1st Edition

Walsingham and the English Imagination

ISBN 9781409405092
Published May 16, 2011 by Routledge
250 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Drawing on history, art history, literary criticism and theory, gender studies, theology and psychoanalysis, this interdisciplinary study analyzes the cultural significance of the Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham, medieval England's most significant pilgrimage site devoted to the Virgin Mary, which was revived in the twentieth century, and in 2006 voted Britain's favorite religious site. Covering Walsingham's origins, destruction, and transformations from the Middle Ages to the present, Gary Waller pursues his investigation not through a standard history but by analyzing the "invented traditions" and varied re-creations of Walsingham by the "English imagination"- poems, fiction, songs, ballads, musical compositions and folk legends, solemn devotional writings and hostile satire which Walsingham has inspired, by Protestants, Catholics, and religious skeptics alike. They include, in early modern England, Erasmus, Ralegh, Sidney, and Shakespeare; then, during Walsingham's long "protestantization" from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, ballad revivals, archeological investigations, and writings by Agnes Strickland, Edmund Waterton, and Hopkins; and in the modern period, writers like Eliot, Charles Williams, Robert Lowell, and A.N. Wilson. The concluding chapter uses contemporary feminist theology to view Walsingham not just as a symbol of nostalgia but a place inviting spiritual change through its potential sexual and gender transformation.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Historical imagination: the invented tradition of Our Lady of Walsingham; Gynotheological imagination: the Virgin's body and the alternate Mariologies of late medieval Walsingham; Walsingham's Chaucer: Erasmus's Peregrinatio Religionis Ergo; 'As you came from Walsingham': Walsingham in poetry and music after the Dissolution; The Protestantization of Walsingham; Walsingham's Victorian Chaucer; Agnes Strickland's The Pilgrims of Walsingham; Re-Catholicization: Walsingham in literature from Hopkins and Waterton to A.N. Wilson; Alternate, post-modern, feminist Mary(ies)? Imagining Walsingham today; Works cited; Index.

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Gary Waller, Professor of Literature, Cultural Studies and Theatre, Purchase College, SUNY, has written many studies of early modern literature. He is currently exploring interconnections among history, psychoanalysis, and theology.


A Yankee Book Peddler UK Core Title for 2011 'Many of the stories are fascinating and it is interesting to see which authors have been chosen. There is a great exploration of the writings of Erasmus, and considerable interest in the Pynson Ballad and the N-Town plays.' New Directions '... Walsingham and the English Imagination is clearly written; the scholarship is meticulous; Waller's insights are accessible and thought-provoking. This work should prove valuable for scholars of English literature, the history of religion, folk traditions, to name but a few.' Renaissance Quarterly 'Waller succeeds in his goal of straddling history and cultural studies that allows him to stay open to the phenomena of medieval spirituality and belief, while at the same time he maintains a questioning but reflective nature that takes the reader to deeper levels of textual, cultural, and historical understanding.' Sixteenth Century Journal '... this is an important book that needs to be read.' Anglican and Episcopal History '[The book contains] riches in the sections on the Renaissance and modern periods.' Journal of English and Germanic Philology ’Much in this book is fascinating... The strength of this book lies in Waller’s interpretations of texts that con­structed the Shrine of Walsingham in the English imagination, starting with the Pynson ballad and Erasmus’s semi-fictional account.’ Medieval Feminist Forum