Chapter 14 The Mobilization of Thought

A Narratological Approach to Representations of Dream and Vision in Late Medieval Miracle Collections in the Low Countries

In: A Companion to Medieval Miracle Collections

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Dreams and visions of lay men and women were part of the negotiations between medieval clergy and laity on the accessibility of the divine to the latter. Crucial for such study is a keen understanding of how miracle accounts and their vision narratives are structured and how they might have been applied as means of communication. Focusing on the fifteenth-century Low Countries, this chapter proposes a narratological approach to narratives of vision, dream and thought showing that Middle Dutch miracle writers invested in emphasizing the subjective character of the experience by framing visionary experience as dream visions, a narrative type that outnumbered more direct forms of conscious, sensorial perception of saints (apparitions). The authors attributed dream visions with a quality of ‘thought’ experiences. This dream vision served as a kind of ‘narrative space’ in which visionary protagonists could have visual and audible contact with the supernatural in a way that was explicitly subjective and thus required caution