English 9146B

Saints and Heretics: Mysticism, Gender, and the Legitimacy of the Middle Ages

Professor A. Schuurman
Winter Half Course.

In their 2010 book The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages, Andrew Cole and Vance Smith argue “not only that […] medieval modes are sustained within modernity, but also that no theory of modernity can be complete or legitimate without a constant reckoning with ‘the medieval.’” This course explores medieval mysticism as a key mode that is sustained within modernity. In particular, we will consider the role of affective, visionary, and ecstatic forms of mysticism in the development of modern feminist and materialist thought, exploring the debts of such thinkers as Georges Bataille and Luce Irigaray to the the radical philosophies, mystical theologies, and visionary literature produced by medieval women. Why have certain streams of Christian affective piety, especially those associated with women and women's bodily experiences, proven so useful in the formation of avowedly secular, post-Christian philosophies? Can we espouse mysticism without metaphysics? What happens when we forget the historical contexts in which medieval women wrote about their visions and experiences? Readings will include texts by Marguerite Porete, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Teresa of Ávila, Simone Weil, Georges Bataille, Luce Irigaray, and Graham Harman, among others.

View the course syllabus here: English 9146B. PDF download