The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England

The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England: Papers Read at Charney Manor, July 2004 [Exeter Symposium VII]

Edited by E. A. Jones
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81fgq
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    The Medieval Mystical Tradition in England
    Book Description:

    The latest volume of proceedings in the series initiated by Marion Glasscoe in 1980 shares with its predecessors a concentrated focus on the English mystical authors and the reception of their continental contemporaries in medieval England. At the same time, it bears witness to the range of disciplinary approaches - literary, historical, theological, art historical - which are currently bearing fruit in research on the medieval mystical tradition. The thirteen papers include new work on Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, the 'Cloud' - author and the thirteenth-century anchoritic texts; texts connected with Syon Abbey and the Bridgettines; and the reception of Ruusbroec, Eckhart and the continental holy women in England. Among the themes explored are the spirituality of the religious orders; gender, class and mystical discourse; the theological precision of mystical language, and the 'translatio' of the continental mystics into English cultural forms. Contributors: DENISE N. BAKER, ALEXANDRA BARRATT, SUSANNAH MARY CHEWNING, MARLEEN CRE, VASLERIE EDDEN, VINCENT GILLESPIE, DAVID GRIFFITH, A.ANNETTE GRISE, ANN M. HUTCHISON, LIZ HERBERT MCAVOY, KARL HEINZ STEINMETZ, ANNIE SUTHERLAND, NAOE KUKITA YOSHIKAWA. Dr E.A. JONES teaches in the Department of English at the University of Exeter.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-117-0
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-x)

    When Marion Glasscoe organised the first Exeter Symposium in 1980, study of the medieval mystical tradition was (at best) a marginal pursuit, whether one’s vantage point was the field of literary studies, history or theology. What Marion realised was that the liminal nature of the ‘Mystics’ both demanded a broad-based interdisciplinary approach (of the sort that she was, at the same time, building into her undergraduate teaching at the University of Exeter) and enabled them to act as a conduit for the different disciplines to talk to each other.

    That first Symposium brought together scholars from Britain, Europe and the...

  4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. ‘OURE FEYTH IS GROUNDYD IN GODDES WORDE’ – JULIAN OF NORWICH AND THE BIBLE
    (pp. 1-20)
    ANNIE SUTHERLAND

    OF THOSE ENGLISH AUTHORS deemed to be participants in ‘the medieval mystical tradition’, Julian of Norwich is arguably the most opaque.³ Richard Rolle and Walter Hilton are recognised historical figures, the Cloud-author leaves us with undeniable clues as to his identity, and Margery Kempe is explicit in her autobiographical references. Further, while we can locate Rolle within the girovagus tradition in which he places himself, while we can read Hilton as heir to a form of Augustinian spirituality, while we can speculate legitimately on the Pseudo-Dionysian affinities of the Cloud-author and while Margery’s Book foregrounds the influence of continental hagiography...

  7. ‘WE ARE UNITED WITH GOD (AND GOD WITH US?)’: ADAPTING RUUSBROEC IN THE TREATISE OF PERFECTION OF THE SONS OF GOD AND THE CHASTISING OF GOD’S CHILDREN
    (pp. 21-36)
    MARLEEN CRÉ

    JAN VAN RUUSBROEC (1293–1381) was introduced to the Middle English readership of The Treatise of Perfection of the Sons of God as ‘dan john rusbroke, the first prior of the chartyrhowse in valle viridi iuxta bruxellam’.¹ The anonymous translator of De calculo candido, the Latin translation of Ruusbroec’s Vanden blinckenden steen (The Sparkling Stone) was right about both Ruusbroec’s function and location, but mistakenly presented him as a Carthusian.

    Ruusbroec was the prior of the monastery of Augustinian canons regular at Groenendaal, not far from Brussels. He was one of a community of five men, three priests and two...

