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The English Prose Treatises of Richard Rolle

The English Prose Treatises of Richard Rolle

Claire Elizabeth McIlroy
Volume: 4
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    The English Prose Treatises of Richard Rolle
    Book Description:

    Richard Rolle, the `hermit of Hampole', wrote an extensive body of religious literature that was widely disseminated in late medieval England; but although many of his works have received substantial editorial attention, they have as yet attracted only limited detailed critical analysis, with scholarship largely focused on establishing facts about his life and striking character. This study aims to correct this imbalance by re-examining his English prose works – ‘Ego Dormio, The Commandment’ and ‘The Form of Living’ - in terms of their literary form, content and appeal rather than their relationship to Rolle's biography. The author argues that in these devotional works (which appealed to a broad readership in late medieval England) Rolle successfully refines traditional affective strategies to develop an implied reader-identity, the individual soul seeking the love of God, which empowers each and every reader in his or her own spiritual journey. CLARE ELIZABETH MCILROY teaches at the University of Western Australia.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-259-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Richard Rolle, English Writer
    (pp. 1-20)

    Richard rolle produced one of the most extensive bodies of religious literature of the early fourteenth century; the bulk of this literature is exegetical, but some works are based on Rolle’s own mystical experiences, and others can be considered as didactic works, composed specifically with a view to exhorting others to turn to the love of God. Rolle wrote in both English and Latin, more prolifically in the latter, but his works in both languages were widely disseminated throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; this is shown by the large number of surviving manuscripts of his Latin and English writings....

  6. 2 “Ihesu louynge, Ihesu thynkynge, Ihesu desyrynge”: Affectivity, the Devotional Movement and Rolle’s Implied Reader
    (pp. 21-56)

    Rolle’s distinction as a writer of devotional literature derives mainly from his affective method. Briefly stated, affective language in devotional literature excites and directs the emotions of the audience so that readers are drawn first to holiness and then to union with God. The recognition of the need for affective devotion in Christianity ultimately derives from the Apostle Paul who states in his epistle to the Roman Christians that the problem for the believer is not so much in knowing how to behave, but in knowing how to drive his or her emotions and passions into such an intimate relationship...

  7. 3 “I wil becum a messager to bring þe to his bed”: Ego Dormio
    (pp. 57-98)

    Ego dormio is the first of the English prose treatises composed by Richard Rolle on the subject of the journey towards spiritual perfection. According to the chronology set out by Nicholas Watson, which divides Rolle’s writings into stages based largely on the evidence of self-borrowing throughout his texts, Ego Dormio falls into the category of “late works” in which, along with Melos Amoris, it pre-dates Super Lectiones Mortuorum, Emendatio Vitae, The Commandment, The Form of Living and, in all likelihood, the English Psalter and the shorter vernacular prose pieces.³ Because it is Rolle’s first vernacular prose work of any length,...

  8. 4 “A noble tretis of loue”: The Commandment
    (pp. 99-139)

    The second of Rolle’s vernacular treatises was a shorter work of plain instruction which is known today by the title The Commandment.³ Unlike its predecessor Ego Dormio, which had sought to woo the reader to become the lover of Christ through the use of affective language, The Commandment engages the lover of God in a more sober and formal discourse. The text itself follows a fairly simple narrative structure. Rolle opens the work with an exposition of Christ’s utterance of the great commandment from Matthew 22:37 which both sets the tone of the work as didactic and informs the reader...

  9. 5 “A man or a womman þat is ordeynet to contemplatif lif”: The Form of Living
    (pp. 140-186)

    Like ego dormio and The Commandment, The Form of Living is a composite work that deploys material from Rolle’s own Latin canon as well as from other sources. But, also like its predecessors, The Form of Living is a unique text which develops a singular discourse, in this case a discourse of friendship, to fulfil its affective purpose of turning the reader to the love of God. The Form of Living is the longest, and in many ways the most complex, of Rolle’s vernacular treatises and holds the unique position in his canon of being the only work whose date...

    (pp. 187-208)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 209-212)