Academic journal article Medium Aevum

On Becoming God: Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

On Becoming God: Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self

Article excerpt

Ben Morgan, On Becoming God: Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013). 301 pp. ISBN 978-0-8232-3992"4-£35-00-Ben

Morgan works as a university lecturer in German and is a Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford. The first part of his book, 'Clearing the ground', consists of four chapters. In 'Some recent versions of mysticism' the author discusses theories put forth by J. Lacan, L. lrigaray, and A. Hollywood. The reason why these three authors could be helpful for understanding the relation between late medieval mysticism and the modern western self remains unclear at first, until a tentative explanation is given on p. 218: 'Recent engagement with the texts of late medieval mystics by, for example, Lacan, lrigaray, and Amy Hollywood were shown to be hampered by their commitment to a model of human identity and of human freedom not shared by the mystical writers.' Morgan refers to 'empty epiphanies': experiences 'beyond the confines of current identity' (p. 23), outlining ideas of Lyotard, Zizek, Derrida, and Adorno. Unfortunately, readers who are not well acquainted with these thinkers will learn little, since brief introductions to the sources are followed up rapidly by a combination of citations and summaries from secondary literature.

Part II, 'A brief prehistory of the modern western self', comprises three chapters. The reader may ask himself whether late medieval mystics are the most important forerunners of the modern western self, whatever that may be. Morgan concedes that 'self-orientation is exactly what the mystical literature encouraged its readers to leave behind' (p. …

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