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660 BOOK REVIEWS The Maudlin Impression: English Literary Images of Mary Magdalene, 15601700 . By Patricia Badir. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009. ISBN9780268022150.Pp. xix + 300. $38.00. Mary Magdalene's privileged place among Christian saints, from late antiquity on, can hardly be questioned. The last twenty years has seen no shortage of scholarly as wellas popular interest in the lifeand iconographic history of this saint. Patricia Badir's new study of early modern Magdalene imagery makes a valuable contribution to Magdalene studies as she builds upon the recent work of scholars like Theresa Coletti, who have examined Mary's special role as female religious icon in late medieval culture. In this rich cross-disciplinary approach, Badir considers how the Magdalene, asa site ofspiritual devotion, theological reflection, and literary and aesthetic representation makes the transition, in English culture in particular, from late medieval Catholic icon to early modern Protestant exemplar. Yet she never draws these lines too starkly. In fact, her approach consistently questions the calcified juxtapositions of Catholic and Protestant theology and aesthetics. Although she certainly sets her discussion against the backdrop of a Reformed iconophobia, she reveals the ways in which sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literary and artistic treatments of the Magdalene mediate, conserve, and translate Catholic sacramentalism into new modes of representation that are authentically Reformed without severing entirely from the aesthetic and devotional history of the medieval Church and its saints. In this way, Badir's study participates in the recent reassessment of the English Reformation that "has challenged the orthodoxy of a Protestant master narrative" (221, n. 3). In laying out the scope and methodology of her work in the introduction, Badir establishes a solid historical and theological framework for understanding the development of Mary Magdalene's role in the art and theology of the medieval period as well as lucid explanations for her continued legitimacy, as a figure with "scriptural vitality" (3), for Reformation culture. She focuses specifically on early modern exegesis of Matthew 26, particularly Calvin's and Erasmus', seeing this passage as a key to understanding the centrality of the Magdalene figure for discussions ofChrist's continuing presence. What even the most ardent of reformers cannot escape, she explains, is that Mary's presence in the Gospels always insists that knowledge of Christ is achieved through "an epistemology of the senses" (13). While the early modern Magdalene stands ostensibly purged of the apocryphal embellishments of her biography that accrue during the medieval period, Badir explains, "she actually speaks to the necessity of making stories and provides an anthology of aesthetic strategies and creative possibilities to do so" (9). Badir's aim is to explore the variety and vitality of artistic and poetic innovations achieved within an early modern anthology of Mary Magadalen. As she does so, she is not simply making formalist claims about an evolving early modern poetics (though that is certainly part of her aim) but expanding and enriching the angles and BOOK REVIEWS 661 content of continuing theological conversations on the nature of Christ's incarnate revelation, the meaning of his death, or absence, and the question of his continuing presence. Her historicist, though not strictly New Historicist, study traces the ways in which evolving religious subjectivities both prompt and are reflected in notable aesthetic changes and developments, and for this reason, should be of interest to a large number of C&L readers. In chapter One, "The Look of Love;' Badir introduces her argument that Mary'sblazon makes possible-in some ways inaugurates-a new Protestant mode of aesthetic representation that allows both artist and audience to imagine the experience of Christ's presence through imagining Mary's corporeal contact with the divine in ways that resist, though not altogether successfully, "the ornamental fictions and decorative embellishments" (52) of her medieval past. Focusing on literary treatments of Mary's conversion, from LewisWager's1566morality play The LifeandRepentaunce ofMaryMagdalen to Thomas Robinson's 1620epic The Lifeand DeathofMary Magdalen, Badir traces how "ancient constructions of the luxurious and loquacious Magdalene are revitalized in Protestant writing in order to align her with a degenerate and decadent faith that would be fortuitously demolished by the providential forces of Protestantism" (26). As Badir...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 660-664
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-14
Open Access
No
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