Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2021

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

School

Humanities

Committee Chair

Leah Parker

Committee Chair School

Humanities

Committee Member 2

Alexandra Valint

Committee Member 2 School

Humanities

Committee Member 3

Emily Stanback

Committee Member 3 School

Humanities

Abstract

The fourteenth-century Middle English poem Pearl, authored by the anonymous Pearl-poet, survives in a manuscript known as London, British Library, Cotton MS Nero A.x. This dream vision, narrated by a grieving father, tells the story of his journey to Paradise, where he encounters his infant daughter, now older, regal, and wise, proffering admonishments with the authority of God to her tearful father. meeting with her in Paradise. Drawing on Caroline Walker Bynum’s work on medieval European conceptions of death and resurrection, J. Stephen Russell’s work on the dream vision genre, and Karl Steel’s work on oysters as liminal figures, this thesis reads Pearl’s function as a dream vision as a rhetorical strategy that demonstrates new ways of conceptualizing the ambiguities of death and the afterlife. As the Dreamer attempts to reconcile the disparity between what he sees (bodily decay), and what he is asked to believe (the Christian promise of resurrection), the poem argues that this disparity is unavoidable and that a methodical or scientific understanding of resurrection is not just impossible, but unnecessary. The liminality of the dream vision genre combined with the cognitive dissonance present in the poem’s dialogue and the ambiguity of the Pearl-Maiden's appearance

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