Authorized readers : scriptural mediation as spiritual formation in Walter Hilton and Nicholas Love.
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Kanary, Jonathan, 1984-
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Scholars have long recognized extensive interaction with vernacular biblical material in Walter Hilton’s Scale of Perfection and Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. However, Love’s engagement with Scripture has often been interpreted primarily as restrictive, anti-Lollard polemic, while Hilton’s biblical intertextuality has received relatively little serious study of any kind. This dissertation offers a thorough reevaluation of both Hilton’s and Love’s use of the Bible in their own texts. As I demonstrate, both authors write with an awareness of their expected audiences’ potential limitations, whether spiritual or educational, and both are concerned to fend off the misuse of Scripture that they believe heresy represents. However, I argue that both authors also want to enable readers’ spiritual progress, and that both see Holy Writ as a necessary and foundational source for such progress. Hilton’s Scale contextualizes and interprets biblical material in order to provide access for non-clerical readers, and it offers them a kind of enacted training in lectio divina, or spiritual reading. Likewise, Love’s Mirror is not intended as an orthodox alternative to the Wycliffite Bible, as many scholars assume; nor does its careful construction of a “symple” audience restrict its readers to permanent spiritual childhood. Rather, it uses a variety of techniques to invite readers’ dramatic participation in the biblical scenes it presents, and it empowers them to encounter Christ’s presence directly through devout meditation. Both Hilton and Love thus seek to form their readers for mature engagement with, and fruitful spiritual use of, biblical material. This dissertation consequently offers a new perspective on orthodox responses to the Wycliffite controversy and contributes to a deeper understanding of the role of Holy Writ in late Middle English vernacular spirituality.