“Spirituality reconsidered. A conversation with Antonio Lenzo and Lauren Mancia.”
During this online workshop, Antonio Lenzo and Lauren Mancia will discuss their pre-circulated papers. Everyone is welcome.
Antonio Lenzo (English, Stanford)
“Libera me de igne inextinguibili”: Affects of Eschatology in the Winchester Psalter.
One of the most awful medieval representations of the Mouth of Hell is found on f. 39r of British Library, Cotton MS Nero C IV, also known as the Winchester Psalter, likely produced for the circle of Henry of Blois in later twelfth-century Winchester. Psalters as a genre are some of the codices most obviously associated with an all-encompassing understanding of time, stretching to embrace the entirety of the liturgical year and of history itself, from Genesis to the end-times. The Winchester Psalter is no exception, but it privileges the latter, showing a definite concern with eschatology.
Its extensive prefatory cycle has in fact few parallels in its emphasis on the end of days, to which it dedicates an entire section of nine full-page miniatures, culminating in its celebrated Hellmouth: the whole illumination cycle leads to it. The implications for worship and penance emerging from such an awe-inspiring representation of Hell at Judgment are clear, as the manuscript viewer is presented with the concrete threat of eternal infernal lockdown; the same anxiety, expressed in the language of desire, is to be recognized in the petitionary nature of several of the prayers constituting the concluding section of the manuscript.
Nonetheless, it is also the case that the visual language of lust and promiscuity characterizing the Hellmouth illumination is deployed complementarily with a more explicitly textual language of penance and petition: neatly separating the two is not possible, nor can one be fully reduced to a sublimation of the other. Engaging with the ambivalences of the Winchester Psalter will help in an uncovering of the less easily expressed experiential aspects of worship: rather than the brainy concern of caricature Scholasticism, eschatology in the Winchester Psalter appears to be first and foremost a matter of feeling.
Lauren Mancia (History, Brooklyn College/CUNY)
The Experience of Monastic Meditation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries
This is a draft of the third chapter of a short book I'm writing on eleventh- and twelfth-century monastic meditation tentatively called Struggling Toward God: Meditation and Prayer in the Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century Monastery. The book explores the dimensions of the medieval monastic contemplation in the heyday of Benedictine and Cistercian spiritual writing, the eleventh and twelfth centuries, including what its theorized, ideal practice was; what the origins of that practice were; and how that practice was facilitated by textual and extra-textual tools in the monastery. This chapter looks beyond the 'ideal' prescribed practices of monastic meditation, and attempts to ascertain and reveal what monks and nuns' lived experiences of meditation were--complete with all its imperfections and frustrations.
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