Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt
In May 1373, the English mystic Julian of Norwich was healed of a serious illness after experiencing a series of visions of the Blessed Virgin and of Christ’s suffering. Her account, A Revelation of Love, is considered one of the most remarkable documents of medieval religious experience.
In Julian of Norwich and the Mystical Body Politic of Christ, Frederick Bauerschmidt provides a close and historically sensitive reading of Julian’s Revelation of Love that addresses the relationship between our understanding of God and our vision of human community. By locating Julian’s images of Christ’s body within the context of late medieval debates over the nature and extent of divine power, Bauerschmidt argues that Julian presents an alternative account of divine power in which the crucified body of Christ becomes the locus and shape of divine omnipotence.
For Julian, divine power serves as the norm of all human exercise of power, rendering the possibility of the “mystical body politic of Christ” as the exemplary form of human community. In this reading, the theological is irreducibly political and the political is irreducibly theological. As such, Bauerschmidt shows Julian to be both a theologian of the first rank and one who “imagines the political.”
“With astonishing lucidity, Bauerschmidt proves himself to be a most delicate reader of Julian at the same time as he draws, always with relevance, on a range of powerful contemporary theorists to facilitate our understanding of the scope, depth, and contemporary force of Julian’s mystical and political theology.” — David Aers, James B. Duke Professor of English and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Duke University
“Much recent writing on the medieval ‘mystical’ traditions seems either to take a thin slice of concepts through the complex matrix of historical context, or else to offer historical focus at the expense of contemporary relevance. Bauerschmidt’s Julian of Norwich and the Mystical Body Politic of Christ is a remarkable achievement of synthesis between a theologico-political analysis of distinct contemporary relevance and historical faithfulness to Julian’s own fourteenth century world.” — Denys Turner, H.G. Wood Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham, England
“Bauerschmidt adds a creative and challenging dimension to the current lively discussion of the theology of fourteenth-century British anchorite Julian of Norwich. His reading of Julian’s text is complex and challenging and makes a provocative contribution to both the hermeneutics of medieval texts and to contemporary political discussions.” — Religious Studies Review
“This is the best study on Julian since Colledge and Walsh’s 1978 critical edition of Showings. Bauerschmidt’s treatment of Julian’s bodily sight of the Crucified is a stunning tour de force of imaginative scholarship. I have nothing but praise for this uniformly excellent book.” — Theological Studies
“In this very important book, Frederick Bauerschmidt provides us with a more adequate account than any hitherto of Julian of Norwich specifically as a theologian, rather than as a mere spiritual writer or else as a feminist avant la lettre.” — Pro Ecclesia
“[Bauerschmidt] presents an intriguing and inspiring interpretation of Julian of Norwich’s Revelation of Love that bridges the gap between the medieval text and its implications for present-day communities of faith, between academic analysis and committed action.” — Church History, Studies in Christianity & Culture
“This book is to be commended for its bold attempt to provide a new vocabulary with which to discuss aspects of the Revelation of Divine Love, a text which repeatedly resists scholarly explication. Julian gives no sources for her thought, and this book eschews the search for them. It offers a reading of Julian’s text, not a hypothesis as to its author’s intentions, although its argument is occasionally rendered vulnerable by an over-close identification of author with text. Bauderschmidt wisely disclaims that he has unlocked the text’s ‘real’ significance, and acknowledges that his treatment of it is guided by a particular interest in human community. The result is an honest and searching contribution to Julian scholarship.” — The Heythrop Journal
“Extraordinary. . . . I highly recommend this original, insightful, and provocative study.” — Spiritual Life