Barbara Nolan contends that attitudes toward the meaning of history, prophecy, and vision developed by religious writers of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries fundamentally affected the shape of literary narrative and religious art for two centuries. In these essays, she explores some of the most important moments in this Gothic visionary perspective.
The author first follows the history of Apocalypse commentaries from Bede to Alexander of Bremen, focusing particularly on twelfth-century interpretation of Revelation as a spiritual guidebook for the contemporary Christian. She shows that innovative interpretations in these texts have parallels in the cathedral art of St.-Denis and Chartres, the illuminations for later medieval illustrated Apocalypses, and the invention of new "anagogical" literary modes.
Professor Nolan's close study of the Vita Nuova indicates that in his earliest work Dante used a prophetic voice and a graded series of visions to shape his conventional love story into a book of revelation. Examination of the thirteenth-century spiritual quest reveals that French writers, transforming older monastic forms, gave new importance to the process of conversion by way of vision. Pearl and Piers Plowman participate in the tradition of the spiritual quest even as Piers marks a final moment in its history.
Originally published in 1977.
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