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Asceticism in late-medieval religious writing: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 114

Macmillan, Sarah M. (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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The five texts contained in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 114 (c. 1420-50) are seminal to understanding the centrality of asceticism in medieval English devotional literature. This thesis addresses the ways in which Douce 114 can be comprehended as a ‘whole book’ and as such outlines a transformation from extreme bodily mortification (in its first text) to the mortification of mind (in its last). It suggests that the manuscript was envisioned as a spiritual tool, its contents designed to be read in order, and that the central theme of asceticism is a hermeneutical device which guides the (Carthusian) reader’s spiritual development.

The introduction provides a history of Christian asceticism while the first chapter contextualises attitudes to the phenomenon in late-medieval England. Chapters two and three examine the themes of Passion devotion and imitatio Christi in the Life of Elisabeth of Spalbeek, chapter four addresses the nature of embodiment and earthly purgatory in the Life of Christina Mirabilis, and chapter five examines the inherent problem of misguided bodily imitation of spiritual exemplars in reference to the Life of Marie of Oignies. In conclusion, chapter six argues that the Life of Catherine of Siena and Henry Suso’s Seven Points of True Love and Everlasting Wisdom, which emphasise the transcendence of bodliness, clarify the true inwardly ascetical nature of the preceding texts.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Griffith, David
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of English
Additional Information:

There are no illustrations available in the digital version of this thesis. They are available in the printed version held in the Library.
Publications arising from this research: : ‘Mortifying the Mind: Asceticism, Mysticism and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 114’, in The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England: Exeter Symposium VIII, ed. E. A. Jones (Boydell & Brewer, 2013).

Subjects:Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
PE English
BL Religion
D History (General)
Institution:University of Birmingham
Library Catalogue:Check for printed version of this thesis
ID Code:1370
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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