Devotional reading and dissolving the self: a critical reading of the late medieval Scottish Legendary using Kristevan theory

Reid, Jessica (2016) Devotional reading and dissolving the self: a critical reading of the late medieval Scottish Legendary using Kristevan theory. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Scottish Legendary is a fourteenth century collection of saints’ lives in Older Scots. The prologue describes the lives as ‘merroure’ (mirror) to readers from which ‘men ma ensample ta’ (people may take example). Thus, the Legendary sets out to reveal how the reader is (mirror) thereby moving her to wish to become how she should be (exemplarity). This dissertation argues that, rather than encouraging devotion to saints along purely dogmatic lines, the Legendary transforms the reader’s selfhood by engaging her affectively, i.e. on an emotional and somatic level. By provoking the reader affectively, the text puts the reader into what Julia Kristeva has described as a ‘semiotic state’ which harks back to the reader’s or listener’s pre-cultural, pre-subjective self (Kristeva, 1984). Thus, the text disrupts the reader’s conception of herself as a complete, hermetic subjectivity, thereby dissolving the boundaries of the reader’s self. The Legendary most powerfully infiltrates the reader’s sense of self along these lines in the moments in which female saints’ bodies are tortured and dismembered. These scenes foreground the permeability of human flesh as well as its powerful influence over selfhood. Such images of abjection are, in Kristeva’s words, ‘opposed to I’; by confronting the reader with the disintegration of subjectivity in abjection, the text incites the reader to likewise experience herself as abject, i.e. disintegrable and permeable (Kristeva 1982). As I shall demonstrate, Kristeva’s psychoanalytic theory of the formation of the self offers a fruitful framework for understanding the processes of self-knowledge through reading that these saints’ lives inspire.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the Principia Bursary for Postgraduate Study in Scottish Literature, the Andrew Tannahill Fund for Furtherance of Scottish Literature and the James Boswell Bursary.
Keywords: Scottish Legendary, Older Scots, Julia Kristeva, Kristeva, the abject, abjection, semiotic chora, saints' lives, hagiography, identity, literacies, affective reading, affective piety, late medieval Scotland, fourteenth century, Barbour, exemplarity.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Supervisor's Name: Van Heijnsbergen, Dr. Theo and Robertson, Professor Elizabeth
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Miss Jessica Ann Reid
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7803
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2016 09:23
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2019 10:02

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