English Research Seminar Professor Laura Saetveit Miles (University of Bergen)
” ‘Writing—to the Moment' in Richard Methley's Mystical Diary Refectorium Salutis (1487)”
Richard Methley (d. 1527/8), a Carthusian monk in the north of England, wrote a series of mystical treatises in Latin that have received minimal attention from modern scholars. For that reason it has gone unnoticed that in his diary-like work Refectorium Salutis (The Refectory of Salvation) Methley employs a quite unusual narrative strategy: he writes down his visionary experiences as they are happening, giving an immediacy to his text that the British literary tradition does not see the likes of until hundreds of years later with the development of the novel and Samuel Richardson's experimentations with “writing—to the moment.” This lecture will set Methley's own precocious moments of “writing—to the moment” in the context of his text's coherent program of temporal markers, extending from the liturgical year, to the hours of the Divine Office, to the indivisible instant and the “now” of the eternal present shared by narrator and reader — and God. With the help of Augustine and Paul Ricoeur, I will show how Methley's whole chronological system, and especially his narrative immediacy, captures to some extent the eternity of the divine and the time-rupturing mystical unity achieved by Methley in his ecstasies. Such an innovative intersection of literary and theological effects highlights how the Refectorium forces us to rethink a newly elongated history of “writing—to the moment” in terms of the sacred and not just the fictional.