?
  • What games are played in this poem, and how do they test Gawain’s character?
  • When Gawain makes each of his confessions in the poem (there are three), what level of self-awareness of his choices does he show, especially in relation to the codes governing his actions? What does he confess, what level of responsibility does he take for his actions, and why (and how much) does it matter within the world of the poem?
  • How might we, as readers, interpret the conclusion of this poem, and what might be its relevance for a medieval audience and for us?

These questions are made available to students so they are familiar with them and have reflected on them during their reading prior to coming to class.

In the remainder of this essay, I will give an overview of the contextual information I usually share with my students and the key insights I attempt to evoke from them in response to the questions about the poem. The categories for consideration include the following: (1) the codes of chivalry, courtly love, and Christianity; (2) gaming for glory—the beheading of the Green Knight; (3) Gawain’s identity revealed in the symbolism of his shield; (4) gaming for glory—the exchange of winnings; and 5) Gawain’s spiritual growth—the confessions to the priest, the Green Knight, and King Arthur’s court. My purpose in writing is to give ideas to other teachers who may wish to teach Sir Gawain and the Green Knight using roundtable discussion, Socratic dialogue and other pedagogical strategies. I have found that exploratory discussion, enriched by informal but informative lecture, becomes more meaningful when the world-views of students are compared to the world-views evidenced in medieval poetry. The students tend to learn much more than they expect, and sometimes their views are changed or subtly shifted.”