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Worldly Words and Sacred Ideas: The Shifting Meaning and Usage of “Secular,” 400-1600

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Title: Worldly Words and Sacred Ideas: The Shifting Meaning and Usage of “Secular,” 400-1600
Author: Wismark, Natasha
Department: Department of History
Program: History
Advisor: Goddard, Peter
Abstract: This thesis offers a close examination of the word “secular” from the fifth century to the seventeenth century and examines its origins and the change in its usage over the course of the medieval and early modern periods, primarily in England. Existing scholarship on the idea of the secular has ignored the meaning of the word and how its usage adapted to social and political change. I argue that “secular” is not a static concept nor does it simply signify a society stripped of religion, but rather, the term occupies a complex neutral space that shifts within changing and evolving demarcations between sacred and temporal circumstances. Furthermore, I argue that the secular has had a long-standing place in Christain thought, though its role changed to meet the historical needs of Christain societies. In addition to undertaking a close reading of primary sources and foundational thinkers, I utilized text analysis software throughout my research in order to establish statistical data that tracks the changes in usage of the term from 1473-1603.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/13017
Date: 2018-05
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