Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

Holly Crocker


Textual Reconstruction: The Deployment of Late Medieval Texts in Early Modern England, examines the early modern print histories of four late-medieval devotional texts: The Scale of Perfection, The Revelations of Julian of Norwich, The Book of Margery Kempe, and The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. Instead of trying to maintain late medieval and early modern studies as distinct and separate fields, I propose that we gain a better understanding of spirituality when the two periods are united. Early modern readers were interested in these works because the spiritual behavior of the past, and the literature associated with it, were integral the pursuit of a private, interior spirituality.

My first chapter starts with the work of Walter Hilton, whose oeuvre represents the most stable example of medieval spirituality discussed in this project. When early printers did alter the Scale, it was to enhance an already broad appeal. I use this stability to explain the differing manifestations of the Revelations, the Book, and the Mirror. "Telling Tales" examines how the medieval scribe's metamorphosis of Julian's Revelations proves that the concept of editorial refashioning did not begin with the advent of print, but that it was a tradition carried over from the manuscript era. My third chapter discusses the transformation of Margery Kempe's Book into two sixteenth-century editions. While current scholarship maintains that these redactions date back to the medieval period, I argue in favor of an early modern redactor. In my last chapter I explain how the Mirror was adapted for later audiences using visual cues more than textual alterations. Unlike the other three texts examined here, the Mirror was printed four times during the early seventeenth century with some very fascinating changes. I demonstrate how England's break from Rome affected the manner in which these four editions were refashioned for later audiences.

The historical divide between the late medieval and early modern periods was not so great that the distance could not be overcome with the transformative power of print. My study concludes that these textual reconstructions signify changing spiritual trends, not deliberate censorship.