Title

Visionary Architecture: Monastic Magic and Cognition in John of Morigny’s Liber florum

Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Date

7-28-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religion

Advisor(s)

Patricia Cox Miller

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

In a text called the Liber florum celestis doctrine or Book of the Flowers of Heavenly Teaching, the Benedictine monk John of Morigny, who was active in the first decades of the fourteenth century, presents a series of visions of divine and demonic forces, a lengthy series of prayers designed to elicit further visions (particularly visions of statues that come to life) and to grant knowledge of the seven liberal arts, and autobiographical details that recount his waking and visionary interactions with a condemned text, the Ars notoria and his own Liber florum. Though, according to John, his own text was originally seen as licit, it was, in 1323, condemned in Paris as heresy and sorcery. This contrast between initial acceptance and eventual condemnation sets up a dynamic that I argue is replicated repeatedly both in classifying the genre of the Liber florum and in the visionary events that John narrates. John’s text and the visions of divine entities depicted within it, make a habit of straddling boundaries, the boundaries of licit and illicit, animation and stasis, divine presence and divine absence. John’s text, in all its strangeness and evasions of category, needs significant contextualization (though even with a fully fleshed-out context, John and his text still don’t quite fit solidly in any one place). It is towards the explanation of this context that the first chapters of this dissertation will most particularly work. This contextualization will help shape an understanding of John that highlights both his alignment with traditional and accepted patterns of medieval monastic practice and theology as well as his deviations from those patterns. In teasing out the ways in which John’s practice and the content of his visions maintain such paradoxical states, I closely examine how a monk like John would have thought and seen the world around him, reconstructing habits of cognition and understandings of perception that are often alien to our own. Once, as far as is possible, this fourteenth century monastic perspective has been reconstructed, I move on to a discussion of the difficult materiality of the animated statues seen in John’s visions. In reconstructing the intellectual, cognitive, and sensorial milieu of this one medieval monk, I provide a particularized resource for the study of the Liber florum, as well as, more broadly, a methodological model for the study of magic in the middle ages that emphasizes the need to tackle the tricky interior spaces of perception and cognition.

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