Devotional texts in late medieval England were notable for their flamboyant piety and their preoccupation with the tortured body of Christ and the grief of the Virgin Mary. Generations of readers internalized and shaped the "cultures of piety" represented by these works. Anne Clark Bartlett and Thomas H. Bestul here gather seven examples of this literature, all written in the period 1350-1450, one in Anglo-Norman, the remainder in Middle English. (The volume includes an appendix containing the original texts of the latter six pieces.) The collection illustrates the polyglottal, conflicting, and often polemical nature of devotional culture in the Middle Ages. It provides a valuable context for and interesting counterpoint to the Canterbury Tales and other classic works of late medieval England. The introduction and the translators' headnotes discuss crucial aspects of the texts' histories and thematics, including the importance of the body in spiritual practices, the development of female patronage and of a wide audience for this literature, and the indivisibility of the political and the religious in medieval times.
Anne Clark Bartlett is Assistant Professor of English at DePaul University. She is author of Male Authors, Female Readers, also from Cornell. Thomas H. Bestul is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Texts of the Passion.
"Bartlett and Bestul, in conjunction with their contributors, have produced a fine and useful anthology, which moves us closer to filling the gap of readily available medieval English devotional texts."
"The introductions to each selection and detailed footnotes clarifying obscurities make this anthology accessible to the general reader as well as to students of medieval culture.... These new translations are a welcome aid."
"In all, the selections chosen for Cultures of Piety coalesce into a provocative overview of popular piety and will serve as a useful complement to traditional readings in medieval literature, even as they provide a rich contribution to recent scholarship in late medieval devotional practices."