Love in Religion: Three Helfta Visionaries: Regent’s Park College, Oxford, 11th-12th September 2020
This conference is the third phase of a larger project which began as a meeting of minds in July 2013 at the Medieval Translator Conference in Leuven and whose first aim is a new edition of the Middle English translation of Mechthild of Hackeborn’s Liber specialis gratiae. This new edition will be accompanied by a second volume of essays discussing various aspects of the Latin text and its vernacular translations.
Mechthild of Hackeborn (1241-1298) was a Benedictine nun at the famous convent of Helfta in Germany, which has been described as ‘a high-water mark of women’s mysticism’ (Barbara Newman). Its first abbess was none other than Mechthild’s own blood sister Gertude.
This aristocratic foundation attracted highly educated women, among whom was the beguine Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207-1282), who joined the convent in her old age, where she completed with the assistance of the nuns Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of the Godhead).
It is possible that under the influence of Mechthild of Magdeburg the nuns embarked on a collective project to write down Mechthild of Hackeborn’s revelations. One of the nuns involved was Gertrude the Great (1256-1302), the author of the perhaps better-known Legatus divinae pietatis (Herald of God’s Loving-Kindness).
This conference aims at gathering together international scholars from the U.K., Europe and elsewhere who are working on these texts today, and at producing a greater understanding of how the lives and works of these three visionaries influenced each other, developed from each other, reflected each other and, considering the great number of surviving copies of The Liber specialis gratiae, how they had an impact on future generations. It is also hoped that the discussions will encourage further research in this field.
The keynote lectures will be delivered by two world-renown experts in the field of mysticism: Professor Vincent Gillespie, J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, and Professor Barbara Newman, John Evans Professor of Latin, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University.
Mark Atherton, Regent’s Park College, Oxford University
Anne Mouron, Regent’s Park College, Oxford University
Louise Nelstrop, York St John University / St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford University
Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa, Shizuoka University and Swansea University