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The Alphabetic Virgin: Medieval Marian Poetry and the Form of the Letter

Claire Waters, UC, Davis

December 5, 2016 · 4:30 pm5:00 pm UTC+0 · 106 McCormick

Medieval Studies

This talk examines the way in which Marian literature can open up a different understanding of “litteratus,” “lettered.” Marian texts encourage their audiences to engage with letters in their full formal glory, from the level of the letter shape to that of the poetic patterning they enable. While the macaronic, pun-heavy, acrostic, and anaphoric modes that are so pervasive in Marian poetry are by no means peculiar to it, the singular importance of Mary’s personal name makes it and her a fruitful source of lettered thought in the Middle Ages, a kind of training ground for literacy from the most basic to the most advanced.

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