Religion and the Validation of Magic: Literary Magic in Middle English Literature
Walton, Kathryn Margaret Muriel
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Much scholarship on magic in the literature of medieval England has tried to uncover how literary magic reflects actual cultural practices of magic in medieval society. This dissertation contends that the cultural practice of magic, also known as common magic, differs significantly from literary magic. It establishes that literary magic is a uniquely literary form grounded in and reflective of the culture of reading that produced it. It furthermore shows that while conflict with Christian doctrine fosters the decline of common magic in society, the harmonious relationship that literary magic shares with Christianity ensures its survival. To uncover the distinct nature of literary magic and its inherently Christian structures, this dissertation analyzes four components of medieval reading culture in four Middle English manuscripts ranging in date from the early fourteenth century to the mid-fifteenth century. The first chapter addresses the poetic structures that compose literary magic in National Library of Scotland, Advocates 19. 2. 1, the Auchinleck manuscript. The second chapter analyzes the representational relationship between sacred and secular supernatural characters also in the Auchinleck manuscript to show how magic is brought within a Christian ethos in the medieval reading experience. The third chapter considers how reading allegorically shapes the medieval readers encounter with literary magic in two manuscript from the turn of the fifteenth century: British Library, Cotton Nero A. x and Lincolns Inn Library, MS Hale 150. The final chapter looks at how the materiality of the British Library, Cotton Caligula A. ii changes and reflects the magic depicted within. Throughout, this dissertation reveals how fundamentally the supernatural is intertwined with medieval thought. It also suggests that magic had and continues to have such prominent appeal in literary and popular culture because of its representational establishment in the reading culture of medieval England.