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Title:Madness in Medieval Art and Romance
Author(s):Sprunger, David Allan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Friedman, John Block
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Medieval
Literature, Romance
Art History
Literature, English
Abstract:Many medieval chivalric romances contain an episode in which the hero goes insane, lives wild in the woods, gets better, and resumes his adventures. Most studies of such episodes have focused on ways that literature reflects medical and theological topics, but this study explores ways that literary madness synthesizes models of madness in medieval art and thought to augment major themes in Suibhne Geilt, Vita Merlini, Robert of Sicily, and the cycles of Yvain, Tristan, and Lancelot. The onset of madness reflects a moment of psychological trauma, and recovery of sanity portrays symbolically the hero's moral recalibration.
Chapter 1 addresses natural and supernatural representations of madness in medieval culture, stressing the need to acknowledge the coexistence of both models. Yet neither model alone adequately accounts for the hero of romance who becomes insane and eventually recovers his wits.
Chapter 2 establishes an iconography of insanity based on portrayals of the insane in medieval religious art, medical documents, and romances. Two consistent visual traditions are used to identify lunatics. One shows the insane suffering under physical restraint, and the other shows them as fools who have traded rational wit for licentious freedom.
Chapter 3 examines the connection between the onset of madness and physical transformation in medieval literature. These texts modify the iconographic traditions of Chapter 2 by describing the mad in terms reminiscent of werewolves and the hairy wild folk. I argue that the transforming onset of madness coincides with dilemmas from which the hero can make no honorable response.
Chapter 4 shows that the recovery of sanity in romance often symbolizes the hero's rebirth. The chapter concentrates on ways Chretien focuses Yvain's madness and cure best to promote the hero's social fall and rise.
Chapter 5 contrasts the madnesses of Tristram and Lancelot in Malory's Morte Darthur. I contend that the contrasting models of madness reflect Malory's characterization of Tristram as a secular version of Lancelot's spiritual chivalry. Further, Malory's manipulation of the madness episodes demonstrates his skill as an author, not mere compiler, of Arthurian texts.
An appendix listing medieval depictions of the insane in manuscript, incunabula, painted art, and sculpture closes the study.
Issue Date:1992
Description:197 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1992.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9305703
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1992

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