The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Strohm, Paul A. "Passioun, Lyf, Miracle, Legende: Some Generic Terms in Middle English Hagiographical Narrative: Part I." 10 (1975): 62-75.
A passio concentrates on a saint's persecution and martyrdom. The saint glorifies God by responding well to torture, demonstrating how to die. A vita focuses on a confessor's exemplary life, showing how to live. The term miraculum came to describe hagiography. Some venerated the saint in terms of miracles God worked during the saint's life; others discuss miracles worked through a saint's relics. Collections of miracula are eclectic, brief, and informal (70). Often, passiones, vitae, and miracula were collected into a text. The collection was named legenda, a term indicating sections to be read as parts of the church office.
Strohm, Paul A. "Passioun, Lyf, Miracle, Legende: Some Generic Terms in Middle English Hagiographical Narrative: Part II." 10 (1975): 154-71.
Collections of legenda contain all traditional hagiographical genres, the most famous being Jacobus's Legenda. Lyf became a generic term to describe all variations on the traditional pattern of the saint's life. Chaucer uses lyf in both strict and loose senses. Medieval writers rarely used miracle as a generic term; most often it denotes narration of a specific event. Medieval dramatists, however, used the term miraculum more loosely, associating it with other adjectives to describe particular works. Fourteenth and fifteenth century readers would, therefore, have read miracle as a generic term. Legende refers to individual stories in a collection of saint's lives; it is not used generically. When Chaucer uses legend as part of the title for Legend of Good Women, he uses the term satirically. Medieval writers did not write consistently in one genre, even within the same work. Close reading is necessary to determine the genres of any one work. Terms like lyf and legend controlled readers' responses to a work, forcing them to read a legend as a legend, not as a fabliau, for example. Comparison of the Second Nun's Tale to the Man of Law's Tale emphasizes the distinction between legend and tale and shows how reading experiences of the two differ.