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Goscelin of St Bertin: The Book of Encouragement and Consolation (Liber Confortatorius)

Goscelin of St Bertin: The Book of Encouragement and Consolation (Liber Confortatorius)

Translated from the Latin with Introduction, Notes, and Interpretive Essay Monika Otter
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 190
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  • Book Info
    Goscelin of St Bertin: The Book of Encouragement and Consolation (Liber Confortatorius)
    Book Description:

    Goscelin of St Bertin's 'Book of Encouragement and Consolation' (Liber Confortatorius) is extraordinary both as an example of high-medieval spiritual practice and as a record of a personal relationship. Written in about 1083 by the monk Goscelin to a protegee and personal friend, the recluse Eva, it takes up the tradition of St Jerome's letters of spiritual guidance to women, and anticipates medieval advice literature for anchoresses. As a compendious treatise, incorporating numerous exempla, excerpts from theological discussions, and advice on meditative practice, it has much to tell us about the intellectual interests and preoccupations of religious people in the late eleventh century. As a personal document, it allows a fascinating and uncommonly intimate insight into the psychology of religious life, the sense of self, the construction of gender, and the relationships between men and women in the high middle ages.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-264-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    TheLiber Confortatorius[the Book of Encouragement and Consolation] is an idiosyncratic and extraordinarily rich document from the late eleventh century. A letter of guidance to a female recluse by her male spiritual adviser, a guide to meditation and prayer, and an anthology of spiritual and meditative texts, it is also a personal letter and an account of a deep, desperate, only half sublimated love between a man and a woman in religious orders. Taking up the tradition of St. Jerome’s letters of spiritual guidance to holy women, it anticipates better-known medieval advice literature for anchoresses, especially Aelred’sDe Institutione...


    • Prologue
      (pp. 19-20)

      The excluded to the enclosed; the solitary in the world to the solitary from the world; one who is known to Christ and to Love, writing to his only soul.

      The Eva of whom I speak is Christ’s darling,¹ left alone in the house for God’s sake; she is become the night raven in the house.² Far from her homeland she seeks her true home. Or, rather, she has escaped from the turbulence of the world to the peace of God; escaping from mortal sufferings, she is seeking the eternal joy, which is God. May he receive her who received...

    • Book I
      (pp. 21-49)

      Omy soul, dearer to me than the light, your Goscelin is with you, in the inseparable presence of the soul. He is with you, undivided, in his better part, that part with which he was allowed to love you, that part which cannot be hindered by any physical distance. He salutes you in Christ with an everlasting greeting. See, his hand has touched us, with its all-discerning and all-disposing wisdom; and separating us for a time taught us higher purposes, namely that we may pant for that homeland and hurry to be reunited in that place where we cannot ever...

    • Book II
      (pp. 50-79)

      The voice of the Lord in power, the voice of the Lord shaking the desert, the resounding trumpet of prophets and apostles rousing us from the torpor of sleep: Awake, o strong ones, for the Lord is coming with healing. Stand fast in faith, acquit yourselves like men, all you who trust in the Lord. Put on God’s armor, the breastplate of faith and the helmet of hope, the arms and buckler of a mind that trusts in the Lord.¹ The Lord ordered Moses, the Lawbearer, to enlist those he had led from Egyptian servitude into the army of the...

    • Book III
      (pp. 80-111)

      Moses, the archetype, made a tabernacle at the command and the specifications of the Lord’s majesty, where God gave him commandments for the people and conversed with him as a friend.² This tent was like a very large temple with purple walls, stretched widely over golden columns and posts. The world had seen nothing more beautiful, nothing more laboriously made, nothing more artful until that time. I do not think that even today any king could match this dignified structure. As the sky is decorated with stars, the ground with flowers, the world with various kinds of ornaments, thus this...

    • Book IV
      (pp. 112-150)

      Your streets, Jerusalem, are covered with pure gold and translucent glass.¹ Thus says John, the master of divine secrets, in his theology. Pure gold, tried in the furnace of poverty and patience, and the translucent glass of a pure mind illuminate the streets on which Humility, having traveled through Egypt and the desert and having vanquished her enemies, shall walk the way of the Lord’s commandments. Her heart will open wide as she ascends to the city of heavenly peace with its golden walls and jeweled turrets, rising from humble foundations but standing taller than the stars. There, my soul,...

  7. Interpretive Essay: Inclusae Exclusus: Desire, Identification and Gender in the Liber Confortatorius
    (pp. 151-167)

    Goscelin’s long, idiosyncratic letter called theLiber Confortatorius– the book of encouragement and consolation – begins with this striking salutation: “Inclusae exclusus, solitarie a mundo solitarius in mundo, quem Christus et caritas noverit, unice anime scribit”: “The excluded to the enclosed; the solitary in the world to the solitary from the world; one who is known to Christ and to Love, writing to his only soul.” This magnificent formula beautifully captures the contradictory moves of Goscelin’s letter: the play on inside and outside, his painful and complete separation from his “only soul,” and his desire to identify with her, even merge...

  8. Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 168-174)
  9. Index
    (pp. 175-179)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 180-180)