God's Patients: Suffering and the Divine in the Canterbury Tales

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University of Virginia, 2008 - 598 pages
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A methodological introduction proposes the dissertation's brand of "iconic reading" (a term paraphrased from Charles Sanders Peirce) as an experiment, distinguishing it from earlier attempts to connect theology and literature. The immediate results---rich new readings of all four tales---suggest broader methodological conclusions. A "Hermeneutical Interlude" shows why critics cannot interpret Chaucer adequately without closer attention to his religious background; the Man of Law's Custance, for example, has been misread by critics who miss her status as exemplar of a religious state simultaneously active and passive. A concluding chapter suggests that the two central themes are so closely linked as to form a single question, answered by a religious ideal of divine-human cooperation; it closes with historical observations on the change by which this ideal has fallen from favor, rendering Chaucer and many other medieval writers difficult to understand on religious questions.

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