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Susan's Blog

Marie de France's "Saint Patrick’s Purgatory" as Dynamic Diptych


Excited my article, "Marie de France's 'Saint Patrick's Purgatory' as Dynamic Diptych," just appeared in Le Cygne: Journal of the International Marie de France Society. Marie de France's Saint Patrick's Purgatory / Espurgatoire seint Patriz concerns itself with issues such as translation into the vernacular and spiritual amendment, elements that are integral to pilgrimage ritual as articulated in medieval poetry. Through ekphrastic description, she structures her poem as though it were a di/triptych that is capable of being opened and displayed and anticipates more famous fourteenth-century pilgrimage poems, notable for their complex structures. The frames inherent to these later poems – Dante's pilgrim guided by Virgil; Chaucer's pilgrims riding to Canterbury; Langland's Will falling asleep in the midst of his quotidian life – are manifested through ekphrastic images in Marie's poem. The dynamic force of frames, both literal (in diptychs/triptychs) and metaphorical (pilgrimage poems), spur us to active visual and spiritual contemplation. The reader-viewer amends herself in the vernacular by interacting with the text/diptych. Our ritualized journey is the accident of the true substance of Christ's sacrifice. Marie's book opens to the receptive recipient, sparking the vibrant agency of curative healing.

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