Pearl, Image of the Ineffable: A Study in Medieval Poetic Symbolism

Pearl, Image of the Ineffable: A Study in Medieval Poetic Symbolism

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  • ISBN-13: 9780271003399
  • ISBN: 0271003391
  • Publication Date: 1983
  • Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press


Bogdanos, Theodore


A new interpretation of the rich and highly complex medieval English poem Pearl is presented in this book. Medieval symbolism as a whole, expecially the artistic problem of representing the apocalyptic and the ineffable, gains illumination from the author's approach. Deriving its critical premises from medieval aesthetics and symbolic theory, the book employs two key metaphoric concepts: the anagogic dissimilar similitude and the incarnational symbol. The former emphasizes the incongruity between the finite means and the infinite object of representation, physical image and spiritual essence, the human and the divine. The incarnational symbol seeks the reconsiliation of these opposing natures on a sacramental level.The Pearl Poet, like Dante, translates the tension among levels of perception -sensory, affective, intellectual -into an existential drama. Pearl presents man and God as antagonists in a drama of faith, the pearl as a symbol for the kingdom of God - a symbol at once alluring and terrifying. Through the experience of the poem's chief character, the dreamer, the reader learns the eucharistic reconciliation: "divine pleasure takes on the warm familiarity of earthly pleasure, and earthly pleasure is redeemed and elevated to its ideal form, which is in God."Bogdanos, Theodore is the author of 'Pearl, Image of the Ineffable: A Study in Medieval Poetic Symbolism', published 1983 under ISBN 9780271003399 and ISBN 0271003391.

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