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'The Pilgrimage of the Soul': A Critical Edition of the Middle English Dream Vision, vol. 1.

Finding differences between the anonymous Middle English prose Pilgrimage of the Soul and its ultimate source, Guillaume Deguileville's Pilerinage de l'ame, to lie in the English translator's |conception of his own text' (p. xxv), McGerr concludes: |the author of the Soul transforms Guillaume's courtly poem into a polemical text offering material in the vernacular that implicitly answers Lollard attacks on Roman Catholic doctrine' (p. xxix). The evidence that is brought to bear here is intriguing and suggestive of several more exhaustive studies ranging from who the translator/author may be to the effect of Lollardy and counter-Lollardy on polemic literature of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.

Concerned with transmission of the text and its iconographic and illustrative tradition, McGerr offers a useful description of the ten manuscripts containing the complete text of The Pilgrimage of the Soul. Citing an archetypal programme of thirty-seven illustrations, she posits a link between the text and mediaeval drama of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Certainly this is a suggestion which in and of itself deserves a full-scale study, though a mnemonic function of mediaeval allegorical images may well lie behind the character of both mediaeval drama and the text's programme of illustration.

McGerr's edition provides a useful and provocative addition to the few available texts of Middle English translations and redactions of Deguileville's three poems, Pilerinage de la vie humaine, Pilerinage de l'ame, and Pilerinage de Jhesucrist. The usefulness of Volume I, however, is limited, since it contains the text of only one of five books of the Soul, the remainder of the text, glossary and bibliography to appear in Volume II. The lack of bibliography is somewhat frustrating in the first volume, since it contains the extensive Introduction which argues McGerr's claims for the text. Although full and extensive citations appear in the notes to the Introduction, bibliography becomes a cumbersome matter for the reader. But the final word on this edition must be positive. McGerr's textual notes are meticulous in presenting manuscript variants, and her commentary notes offer convincing rationales for editorial decisions, references to parallel literary traditions, and some bibliography for further study. This is a critical edition that should spur numerous other studies.
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Author:Hagen, Susan K.
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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