Fanger (2019 Congress)

Claire Fanger
(Rice University)

“Scriptural Dreaming:  Revisiting the Exstacy Defence”

Abstract of Paper
To be presented at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2019)

Session on
“Embedded in the Mainstream:  Ritual Magic Incorporated in ‘Legitimate’ Texts”

Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
and the Societas Magica

Organized by Vajra Regan
2019 Congress Program

[Published on 14 March 2019]



The “ecstasy defense” is Robert Lerner’s formulation for a particular way of deploying dreams and visions to justify innovative theology.  In a well-known 1992 Speculum article, “Ecstatic Dissent”, he argues that there was a pattern among professional religious of recourse to visionary knowledge in cases where writers were accused or formally charged with heresy.  One of the case studies he uses to show the pattern included the visionary memoir of Rupert of Deutz.

In this paper I will revisit Rupert’s memoir and nuance some points made by Lerner about the ecstasy defense itself, before looking at the Liber florum of John of Morigny, also including a memoir recording dreams that legitimate a writing project, which, in his case included numerous magical sources.   Like Rupert, John embeds his writings in a versions of divine discourse that extends the scriptural word of God into dreams; thus the textual product of his magical practice is represented as the actual word of God.