The purpose of this investigation is to study a selection of Hadewijch de Amberes’s poetry and relate it with the mystical tradition and courteous language. This Flemish beguine lived during the first half of the 12th century and died probably around 1260. The study of the cultural context of Amberes’s writings will allow us to recognise a series of cultural changes, considering that ‘courtly love’ and Bernard of Clairvaux’s ‘nuptial mysticism’, influenced her poetry. It is suggested that Amberes’s poetry, particularly the first poem from Language of Desire (a book compiled by María Tabuyo), is traversed by a courteous language, filled with medieval chivalrous symbols, which intends to achieve a mystical union with God.
The discourse of discretio spirituum is so foundational to Julian of Norwich’s thought that she has no need to name it explicitly, and moreover, it becomes the very framework for her revision: the moments in which it operates most clearly in the Short Text disappear in the Long Text to be replaced by the major visions of the Lord and Servant exemplum and Mother Christ. Ultimately, Julian uses discretio spirituum to work through her theological doubts and translate her visionary experience into legible texts.
Allegories like Bernard Silvester’s Cosmographia or Alan of Lille’s De Planctu Naturae stem from a highly intellectual milieu in which philosophy and theology revolve around the question of which knowledge is possible and how. Allegory serves the function of providing a form in which such questions can be discussed more easily because it does not claim direct reference and because it can be situated on a metalevel where ‘knowledge’ itself can be represented. It is my claim that allegory serves a similar function in Hildegard of Bingen’s visionary trilogy. Large parts of her allegories are less concerned with the content of doctrinal and moral knowledge than with the way in which such knowledge can be obtained: what attitude one should cultivate, what can and cannot be known, how things can be known, what can and cannot be said, and how it can be said.