Experiencing the Word: Dionysian Mystical Theology in the Commentaries of Thomas Gallus (d.1246)
TICHELKAMP-DISSERTATION-2017.pdf (1.589Mb)(embargoed until: 2019-11-01)
Tichelkamp, Craig Henry
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThe mystical theology of Thomas Gallus, “the last great Victorine,” was inseparable from his theology of sacred literature. This dissertation analyzes Gallus’s major works: his commentaries on the Song of Songs and the Corpus Dionysiacum (CD). I argue that Gallus’s mystical theology emerges from his analysis of constitutive theological tensions in the CD about God, language, and mystical perfection. That is, in navigating the CD’s conceptual apertures, Gallus is even more thoroughly Dionysian than has been previously estimated. At the same time, Gallus’s mystical theology is an original creation—distinctively Augustinian and Victorine, and informed by his complementary interpretation of the Song as depicting the union between the soul and the Word. Thus, this dissertation contributes to our understanding of both the inherent interpretive possibilities and the varieties of medieval reception of the CD.
This dissertation makes a second contribution to the field by articulating how Gallus’s role as a commentator is key to understanding his mystical theology. The practice of commentary writing played a significant role in Gallus’s affective Dionysianism, which saw the contemplative soul in an unending pursuit of loving, experiential knowledge of the Word of God. In Gallus’s commentaries, we find a coherently performed, if incompletely realized theory and practice of Christian wisdom. I argue that to understand Gallus’s practice of commentary writing (beyond as a pedgagogical practicality), we should look to the account of Christian perfection articulated in the commentaries themselves.
Finally, Gallus’s commentaries were attempts to experience (experientia) and explain (explanatio) the eternal Word of God, and this dissertation also calls attention to the rhetoric of experience within Gallus’s commentaries. In conversation with debates about religious experience within the study of mysticism, this dissertation argues that, not only is Gallus’s use of experientia central to his theological and mystical program, but understanding its use in his context can help to reconsider what conceptual reservoirs contemporary scholars of medieval mysticism are to draw from. Gallus’s rhetoric of experience is rich enough to contain a number of tensions within Christian mysticism that remain salient today (such as immanence and transcendence, talkativeness and ineffability, intellect and affect).
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37925651