Passionate Language: Constructing a Vocabulary of the Passion in Medieval and Early Modern England

My interest in the history and use of the language of pity has led me to an interest in the social and gender politics of the particular vocabulary that developed in Passion narratives in the fourteenth and fifteenth-centuries. To that end, I am now beginning work on a second project: Passionate Language: Constructing a Vocabulary of the Passion in Medieval and Early Modern England. In this project, I trace how keywords in Passion narratives such as glory, reuthe, and compassion came into the English language and how they were deployed for political purposes. I explore how writers from Nicholas Love and Thomas More to Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich use these terms to craft their own particular language of the Passion. This project seeks to show the ways in which each author marks themselves as orthodox (and thus aligned with those in political power) even as they claim for themselves a particular and unique intimacy with God.

Part of this project exploring the language of compassion in the writing of Margery Kempe and Nicholas Love, appeared in the May issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. As a part of this research, I am also using Nodegoat to create interactive maps that chart how different communities across England developed and shared particular vocabularies of the passion.

Miniature from the Gough Psalter, 14th cent. Bodleian Library, MS Gough, liturg. 8, fol 61 r.

Miniature from the Gough Psalter, 14th cent. Bodleian Library, MS Gough, liturg. 8, fol 61 r.