Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 9418
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Pezzini , Domenico.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: The Vocabulary of Joy in Julian of Norwich
  • Source: Studies in Spirituality 4, ( 1994): Pages 94 - 115.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Joy Julian of Norwich, Mystic Language Linguistics Middle English Language Mystics Theology Women in Religion
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14- 15
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table: One table. Chart of nine words used by Julian for her doctrine of joy. Includes the number of usages for each term in her text.
  • Abstract: This paper analyzes 'joy' as a theological theme which is of the utmost importance in Julian of Norwich's "Revelations." It may be taken as an experiment in 'affective theology,' by which I mean that emotions and feelings (joy in this case) can be a 'locus theologicus,' that is a way to know and explore God, and can consequently provide a 'language' to speak about God, or in other terms to write theology. The approach is basically linguistic, which means that words and syntacitic structures are analyzed to reach concepts and ideas. After a few introductory remarks on 'affective theology,' and a survey which gives a total of 685 occurrences of nine relevant lexical items belonging to the semantic field of joy, these words are analyzed according to their grammatical class: nouns are used to define the meaning, verbs to describe the dynamics, adjectives and adverbs to reflect the radiation of joy. This distinction is mainly practical in that all these aspects overlap and are interconnected. What emerges from the analysis of the 'company of words' characteristic of Julian's vocabulary shows that joy is both a theological and a psychological category. In the first sense it defines the very essence of God, in which we participate as creatures. This means that here joy is only partially realized and always mixed with some form of pain, but thanks to the presence in our 'sensuality' of God's 'substance' we are caught in a double movement: joy will grow from partiality to totality, while pain will be reduced from partialty to nothing. Psychologically joy is felt as peace, rest, comfort, and security. Joy is also perceived as the reconciliation of the various conflicts which originate from our segmented being broken by the Fall. The group of verbs Julian selects and the way she builds her clauses show that joy, far from being interpreted as 'self-fulfillment,' is first and foremost seen as the sharing and the reflection of the happiness of God: this is said through a skillfull use of various mirroring structures, both at verbal and syntactic level. Again joy appears to be closely connected with communion and reconciliation. Finally adjectives and adverbs describe the radiation of joy mainly through the face of God and of Jesus, and the pouring out of divine blessings over all creation. [Reproduced with permission of the Titus Brandsma Institute (The Netherlands). Copies of "Studies in Spirituality" can be ordered from the publisher: Peeters Publishers, Bondgenotenlaan 153, B-3000 Louvain (www.peeters-leuven.be).]
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Verona
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1994.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 09266453