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Socioliterary Practice in Late Medieval England$
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Helen Barr

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198112426

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198112426.001.0001

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Pearl—or ‘The Jeweller’s Tale’

Pearl—or ‘The Jeweller’s Tale’

(p.40) Chapter Two Pearl—or ‘The Jeweller’s Tale’
Socioliterary Practice in Late Medieval England


Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Pearl, to explore a literary text as an example of socioliterary practice. It explains that for most of its critical history, Pearl has been discussed transhistorically, seen as a beautiful artefact, a gem, within whose carefully wrought form, flawed human understanding about loss and death, is challenged by theological instruction and vision. It clarifies that the relationship between the literal and the figurative is viewed as a movement from blinkered temporality to effulgent permanence. It breaks out of a closed hermeneutic system of juxtaposing the heavenly and the earthly, the literal and the figurative, and the aesthetic and the cultural, to demonstrate how the narrative strategies and verbal texture of Pearl can be viewed as examples of late 14th-century social concerns and practices just as much as Wynnere and Wastoure and works by Hoccleve and Chaucer.

Keywords:   Pearl, The Jeweller's Tale, literal, figurative, verbal texture, 14th century

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