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Thirteenth-century mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg characterizes her revelations not as visions but as greetings, a term she uses to encompass gestures, verbal exchanges, and experiences perceived through multiple senses. Mechthild’s mysticism is thus best understood as a series of scenarios, the embodied nature of which cannot be fully contained by text. Using a performance studies approach, this paper identifies the traces of performance—textual prompts inextricable from their (explicit or implied, real or imagined) completion in physical and vocal acts—that can be found throughout Mechthild’s Flowing Light of the Godhead. How does Mechthild’s use of performance repertoires convey the mystical union as an explicitly embodied experience? How does erotic language performatively link text with physical sensation, drawing attention to the author’s corporeal experience while striving to affect the reader on a sensual level? Finally, what ritual performance might result if her text is taken as a script meant to prompt the reader into recitation?


Mechthild von Magdeburg, performance, mystical union, theatre, embodiment

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