Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Anne Savage
According to theories of negative theology, God cannot be known at all. The divinity cannot be spoken or written. Thus, the mystical text--a written account of the ineffable, divine encounter--is a contradiction in terms. Through an examination of the works of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, I discuss the contradictions inherent in mystical writing. How do these medieval women write their experiences if they cannot write (or even think) the ineffable? This dissertation focuses on the possibility of representing the apophatic moment of contact with the divinity through the structural movement of rhetorical figures.
Most work on Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich emphasizes the differences between the two writers and, moreover, focuses on their cataphatic or positive approach to the divinity. Contrary to such studies, this dissertation emphasizes the similarities between the writers in their apophatic or negative understanding of God. This work brings together theories of negative theology with rhetorica~ theory to argue that both ystics structure their texts on paradox and, in the process, create rhetorical icons that gesture toward an unknown, ineffable God. In particular, the rhetorical figures of chiasmus and contentio (especially in relation to the coincidence of opposites) are examined for their ability to represent the paradox associated with the apophatic moment of crossing between the human and the divine.
Masson, Cynthea Margaret, "Crossing the Chasm: The Rhetoric of the Ineffable in Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich" (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2235.