• Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski
  • Duncan Robertson
  • Nancy Bradley Warren
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Christian religious writers have struggled at all times with the mediation of language. The fathers of the Church sought to break through the written text of the Scriptures—the littera, metaphorically conceived as an outer shell—to reach the spiritual meaning residing inside it. “An angel is nourished with the richness of wheat,” wrote St. Bernard, “but in this life I have to be content with the husk, as it were, of the sacrament, with the bran of the flesh, with the chaff of the letter” (Sermons on the Song of Songs, 33.3). Even so, commentators nourished in the Latin tradition were able to move effortlessly from reading to prayer to writing and back again, unhindered by problems of translation. After 1200 however, Latin literacy becomes increasingly problematized, as laymen and, significantly, lay and religious women demand access to the domain of spirituality, previously monopolized by the clerical elite. In the new “textual communities,” an urgent need is felt to develop the spoken vernacular as an idiom capable of conveying doctrinal complexities and affective experience.1


Twelfth Century Religious Writing Pastoral Theology Spiritual Meaning Church Authority 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    Bernard McGinn, The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism (1200–1350) (NewYork: Crossroad, 1998), pp. 17–20Google Scholar
  2. Bernard McGinn, ed., Meister Eckhart and the Beguine Mystics: Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg and Marguerite Porete (New York: Continuum, 1994), pp. 4–14.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    The now classic references are to Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982)Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    Michael Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Nicholas Watson, Richard Rolle and the Invention of Authority (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 12.
    Peggy Kamuf, ed., A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 32.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), p. 20.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Duncan Robertson, and Nancy Bradley Warren 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski
  • Duncan Robertson
  • Nancy Bradley Warren

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations