The Perils of Canor: Mystical Authority Alliteration, Alliteration, and Extragrammatical Meaning in Rolle, the Cloud-Author, and Hilton, and Hilton
Although recent scholarship on ‘vernacular theology’ has privileged the acts of translation and intellectualization in the vernacular, there were other modes of religious innovation and potentially even dissent in the act of performed prayer. Influential writers such as Richard Rolle and the Cloud-author focus on the extragrammatical qualities of language — aspects of language, such as alliteration, that are not simply reducible to semantic meaning or theological conceptualization —as a way to gain access to the divine. These extragrammatical aspects of ritualized language were in some ways more difficult to regulate than forms of vernacular theology. Their threatening nature was registered by Walter Hilton in his discerning treatise on Rolle, ‘On Angels’ Song’. The acknowledgement of the power of such excess meaning should inform our understanding of the production of ‘literary’ language of the period. (KZ)
YLS, 22 (2008), 131–63.