Jacob AbellSep 12, 2023
Spiritual and Material Boundaries in Old French Verse
Contemplating the Walls of the Earthly Paradise
Medieval Institute Publications 2023
The Earthly Paradise was a vibrant symbol at the heart of medieval Christian geographies of the cosmos. As humanity’s primal home now lost through the sins of Adam of Eve, the Earthly Paradise figured prominently in Old French tales of lands beyond the mundane world. This study proposes a fresh look at the complex roles played by the Earthly Paradise in three medieval French poems: Marie de France’s The Purgatory of St. Patrick, Benedeit’s Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot, and Guillaume de Lorris’s The Romance of the Rose.
By examining the literary, cultural, and artistic components that informed each poem, Spiritual and Material Boundaries in Old French Verse: Contemplating the Walls of the Earthly Paradise (Medieval Institute Publications, 2023) advances the thesis that the exterior walls of the Earthly Paradise served evolving purposes as contemplative objects that implicitly engaged complex notions of economic solidarity and idealized community. These visions of the Earthly Paradise stand to provide a striking contribution to a historically informed response to the contemporary legacies of colonialism and the international refugee crisis.
Jacob Abell is Assistant Professor of French at Baylor University. His work focuses on ecocriticism, religious studies, and the digital humanities.
Becky Straple-Sovers is a medievalist and freelance editor who earned her Ph.D. in English at Western Michigan University in 2021. Her research interests include bodies, movement, gender, and sexuality in literature, as well as poetry of the First World War and the public humanities. She can be found on Twitter @restraple.