Chapter

The Body of the Text and the Text of the Body: Monastic Reading and Allegorical Sub / Versions of Desire

Mark Burrows

in Scrolls of Love

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780823225712
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237067 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823225712.003.0018
The Body of the Text and the Text of the Body: Monastic Reading and        Allegorical Sub / Versions of Desire

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Flesh as a figure, the realized body, the poetic body, the made body: These describe in a curiously apt manner the imagined world of much of the medieval Christian reading of the Song of Songs, particularly as it found expression within monastic circles. Learning to read properly, to engage Scripture not on its “face”, but in its depths, was for Bernard of Clairvaux what monastic life was all about. It was a way of accommodating the bodily “dislocations” of monastic life: celibacy, in the first instance, and, second, the entrance into the monastery, which exiled the monk by “unhousing” him from his familiar world. The body thus represents a “primary text” for Bernard's fellow monks, and the biblical text—in this case, the erotic narrative of the Song of Songs—became in his hands a “body” to be read properly, to be “built” with meaning.

Keywords: poetic body; flesh; Song of Songs; celibacy; monastic life; biblical text; Bernard of Clairvaux; erotic narrative

Chapter.  5011 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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