Zealots for Souls, Stars in Sanctity. Dominican Narratives of Self-Understanding between Observant Reform and Humanism, c. 1388-1517

Anne Huijbers

This project investigates historical and hagiographical narratives written by Dominicans to serve a predominantly Dominican audience, and considers them as expressions of a common Dominican self-understanding. Methodologically, it presumes that the identity of the Order of Preachers is a construction, which is largely shaped in institutional narratives. The research question considers whether it is possible to speak of a pan-European Dominican narrative identity – and, if so, what does it consist of? – or whether the narratives reveal that there were many Dominican identities, dependent on particular contexts.

The thesis consists of two parts. The first part 'Writing the Dominican past' discusses the textual evidence: order chronicles, convent chronicles and collective biographies. It introduces in seperate chapters the main topoi developed in these Dominican institutional narratives, and the compilatory techniques used by its authors. The second part 'Dominicans, Observance, and Humanism' concentrates on the main theme developed in the majority of the narratives of this period: the need for Observance, and the propagation of the Dominican Observant movement. It shows that the Observants, a minority within the order, were the main constructors of the Dominican narrative identity. The Observants considered the reform of their order as a necessary step in a larger reform process, which eventually had to affect the whole Christian world. Finally, this thesis shows to what extent some Dominican authors were influenced by humanist culture and how they tried to make the medieval literary tradition of the Dominicans compatible with humanist standards.