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Answers to prayer in Chaucer

Smith, Sheri 2016. Answers to prayer in Chaucer. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis analyses answers to prayer in Chaucer’s works. It contextualises this analysis through attention to late-medieval devotion, arguing that Chaucer uses petitionary prayer both to explore important themes, such as the injustice of suffering innocence, and to challenge elements of contemporary religious practice. Chapter One explores petitionary prayer in theory, teaching, and lay practice, proving that late-medieval understandings of prayer’s effectiveness are varied, contradictory, and at times problematic. Two of Chaucer’s dream visions, 'The Book of the Duchess' and 'The House of Fame', feature in the second chapter, which demonstrates that answers to prayer in these texts fulfil a dual function, operating both as literary device and as the means through which Chaucer examines themes of profound importance which recur throughout his works. Chapter Three addresses conflicting prayers in two romances, arguing that Chaucer uses answered prayer in 'The Knight’s Tale' to obliquely critique the weaponisation of prayer in contemporary Christian society, inviting a focus on human responsibility for conflict, and that this emphasis on agency is continued through relegating the role of prayer in 'The Franklin’s Tale'. Chapter Four analyses the divergent discourses surrounding prayer in the hagiographic tales, concluding that the extent to which the narratorial voice faithfully represents the answers to the hagiographic subject’s prayers depends on the didactic purpose expressed. The final chapter examines the unanswered and unanswerable prayers of 'Troilus and Criseyde', arguing that Chaucer offers the poem’s Trinitarian conclusion and a poetic recreation of the Boethian conception of time in response to the problems posed by these prayers. This thesis demonstrates that, rather than operating as a mere device for advancing plots, petitionary prayer provides Chaucer with a powerful tool with which to pursue several philosophical and theological issues at the heart of his writing.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 23 January 2017
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2018 02:30

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