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The monastic roots of affective piety
Lauren Mancia

This chapter examines John’s legacy after his death, both at Fécamp and in the wider medieval spiritual landscape. The chapter first shows how John’s students and followers at Fécamp elaborated on the seeds of affective devotion that John’s Confessio theologica planted: a cult to the precious blood of Christ was established at Fécamp; John’s students Maurilius of Rouen and Gerbert of Saint-Wandrille wrote affective prayers to a crucified Christ; Guibert of Nogent, a Norman monk, wrote his own memoir in the style of Augustine’s Confessions thanks to John; and, most famously, Anselm of Bec wrote his prayers and meditations, following in the steps of the greatest Norman abbot of the generation before him. This chapter moves on to discuss how John’s Confessio theologic’s ideas changed in the hands of the Cistercians, and how they circulated in the later Middle Ages, often misattributed in manuscripts to Anselm or Bernard or Francis. This chapter concludes by making clear the parts of John’s Confessio theologica’s devotional method that served as the foundation for later medieval affective devotional practice, and the parts of John’s ideas that abandoned in later iterations of affective devotion practised by Cistercians, mendicants, mystics, and the laity.

in Emotional monasticism
John’s devotional principles cultivated in the secular landscape
Lauren Mancia

This chapter demonstrates that John’s emotional reform priorities were not solely acted upon within the walls of the monastic community at Fécamp, but also coloured his interactions with the secular world. As the abbot of the most prominent abbey in Normandy, John regularly interacted with lay lords and dukes of Normandy and Holy Roman Empresses, among others. Using charters, letters, and chronicles, this chapter shows how John’s particular brand of piety was not restricted only to the contemplative moments he had inside the monastery, but also motivated John’s wider responsibilities as a politically, socially, and economically involved abbot. This chapter thus argues against the historiographical narrative that abbots were either spiritual recluses who resented their worldly activities or political players who relished their worldly power. Instead, this chapter shows that an abbot’s worldly activity could be part and parcel with his spiritual goals, aiming to erode our modern notion that worldly activity could not also be spiritual behaviour in medieval Europe.

in Emotional monasticism
The uses of John’s devotional method within the walls of Fécamp
Lauren Mancia

This chapter examines the pervasiveness of John’s devotional method among his contemporary brethren at Fécamp. The chapter first demonstrates that the affective prescriptions contained in John's Confessio theologica were promoted and enforced by the various devotional media at Fécamp – in the library, in the liturgy, and in sermons. The chapter then explores the complex relationship between emotional reform and discipline, as such affective rhetoric seems to have played a dual role in the monastery, both emotionally connecting the monastic practitioner to his God and keeping him in line under his abbot. This chapter, therefore, unlike other studies of affective piety, shows how affectivity was not just about a devotee’s emotional empathy with the crucified Christ, but also about a monastic devotee’s Christ-like obedience. I break scholarly ground by enumerating the uses of affective piety particular to the Benedictine monastery of the eleventh century.

in Emotional monasticism
Defining emotional reform and affectivity in John of Fécamp’s Confessio theologica
Lauren Mancia

This chapter performs a careful reading of the entire text of John’s Confessio theologica in order to define the nature of John’s affective piety. This reading clarifies the historical record, which often only highlights selections from John’s Confessio theologica rather than systematically analyses the whole thing. The chapter details John’s affective prescriptions to his reader, and also uses manuscript evidence to show how these were particularly aimed at monastic readers in Fécamp’s network. The examination provided here will satisfy historians of emotion, who will be interested in the contours of devotional emotion in this eleventh-century context; it also provides a basis for the remaining analyses in the book.

in Emotional monasticism
Freedom, democracy and liberalism
John Carter Wood

The Oldham group sought to defend ‘freedom’ by avoiding either what it saw as the ‘atomistic’ forms of individualism encouraged by liberal capitalism or the violent Gleichschaltung of political totalitarianism: their middle way was a ‘true’, ‘Christian’ freedom based upon a holistic, organic and community-oriented ‘personalism’. It shared a broader intellectual scepticism about whether the freedoms of laissez-faire ‘liberalism’ could survive in the conditions of ‘mass’ society; however, despite some claims that Oldham and his companions advocated ‘Christian totalitarianism’, the group clearly rejected this option at an early stage in its discussions and remained committed to maintaining (and even strengthening) ‘liberal’ civil rights and parliamentary government. Despite stressing political decentralisation and active citizenship, however, the group members’ vision of freedom assumed that democracy would take a more constrained form that was not untypical in post-war political reconstruction across Western Europe.

