Mancia Lauren, Affective devotion and emotional reform at the eleventh-century monastery of John of Fécamp, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2013, (Yale University)
In the early Middle Ages, the crucifixion was interpreted as the moment when Christ’s divinity was finally unmasked, a moment when a seeming mortal showed himself as God, triumphing over death. By the Late Middle Ages, however, a change had occurred: the crucifixion no longer revealed God’s glory, but instead represented Christ as suffering and dying on the cross. This dissertation centers on some of the earliest medieval writings designed to address Christ in this more affective, humanized way: the eleventh-century contemplative writings of the Norman abbot John of Fécamp (ca. 990-1078), particularly those contained in his work posthumously entitled the Confessio Theologica (written between 1016 and 1028).
This study examines both John’s writings and his surrounding monastic context, demonstrating how the liturgical, devotional, visual, homeletic, and intellectual culture of the Norman monastery of La Trinité de Fécamp worked with John of Fécamp’s writings to promote this more affective approach to the divine. Through a cross-disciplinary investigation, this dissertation expands our understanding of John’s theological inheritances and practical motivations for writing such ‘newly’ emotional prayers. It revises our identification of John’s intended audience, arguing that John wrote his Confessio for and sent his Confessio to male Benedictines in and around Fécamp’s monastic network. Through his writings, John intended to provide an interior facet to the exterior monastic reforms going on at the monastery of Fécamp. This study details how John’s writings inspired an emotional, affective devotional culture among the monks of his own monastery through an investigation of manuscripts of John’s Confessio Theologica, and through the monastery of Fécamp’s manuscripts, liturgy, intellectual culture, and devotional writings. An examination of the writings of and devotional practices set up by some of John’s acolytes also demonstrates how John’s legacy of affective, emotional devotion was continued and elaborated in subsequent generations at Fécamp and in the Norman monastic world.
Ultimately, Affective Devotion and Emotional Reform in the Eleventh-Century Monastery of John of Fécamp clarifies the internal lives of eleventh-century Benedictine monks and the emotional nature of their devotional practices. It articulates the emotional, interior, prayerful dimensions to pre-Gregorian monastic reform practices. And it challenges existing theories for the impulses of later medieval « affective » devotion by examining the application of such piety in one of its earliest and original contexts: the Benedictine monastery.