Electronic version licensed for access by U. of T. users.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Toronto, 2006.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 67-07, Section: A, page: 2570.
This thesis traces the history of the Middle English contemplative treatise The Cloud of Unknowing from the present to the time of its writing. Together with six other works this treatise forms the Cloud-corpus, a textual body meant for the instruction of a select audience. How these works have come down to us, and their fortunes in the intervening centuries are the subjects of this study. Using evidence for readership, editorial practice, and authorial strategy, this dissertation argues through a series of episodes in the text-reception of the Cloud-group that its success has depended on its ability to attract readers eager to share and develop its themes.Chapter One reviews the criticism of the Cloud-corpus, highlighting a critical fixation on the author's identity. It suggests that the writer's anonymity can be understood as a trope meant to protect the discourse. Using Ulysses as a narrative model, it describes the usefulness of anonymity as an approach to an ineffable subject. Chapter Two argues that the career of Augustine Baker, whose work with the recusant English Benedictines resulted in the first printed edition, was perhaps the seminal moment in the Cloud's transmission. Chapter Three re-examines the corpus manuscripts as witnesses to the first manuscript edition. Adding new material from the Dublin manuscript, it shows that even the earliest copies bear marks of an editorial plan. Chapter Four describes the Cloud-author's method of creating devotional images, demonstrating the function of these images in an apophatic tradition. The pattern of these images reveals the Cloud-author's intent to recreate a Dionysian corpus in his Middle English work. Finally, the Conclusion takes up the author's identification of the reader as a "parcener", showing that the text anticipates a potential readership that reaches beyond the exclusively religious context of the original discourse.