  8. THE STRUCTURE OF THE SOUL AND THE ‘GODLY WYLLE’ IN JULIAN OF NORWICH’S SHOWINGS
    (pp. 37-50)
    DENISE N. BAKER

    MORE THAN FOUR DECADES AGO, Thomas Merton, the foremost contemplative of the twentieth century, acknowledged Julian of Norwich’s preeminence as a mystic and a theologian.

    There can be no doubt that Lady Julian is the greatest of the English mystics. Not only that, but she is one of the greatest English theologians. . . . Actually, in Julian of Norwich, we find an admirable synthesis of mystical experience and theological reflection . . . In a word, Julian of Norwich gives a coherent and indeed systematically constructed corpus of doctrine, which has only recently begun to be studied as it...

  9. ‘NEB . . . SUMDEAL ILICH WUMMON & NEDDRE IS BEHINDEN’: READING THE MONSTROUS IN THE ANCHORITIC TEXT
    (pp. 51-68)
    LIZ HERBERT MCAVOY

    IN AN ESSAY EXAMINING the relationship between the female author, reading and writing, French feminist Hélène Cixous interprets the Genesis narrative and Eve’s transgression in terms of its providing a fundamental lesson for women about the politics of reading. For Cixous, the primal Edenic location provides the ‘[s]cene of the meal in which desire and prohibition coexist’.² The ‘meal’ in question here, of course, is that of the ‘forbidden’ fruit, which provides and remains a primary symbol of humankind’s problematic relationship with its own innate desires and its cultural systems of taboo. Faced with the primal prohibition of God’s law...

  10. REFLECTIONS ON ASPECTS OF THE SPIRITUAL IMPACT OF ST BIRGITTA, THE REVELATIONS AND THE BRIDGETTINE ORDER IN LATE MEDIEVAL ENGLAND
    (pp. 69-82)
    ANN M. HUTCHISON

    THROUGH HER VISIONARY WRITINGS, some of which arrived in England early in Birgitta’s career,¹ and later from her vita which became well known as material in support of her canonization was being gathered, Birgitta came to exercise a profound influence on English spirituality, both of the laity and the religious. Her own pattern of living, her design for a new religious order, and her vision of how the Church should function came at a time when religious renewal was desperately needed. In England, she was seen as a beacon of orthodoxy in the crucial period when religious controversy was rife...

  11. HOLY WOMEN IN PRINT: CONTINENTAL FEMALE MYSTICS AND THE ENGLISH MYSTICAL TRADITION
    (pp. 83-96)
    C. ANNETTE GRISÉ

    THE INFLUENCE OF continental female mystics was felt in England not only in the late medieval manuscript tradition, but also in the early printed textual tradition. Printers such as William Caxton, Wynkyn de Worde, and Richard Pynson included the lives and works of such mystics as Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, and Elizabeth of Hungary among their publications. These texts may not represent an overwhelming contribution to the printed mystical tradition in England, but they find their place beside the modest contribution made by Middle English mystics to the print tradition.¹ The late medieval mystical tradition in print evinces...

  12. THE RECEPTION OF CONTINENTAL WOMEN MYSTICS IN FIFTEENTH- AND SIXTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND: SOME ARTISTIC EVIDENCE
    (pp. 97-118)
    DAVID GRIFFITH

    THE RAPID GROWTH IN THE production and circulation of vernacular religious texts from 1400 to 1530 and the sustained investment in church refurbishment and decoration over the same period are rooted in the laity’s desire to take greater personal control over its devotional and spiritual life. I have argued elsewhere that the laity’s burgeoning sense of itself as a literate community can be explored through depictions of books and readers in the art of the parish church.¹ These links between lay reading habits and artistic patronage can be followed in many other directions, most obviously through the influence of book...

  13. DISCRETIO SPIRITUUM IN TIME: THE IMPACT OF JULIAN OF NORWICH’S COUNSEL IN THE BOOK OF MARGERY KEMPE
    (pp. 119-132)
    NAOË KUKITA YOSHIKAWA

    BELIEF IN THE TRINITY, which is manifested as an interplay of the Father as power, the Son as wisdom and the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and the Son, was a fundamental aspect of the Christian faith in the late Middle Ages, as it is today. Christians understand that God loved them in creating them in his likeness; he loved them more in the costliness of their redemption; but his greatest act of love is the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which they know and love him, and are assured that they are his...

