Session 816: Late Medieval Spirituality: Texts and Contexts
Tuesday 11 July 2006, 16.30-18.00
|Katherine O'Sullivan, Medieval Studies Program, University of Connecticut
|The Book of Margery Kempe: The Issues of discretio spirituum at the Councils of Constance and Basel
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Lay Piety, Women’s Studies
|Personification as Pathology: Langland's 'Anima'
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Philosophy, Rhetoric, Science
|'The Stinking Fen and Dunghill of Our Sins': Sinful Piety in The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Margery Kempe
Index terms: Gender Studies, Language and Literature - Middle English, Lay Piety, Religious Life
Abstract paper -a: Margery sojourned in Constance on her pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1413/1414). Her account reveals that she was aware of 'discretio spirituum' - a major issue for the canonization of St Brigit. Even after Brigit's canonization and its subsequent confirmation, many delegates at the Councils of Constance and Basel questioned the divine origin of Brigit's vision and connected the issue with schism. At Basel, opponents focused on allegedly heretical passages from the Revelations. By looking at the religious and political circumstances, this paper examines how the issues of 'discretio spirituum' and heresy affect the way Margery dictates her meditational experience to her clerical amanuensis.
Abstract paper -b: Ancient and medieval psychology, in its pursuit of the forces that drive human action, tends often toward fictions of personification. In the psychological allegories of the high Middle Ages, personification becomes a powerful analytical tool, a dissecting instrument that anatomizes the soul by isolating and naming as agents the forces that constitute it. This paper will ask how personification, deployed as a pathological device, works as a sort of gesture, a way of translating the ulterior world of the soul into a significant system of human action. My test case, from Langland's B-Text, will be Will's encounter with Anima and the two visions that immediately precede it.
Abstract paper -c: The late 14th-century, anonymous Cloud of Unknowing offers a devotional ethos that warns against taking perverse pride in the degradation of our sins: to do so simply creates a continuing tendency to sin. In the early 15th century, Margery Kempe's identity as a lover of Christ depended completely on a detailed identification and description of the foulness of her sins; she thus decisively chose the most emotional strain of affective piety over apophatic mysticism. This paper examines this divergence as a way of understanding the strain of English mysticism (represented by the Cloud) that Margery rejected, and why.