Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Vioice of the Living Light: Hildegard of Bingen and Her World

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Vioice of the Living Light: Hildegard of Bingen and Her World

Article excerpt

Vioice of the Living Light- Hildegard of Bingen and her World. Edited by Barbara Newman. (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1998. Pp. ix, 278. $48.00 clothbound; $19.95 paperback.)

As Barbara Newman outlines in her introduction to Voice of the Living Light, the aim of this collection is to "set Hildegard in context" without diminishing her exceptionality The contributors to this volume are respected scholars in their fields, who each examine a facet of Hildegard's life and activity-from abbess and reformer to medical writer and composer. They explore the breadth and scope of her diverse interests and personal creativity against the social, religious. intellectual, and political backdrop of twelfth-century culture and society This approach locates Hildegard within the traditions she inherited, while at the same time demonstrating how she stretched these boundaries to accommodate her unique perspective. The result is a richly documented and perceptively written collection that not only offers insight into the life of this woman, but into the lives of medieval religious women generally.

The influence of Hildegard's monastic background in shaping her outlook as abbess, religious thinker, and reformer is apparent in the essays addressing these aspects of the visionary's life. Constant Mews explores the relationship between her experience as a recluse and her cosmology, tracing the development of her religious thought through her visionary trilogy. John Van Engen examines Hildegard's gradual transition from recluse to abbess of her foundation at Rupertsberg, outlining the various administrative and pastoral roles she performed as "mother and teacher" and leader of her community. Joan Ferrante extends this discussion through an analysis of the visionary's extensive correspondence, which illumines the pastoral role Hildegard adopted for a wider monastic community. Kathryn Kerby-Fulton analyzes Hildegard's reforming aims and strident polemic in the context of contemporary intellectual trends and political events. She highlights the visionary's often radical approach, emphasizing how Hildegard drew on the traditions of apocalyptic prophecy to create and sustain her stance as prophet and reformer. …

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