Spirit Readings: Spectral Hermeneutics in the Middle English Gast of Gy
- Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 9, Number 2, 2020
- pp. 139-168
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The Middle English Gast of Gy is intimately concerned with the hermeneutic process. Irruptions of the preternatural are destabilizing events that threaten Church authority and so demand an interpretive response. The clerics in the poem serve as first-contact exegetes. They fulfill a vital, sacral function as interpreters of texts and phenomena, and as mediators between the mundane and the otherworldly. Hermes, a liminal god with dominion over both ghosts and the act of speech, is here deployed as a lens through which to view these separate duties and bring them together under a coherent conceptual heading. Gy then serves as an effective case study in how Church control is established over a disruptive paranormal event, how clerics in the field work at the discernment of spirits, and how orthodox understandings of the supernatural are formulated and propagated through dialogue and writing.