Patricia Badir’s The Maudlin Impression investigates the figure of Mary Magdalene in post-medieval English religious writings and visual representations. Badir argues that the medieval Magdalene story was not discarded as part of Reformation iconoclasm, but was enthusiastically embraced by English writers and artists and retold in a wide array of genres. This rich study bridges the historical division between medieval and early modern culture by showing the ways in which Protestant writers, as well as Catholics, used the medieval stories, art, and symbolism related to the biblical Magdalene as resources for thinking about the role of the affective and erotic in Christian devotion. Their literary and artistic glosses protected a range of religious devotional practices and lent embodied, tangible form to the God of the Reformation. They employed the Magdalene figure to articulate religious experience by means of a poetics that could avoid controversial questions of religious art while exploring the potency and appeal of the beautiful.
The Maudlin Impression is a literary history of imitation and invention. It participates in the “religious turn” in early modern studies by demonstrating the resilience of a single topos across time and across changing Christian beliefs.
“In this historically rich and theoretically informed study, Patricia Badir argues that the medieval figure of Mary Magdalene serves as a ‘site of memory’ for early modern writers, enabling them both to reflect on what has been lost in the aftermath of the Reformation and to fashion their own Protestant and Counter-Reformation models of piety, repentance, mourning, and holiness. Drawing from poems, plays, sermons, homilies, biographies, and paintings, Badir convincingly demonstrates the remarkable resiliency and flexibility of the Magdalene trope in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her fascinating narrative traces the evolution of the Magdalene from the Reformation to the Restoration and raises provocative questions about the mnemonic function of religious art, the power of beautiful images in an iconoclastic culture, and the place of affect, longing, and embodiment in a Protestant poetics.” — Huston Diehl, professor of English, University of Iowa
“Badir reveals a Magdalene far more complex than the iconic sinner-saint. This Magdalene represents Catholic sacramental devotion, Protestant attention to the Word, vain luxuriousness, meditative bereavement, and aristocratic allure.” — Times Literary Supplement
“In this well-researched and clearly written book, Badir draws on poetry, homilies, plays, sermons, and paintings. A valuable contribution for scholars of Renaissance literature, this will also be accessible to serious nonspecialists curious about the figure of Mary Magdalene.” — Library Journal
“[Badir] analyzes images of the Magdalene in literary texts by writers ranging from the somewhat obscure—the medieval period’s Thomas Robinson and Lewis Wagner—to the canonical (John Donne, Nicholas Breton, Emilia Lanyer, George Herbert, Robert Herrick, and others). . . . This volume should interest anyone pursuing study of the early modern period, especially those focusing on religious texts.” — Choice
“In an original and illuminating study, Badir writes a new history of the Magdalene figure, one that turns on the irrevocable loss of Christ, first through his ascension and again through Protestant revisions of Eucharistic theology . . . In Badir’s insightful book, the Magdalene’s unique and imaginatively captivating role articulates an emerging meditative and representational poetics of absence and presence, of desire and grief.” — Renaissance Quarterly
“Who was Mary Magdalene? Patricia Badir skillfully surveys early-modern English reimaginings, as they appear in a wide array of poems, biographies, religious tracts, homilies, dramas, and illustrations. Badir finally answers the question ‘Who was Mary Magdalene?’ by defining her as a lieu de memoire, or a site of memory, which took on various lives in time. Wide-ranging, well-documented, and sharply observed, this book usefully complicates the oft-repeated assertion that Mary Magdalene became a Counter-Reformation symbol of penance.” — The Catholic History Review
“This is an interesting and subtle work of cultural history, dealing with a wide range of visual and literary representations of Mary Magdalene from the Reformation to the Restoration. . . . A book which can see the big picture and the telling details alike.” — Modern Language Review
“The underlying thesis of this well-researched and intriguing book is that the Magdalene negotiates the losses of the Reformation for both Protestant and Counter-Reformation writers. . . . The central thesis of the work is compelling; the Magdalene proves a fruitful site for the investigation of the continuities, as well as the ruptures, of the Reformation.” — The Journal of Ecclesiastical History
“Badir’s research . . . surely provides another example of the current trend to undermine any sharp dichotomy between medieval and early modern, Catholic and Protestant devotional sensibilities. Such scholarship, especially when it is presented with such original and insightful interplay between the verbal and the visual, deserves the attention of scholars of early modern England.” — Sixteenth Century Journal
“The final chapter—on the Magdalene’s afterlife in decadent Restoration art and drama—is dazzlingly provocative. It reads like the destination toward which the entire book has been leading, and it provides an entirely new perspective on the character of Angellica Bianca in Behn’s The Rover. Perhaps even better is the marvelous postscript titled “A Something Else Thereby” after a line from John Donne’s “The Relique,” in which Badir reads that hauntingly cryptic poem in the light of the tradition the book explores.” — Modern Philology