  14. ‘THISELF A CROS TO THISELF’: CHRIST AS SIGNUM IMPRESSUM IN THE CLOUD-TEXTS AGAINST THE BACKGROUND OF EXPRESSIONISTIC CHRISTOLOGY IN LATE MEDIEVAL DEVOTIONAL THEOLOGY
    (pp. 133-148)
    KARL HEINZ STEINMETZ

    IT IS ALMOST SUPERFLUOUS to mention the fact that according to Christian self-understanding the person of Christ plays a key-role in any form of Christian spirituality and mysticism. Hence recent research on the Christology of the anonymous Middle English Cloud-texts,¹ which we presume were written in the last decades of the fourteenth century by a Carthusian author,² had no problems demonstrating Christ’s presence in the Cloud-corpus.³ Nonetheless, such an initial reflection raises as many questions as it answers – and these questions deserve a detailed investigation. After all, between the extremes of Arianism, the exaggeration of the human aspect of Christ,...

  15. ‘THE PROPHETYCAL LYF OF AN HEREMYTE’: ELIJAH AS THE MODEL OF THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE IN THE BOOK OF THE FIRST MONKS
    (pp. 149-162)
    VALERIE EDDEN

    IN THIS WAY The Book of the Institution of the First Monks³ describes the aims of the Carmelite life, proposing Elijah as the model of the spiritual life. The Carmelite life is presented as one of solitude, contemplative prayer, a life led to allow the best opportunity for experiencing fully the presence of God in this life.

    Wyth how much sekyrnes of mende, we, folwyng forme of thys conuersacyoun, mak redy a weye to owre Lord vnto owr hertys, not be novelteys takyn ne by veyn fabelys, but be þe fyrst exaumplys of al þe lyf of a monk apprevyd...

  16. ‘MAKEDES OF ME/WRECCHE ÞI LEOFMON & SPUSE’: MYSTICAL DESIRE AND VISIONARY CONSUMMATION
    (pp. 163-176)
    SUSANNAH MARY CHEWNING

    IN SHAKESPEARE’S A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom, upon awakening from his disturbing experience among the fairies, says, ‘I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was. . . . The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was’ (IV.i.209–10, 214–17). Bottom’s lack of awareness about almost anything is comically apparent here, where he misidentifies the senses which, should they be applied to understanding his dream, would...

  17. LORDSHIP, SERVICE AND WORSHIP IN JULIAN OF NORWICH
    (pp. 177-188)
    ALEXANDRA BARRATT

    ‘AND WHOSOEVER WILL BE first among you, shall be the servant of all.’ That verse from the Gospels (Mark 10:44) would have echoed in medieval ears with greater contemporary resonance and relevance than it does today. As we have been rightly reminded, ‘Service has some claim to be considered the dominant ethic of the middle ages’¹ and Julian of Norwich was a woman of her time. Such an ethic, closely associated with concepts of ‘lordship’ and ‘worship’, thoroughly imbues her Revelation of Love. We do Julian a profound disservice if, with the laudable desire of making her accessible to our...

  18. ‘HID DIUINITE’: THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE ENGLISH SYON BRETHREN
    (pp. 189-206)
    VINCENT GILLESPIE

    IN THE YEARS LEADING up to the suppression of Syon Abbey in 1539, Thomas Bedyll, a Commissioner of the King, monitored the activities and attitudes of the house. He regularly reported back on the progress of the campaign against it to his master Thomas Cromwell, chief architect of the dissolution of the monasteries. At this time Syon was one of the wealthiest and most influential monasteries in England and therefore a notable target in the developing war against monasticism.¹ In 1534, early on in the campaign of harassment, Bedyll closely observed sermons given in the abbey church by the Brethren...

  19. INDEX
    (pp. 207-212)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-213)