IMC 2013: Sessions

Session 1117: The Pleasures of Heaven and the Pleasures of Earth

Wednesday 3 July 2013, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Ann Marie Caron, Department of Religious Studies, Saint Joseph College, Connecticut
Paper 1117-aThe Pleasure of Hermeneutics: Bernard of Clairvaux’s Inversions of Eroticism and Asceticism in the Sermons on the Song of Songs
(Language: English)
Line Cecilie Engh, Istituto di Norvegia, Roma / Institutt for filosofi, ide- og kunsthistorie og klassiske språk, Universitetet i Oslo
Index terms: Gender Studies, Monasticism, Sexuality
Paper 1117-bBecoming Earth: Earthly Pleasure as Spiritual Pleasure in la Vie de sainte Marie l’Égyptienne
(Language: English)
Monica Ehrlich, Department of French Language & Literature, University of Virginia
Index terms: Hagiography, Language and Literature - French or Occitan
Paper 1117-c'These people abuse God's luminous grace for their own natural pleasure': The Discussions about the Confusion of Spiritual Pleasure with Its Perversions in Religious Texts of the 14th and 15th Centuries
(Language: English)
Lydia Maria Wegener, Deutsche Texte des Mittelalters, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin
Index terms: Anthropology, Monasticism, Religious Life, Sermons and Preaching

Paper -a:
This paper addresses transpositions of celibacy and sensual delight, asceticism and eroticism in Bernard’s famous text, arguing that Bernard employs inversions to subsume fleshly desire and fleshly understanding into spiritual desire and spiritual understanding. Seeking hermeneutical ‘excessus’ by implementing an erotically blissful participation in and penetration of the body of Christ – that is, Scripture itself – Bernard restores physicality to the concept of saintly desire. In this way, I argue, hermeneutics was re-written as a mode of erotics and pleasure. Eroticism in all its carnality becomes conflated, even identified with spiritual desire, providing a dimension of literalness to imagery of kisses, embraces and erotic passion.

Paper -b:
Earthly and spiritual pleasure are often described as binary opposites with one being inimical to the attainment of the other, yet during her hermitage, Marie l’Égyptienne transforms her spiritual self by changing her relationship to her environment. In the late 12th-century anonymous T version of this text, the author describes Marie’s life as a courtesan and her penitence as ‘plaisir’, thus questioning the supposed opposition between earthly and spiritual pleasure. This paper will examine how Marie’s evolving environmental ethics problematize this binary, giving us new insight into contemporary ecological attitudes inspired by exegetical readings of Genesis.

Paper -c:
The seemingly clear contradiction of earthly pleasure and its spiritual counterpart is increasingly questioned in Middle High German texts of the late Middle Ages, especially those dealing with mysticism and/or the discernment of spirits. They suspect those traditional monastic practices intended to evoke the intense joy of ‘sweet devotion’ of being induced by natural or even devilish influences. These evil spirits seduce man by imitating the divine spirit in an almost perfect way, thus leading to a kind of spiritual fake pleasure. The presentation scrutinizes the different aspects of this problem and the ways of handling it.