Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

William Quinn

Committee Member

Joshua B. Smith

Second Committee Member

Mary Beth Long

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Chretien de troyes; Eucharist; Gerald of wales; Marie de france; Twelfth century; Walter map

Abstract

In “Hoc Est Corpus Meum: The Eucharist in Twelfth-Century Literature,” I analyze the appearance of the Eucharist as a sacred motif in secular lais, romances, and chronicles. The Eucharist became one of the most controversial intellectual topics of the High Middle Ages. While medieval historians and religious scholars have long recognized that the twelfth century was a critical period in which many eucharistic doctrines were debated and affirmed, literary scholars have given very little attention to the concurrent emergence of eucharistic themes in twelfth-century literature. This is unfortunate, since the Eucharist emerges as an intriguing motif, appearing in fantastic encounters with werewolves, demons, fairies, and other supernatural figures. “Hoc Est Corpus Meum” argues that many of these narratives reflect and reinforce the eucharistic teachings circulating in northern France at the time, with which the courtly and clerical audiences would be quite familiar. I show how the authors under consideration, many of whom were clerics, crafted engaging and simultaneously instructive tales that blended sacred and secular material to explore theological truths in fictional contexts. Many of the tales encourage annual reception of the Eucharist, discourage the practice of trial by ordeal, and demonstrate the validity of transubstantiation. Other stories use the Eucharist to affirm the humanity or orthodoxy of certain individuals, or to reveal the demonic or heterodox identity of those who should not be included within Christendom. Whether including or excluding, the Eucharist serves as a discerning tool.

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