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Meghan Nestel PhD Defense: 'Revelations to Others in Medieval Hagiographical and Visionary Texts'

Committee: Robert Sturges (Chair), Corine Schleif, Rachel Koopmans.  ::  ABSTRACT: This dissertation concerns "revelations to others" in medieval hagiographical and visionary texts. Revelations to others take many forms—spiritual visions, dreams, visual and tactile witnessing of miracles, auditions—but they all are experienced by someone other than, or in addition to, the holy person who is the subject of the text. This type of revelatory experience is common and, I argue, highly significant. Most straightforwardly, revelations to others serve to further authenticate holy women or men, confirming their devotion to God, their miraculous abilities, and/or their favored position with Christ. But revelations to others do much more than authorize the visionary. They voice the possibility that one could learn to have visions, which has interesting connections to modern ideas of guided seeing, such as meditation. They suggest circumstances in which holy persons served as devotional objects, helping their viewers achieve a higher level of religious experience in a similar manner to stained glass windows, crucifixes, or Veronicas. For women, revelations to others sometimes offer access to spaces in which they could not physically step foot, such as the altar or the bedrooms of abbots. Moreover, by showcasing the variety of persons participating in divine experiences (monks and nuns, lay persons, nobility, and sometimes other holy persons), revelations to others speak to the larger visionary communities in which these holy persons lived. Through a series of close readings, this dissertation creates a taxonomy of revelations to others and argues for their necessity in understanding the collaborative nature of medieval spirituality.

Sheila Luna
Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, 10 a.m.
Ross-Blakley Hall (RBHL)
Tempe campus