Date of Award

6-27-2008

Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Scott Robert Lightsey - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Lynee Lewis Gaillett

Third Advisor

Dr. Barbara Stevenson

Abstract

In this study, I read late medieval vernacular texts of Mandeville’s Travels, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, and Margery Kempe’s Book in terms of memory, place and authorial identity. I show how each author constructs ethos and alters narrative form by using memory and place. I argue that the discourses of memory and place are essential to authorial identity and anchor their eccentric texts to traditional modes of composition and orthodoxy. In Chapter one, I argue that memory and place are essential tools in creating authorial ethos for the Wife of Bath, Margery Kempe, and John Mandeville. These writers use memory and place to anchor their eccentric texts in traditional modes of composition and orthodoxy. Chapter two reads Mandeville’s treatment of holy places as he constructs authority by using rhetorical appeals to authority via salvation history and memory. His narrative draws on multiple media, multiple texts, memoria, and collective memory. Chapter three examines the rhetorical strategy of the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale as directly linked to practices of memoria, especially in her cataloguing of ancient and medieval authorities and scripture. Chaucer’s Wife legitimates her travel and experience through citing and quoting from medieval common-place texts and ultimately makes a common-place text of her own personal experience. Chapter four argues that memory is the central structuring strategy and the foundation for Margery’s arguments for spiritual authority and legitimacy in The Book of Margery Kempe. I read the Book’s structure as a strategic dramatization of Margery’s authority framed by institutional spaces of the Church and by civic spaces of the medieval town. Chapter five considers the implications of reading the intersections of memory and place in late-medieval construction of authority for vernacular writers as contributing to a better understanding of medieval authorial identity and a clearer appreciation of structure, form, and the transformation of the pilgrimage motif into the travel narrative genre. This project helps strengthen ties between the fields of medieval literature, women’s writing and rhetoric(s), and Genre Studies as it charts the interface between discourse, narrative form, and medieval conceptions of memory and authorial identity.

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