Pondus Dei: The Weight of God in Anselm's Poetics

Nov 11, 2015
Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture
1025 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Burcht PrangerUniversity of Amsterdam


cosponsored by the Medieval Studies Workshop

The meaning of Anselm’s famous ‘sola ratione’ or ‘by reason alone’ has been the subject of much debate. Is it a principle of reason or a principle of faith? This lecture will argue that the sola ratione instead operates as a poetical principle in Anselm’s work at large, steering his various writings –treatises, meditations, prayers, and letters – into a comprehensive oeuvre. As a result of this poetic use of sola ratione, his work is characterized by a certain playfulness. However lofty questions of divine absence and presence may be, the sola ratione guarantees that meditating about questions of faith and reason keeps within the boundaries of a ‘divina commedia’ of sorts.

Burcht Pranger is Professor Emeritus in the History of Christianity at the University of Amsterdam and, at present, the Thomas F. Martin St Augustine Fellow at Villanova University. He has published widely on medieval monasticism, mainly on Anselm of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux. In his Artificiality of Christianity: Essays on the Poetics of Monasticism (Stanford, 2003) he discusses the work of Anselm at length. In 1994 he published a book on Bernard: Bernard of Clairvaux and the Shape of Monastic Thought: Broken Dreams.