Rewriting Magic: An Exegesis of the Visionary Autobiography of a Fourteenth-Century French Monk

Rewriting Magic: An Exegesis of the Visionary Autobiography of a Fourteenth-Century French Monk

by Claire Fanger

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In Rewriting Magic, Claire Fanger explores a fourteenth-century text called The Flowers of Heavenly Teaching. Written by a Benedictine monk named John of Morigny, the work all but disappeared from the historical record, and it is only now coming to light again in multiple versions and copies. While John’s book largely comprises an extended set of prayers for gaining knowledge, The Flowers of Heavenly Teaching is unusual among prayer books of its time because it includes a visionary autobiography with intimate information about the book’s inspiration and composition. Through the window of this record, we witness how John reconstructs and reconsecrates a condemned liturgy for knowledge acquisition: the ars notoria of Solomon. John’s work was the subject of intense criticism and public scandal, and his book was burned as heretical in 1323. The trauma of these experiences left its imprint on the book, but in unexpected and sometimes baffling ways. Fanger decodes this imprint even as she relays the narrative of how she learned to understand it. In engaging prose, she explores the twin processes of knowledge acquisition in John’s visionary autobiography and her own work of discovery as she reconstructed the background to his extraordinary book. Fanger’s approach to her subject exemplifies innovative historical inquiry, research, and methodology. Part theology, part historical anthropology, part biblio-memoir, Rewriting Magic relates a story that will have deep implications for the study of medieval life, monasticism, prayer, magic, and religion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780271072012
Publisher: Penn State University Press
Publication date: 05/04/2015
Series: Magic in History
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 232
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Claire Fanger is Assistant Professor of Religion at Rice University. She is the editor of Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries (Penn State, 2012) and Conjuring Spirits: Texts and Traditions of Medieval Ritual Magic (Penn State, 1998).

Table of Contents

List of Figures vii

Preface ix

Structure and Referencing System for the Liber florum New Compilation xiii

Introduction: Lost and Found Knowledge 1

Part 1 Foundation

Chapter 1 Like Stones of Fire: I Encounter the Book of Visions 15

Chapter 2 A Mysticism of Signs and Things: The Ars Notoria and the Sacraments 35

Chapter 3 Penance: The Sacrament of the Middle of Life 58

Part 2 Restoration

Chapter 4 Errors of Intellect, Errors of Will: I Encounter the Book of Figures 83

Chapter 5 Magical Objects of Knowledge: Categorizing the Exceptive Arts 109

Chapter 6 Visionary Exegesis and Prophecy: Milk and Meat 132

Conclusion: Future History 154

Notes 169

Selected Bibliography 203

Index 209

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