Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





E. Gordon Whatley

Committee Members

Steven Kruger

Michael Sargent

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


Prayer texts found in a variety of medieval genres merit more careful scrutiny from literary critical perspectives. Such attention to the verbal artifacts, prayers, that memorialize an activity of central importance in medieval culture, praying, deepens our understanding not only of the prayers and the works in which they are found, but also of the milieu that produced them. This study seeks to model such a critical turn by reading three particular works "through" the prayers that constitute, punctuate and frame them -- privileging the prayers as the starting points for the investigation of their literary and devotional settings. This vantage yields fresh insights into an Anglo-Latin prayerbook -- The Book of Nunnaminster, Cynewulf's Old English poem Elene, and the Middle English prose Seinte Margarete of the Katherine Group. This approach reveals as well the high degree of association between prayer and reading in medieval culture where prayers are most often highly formal or formulaic texts intended to be read (rather than spontaneous speech) and praying is often figured as an interpretive activity akin to reading. Two medieval reading practices, lectio divina and "liturgical reading," have shaped both the discrete prayers and the whole works examined here. The full appreciation of these texts, and perhaps many others, requires close attention to the prayers within them and an understanding of these habits of prayerful reading.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.