THE FRANCISCAN AND DOMINICAN AESTHETICS IN MIDDLE ENGLISH RELIGIOUS LYRIC POETRY
SCHRAND, GREGORY JOSEPH
Doctor of Philosophy
This study proposes two aesthetics, Franciscan and Dominican, to account for two types of lyrics. The Franciscan aesthetic accounts for lyrics which present a simple Christian truth for emotional reaction. But this aesthetic is too generally defined, and does not account for lyrics which present Christian paradox for intellectual appreciation. This study is an effort to provide a more exact definition of the Franciscan emotive aesthetic, and to begin to define a Dominican intellectual aesthetic. The arrival of Aristotelianism in the thirteenth century indicated the human creature to be an intrinsically capable intellect; Thomism incorporated this intellectualist view into a Christian philosophy which was at odds with Bonaventureanism. The binary philosophical milieu--Thomist-Dominican and Bonaventurean-Franciscan--contemporary with the Middle English lyric makes the possibility of co-existing aesthetics not unreasonable. Dominicanism and Franciscanism came to disagree especially on the Thomist doctrine of unicity. "The Debate Between the Body and the Soul" affirms pluralism, and therefore may be associated with Franciscanism. Examination of "The Debate" and many emotive lyrics finds them similar in purpose and structure, providing a more exact definition of the Franciscan aesthetic as "open" and "linear." An "open" aesthetic structures facile poetry which avoids intellectual complexity, and involves the will in "linear" movement towards is ultimate, simple good. An aesthetic so defined reflects the Bonaventurean tradition, which affirms primacy of the will in the human soul. Those lyrics which express paradox address the reader's intellect, the primary faculty of the soul according to Thomism. A Dominican aesthetic accounts for these lyrics. This aesthetic structures a "closed" lyric which the reader analyzes for meaning. The rhetoric of closed expression, a barrier to universal communication in the Augustinian view, is appropriate to all readers and the subject matter. The ultimate Christian truths represented in the "closed" lyric defy science; only poetry has a point of contact with such truth. "Closed" lyrics are also "cyclic." Since the subject matter is beyond reason, the intellect returns to the poetic representation after failure to move to full understanding.