Alan of Lille: Language and its Peregrinations to and from Divine Unity

  • Eileen C. Sweeney
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The standard view of Alan’s theology fits him into the line of twelfth—century humanistic thought. On this view, Alan embraces the study of the arts by making them stepping stones on the road to theology and models for the construction of theology as an academic discipline. For most scholars, Alan’s theological and poetic writings make a real but somewhat eccentric and uneven contribution to this project.1 Alan is often named in different contexts as the precursor of many important later developments in theology and poetry: he is noted as a forerunner in the development of a so-called “scientific” theology leading into the thirteenth century,2 as the daring architect of an “axiomatic” theology admired by Leibniz, as an important figure on the way toward the systematic study of the Bible and the development of the complete concordance,3 and as the poet of allegories influencing and anticipating the work of Chaucer and Dante.


Twelfth Century Figurative Language Demonstrative Pronoun Divine Nature Negative Theology 
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  1. 1.
    For one such view, see Gillian R. Evans, Alan of Lille: The Frontiers of Theology in the Later Twelfth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 166–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 8.
    M.T. D’Alverny, Textes inédits d’Alain de Lille (Paris: J. Vrin, 1965), p. 67.Google Scholar
  3. 41.
    See Luisa Valente, “Langage et théologie pendant la seconde moitié du XIe siecle,” in Sprachtheorien in Spätantike und Mittelalter, Sten Ebbesen, ed. (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1995), pp. 39–44.Google Scholar

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© Eileen C. Sweeney 2006

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  • Eileen C. Sweeney

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