in This is your hour
Capitalism, Communism and ‘planning for freedom’
John Carter Wood

One of the Oldham group’s ‘middle ways’ had a clearly secular source: the sociology of Karl Mannheim. The (personally agnostic) Hungarian sociologist believed that Christianity could strengthen liberal democracy in its confrontation with totalitarianism and also humanise the inevitable shift towards more ‘planned’ societies. All group members broadly criticised what they saw as the waste, inequality, greed and chaos of laissez-faire capitalism, and some saw value in Marxism, even if its atheism and the oppression of Soviet Communism were rejected. Mannheim’s concept of ‘planning for freedom’ offered a middle way that would encourage Christian-inspired norms but still leave room for individual liberty and local initiative. But the concept also provoked internal dissent in the group from both the right and the left. These discussions were also reflected in mixed feelings about post-war reconstruction: while the group welcomed moves towards ‘social justice’, some members’ critiques of the emerging welfare state show the contested margins of its consensus.

in This is your hour
Abstract only
John Carter Wood

This chapter serves as a general conclusion. It summarises the main arguments and the key ‘middle ways’ structuring each chapter. It then pulls back to locate the Oldham group in the context of 1930s and 1940s British Christianity and public intellectual debate. The book’s contribution to the topics of the relation of Christianity to social life; British reactions to totalitarianism, war, and social reconstruction; intellectual responses to ‘modernity’; and secularisation are drawn out. A few ‘blind spots’ in the group’s thinking – especially with regard to gender and imperialism – are considered. A final section considers the continuing relevance of the Oldham group’s efforts to solve inherent contradictions in modern society and to define a legitimate place for faith in ‘secular’ societies.

in This is your hour
John Carter Wood

Chapter 2 introduces one of the group’s key concepts – what Oldham called the ‘frontier’ between faith and social life – and examines how the group defined a socially relevant religious worldview despite there being dramatically divergent viewpoints among Christians about the relationship between faith and society. The group saw an emerging ‘convergence’ in Christian demands for a radical reshaping of dominant ideas, cultural norms and social practice in accordance with Christian understandings of human nature and the purposes of social life. They sought ‘middle axioms’ to express how eternal, universal Christian principles applied to modern, complex societies. Five theological influences on the group stand out: (1) a self-critical theological ‘liberalism’, (2) the ‘Christian realism’ of Reinhold Niebuhr, (3) the neo-Thomist philosophy of Jacques Maritain, (4) ‘continental’ Protestant theology (which was largely rejected) and (5) varieties of ‘personalism’

in This is your hour
John Carter Wood

The group aimed to bring Christian principles and secular knowledge into creative relationship. Urging Christians to be more open to scientific knowledge, its members, however, also condemned what they saw as extreme forms of secular ‘materialism’: they sought a modus vivendi to enable Christianity to influence the ‘common life’. Secularisation, it was argued, had led to totalitarianism, which was seen – whether in its Communist, Fascist or National Socialist forms – as an ersatz religion. But secular knowledge was also believed to offer something to Christians, and since the group perceived Britain as a deeply ‘secular’ society (and likely to remain so), a constructive relationship between Christians and non-Christians was a key goal: it should be possible, Oldham argued, to go ‘part of the way together’, even if finding a middle way along the ‘frontier’ also meant emphasising faith’s distinctive strengths and insights into the human condition.

in This is your hour
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‘This is your hour’
John Carter Wood

The Oldham group were British Christian intellectuals, with each term locating it in a key sphere: a national (British) context with specific identities and assumptions; a religious (Christian) context defined against ‘secularism’; and a public (intellectual) context marked by certain forms of cultural authority. After a long period of neglect, there is increasing interest in Christian responses to the Second World War, the crises that preceded it and the social rebuilding that followed. The concept of ‘middle ways’ is introduced to describe the group’s recurring intellectual approach, referring either to taking a moderate position between perceived extremes or constructing a synthesis of different – even contradictory – elements. Middle ways reflected the intellectual content of the group’s ideas or also strategies for implementing them. Various kinds of ‘betweenness’ were involved and define the chapters that follow: paths were sought between Protestantism and Catholicism, faith and secularity, laissez-faire capitalism and collectivist socialism, rootless internationalism and nationalism, freedom and order, and egalitarianism and elitism.

in This is your hour