This book introduces students to Christian mysticism and modern critical responses to it. Christianity has a rich tradition of mystical theology that first emerged in the writings of the early church fathers, and flourished during the Middle Ages. Today Christian mysticism is increasingly recognised as an important Christian heritage relevant to today's spiritual seekers. The book sets out to provide students and other interested readers with access to the main theoretical approaches to Christian mysticism - including those propounded by William James, Steven Katz, Bernard McGinn, Michael Sells, Denys Turner and Caroline Walker-Bynum. It also explores postmodern re-readings of Christian mysticism by authors such as Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Marion and Jean-FranÃ§ois Lyotard. The book first introduces students to the main themes that underpin Christian mysticism. It then reflects on how modern critics have understood each of them, demonstrating that stark delineation between the different theoretical approaches eventually collapses under the weight of the complex interaction between experience and knowledge that lies at the heart of Christian mysticism. In doing so, the book presents a deliberate challenge to a strictly perennialist reading of Christian mysticism. Anyone even remotely familiar with Christian mysticism will know that renewed interest in Christian mystical writers has created a huge array of scholarship with which students of mysticism need to familiarise themselves. This book outlines the various modern theoretical approaches in a manner easily accessible to a reader with little or no previous knowledge of this area, and offers a philosophical/theological introduction to Christian mystical writers beyond the patristic period important for the Latin Western Tradition.
Louise Nelstrop is a Research Fellow in the Centre of Christianity and Culture at Regent's Park College, Oxford where she teaches Christian mysticism. She also works as a tutor for the Continuing Education Department, running short courses on Christian mysticism. Prior to this she was a lecturer in religious studies at the College of Religious Studies, Mahidol University, Bangkok. She completed her doctoral thesis on the English mystic, Richard Rolle, at Birmingham University in 2002. In addition to Christian mysticism, she researches and publishes in modern Christian spirituality, carrying out ethnographic research in the fields of practical theology and healthcare. Kevin Magill is a part-time lecturer in the Theology and Religious Studies Department at the University of Bristol. Most recently, he has been teaching in the area of Christian medieval mystical writers, specialising in the writings of the fourteenth-century visionary Julian of Norwich. He completed a doctoral thesis entitled 'Visionary Didacticism in Julian of Norwich's Showings' at the University of Bristol in 2002. This was published as, Julian of Norwich: Mystic or visionary?, by Routledge in 2006. Bradley B. Onishi is a PhD candidate in the Religious Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to this he completed an MPhil at the University of Oxford. He has published work in contemporary philosophy of religion, as well as the history of Christianity. He is currently working on a dissertation that explores the theme of the erotic in Christian mysticism.
’Nelstop’s text is highly commendable for its navigation of a diverse range of scholars, and it serves as a helpful guide to the ever growing mound of study by describing its practical application.’ Journal of Anglican and Episcopal History ’...make[s] significant inroads in teasing out logical connections amongst interpretive theories and interpreted themes.’ SOPHIA