Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages

Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages

Michelle Karnes

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226425313

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

This book revises the history of medieval imagination with a detailed analysis of its role in the period's meditations and theories of cognition. The book understands imagination in its technical, philosophical sense, taking its cue from Bonaventure, the thirteenth-century scholastic theologian and philosopher who provided the first sustained account of how the philosophical imagination could be transformed into a devotional one. The book examines Bonaventure's meditational works, the Meditationes vitae Christi, the Stimulis amoris, Piers Plowman, and Nicholas Love's Myrrour, among others, and argues that the cognitive importance that imagination enjoyed in scholastic philosophy informed its importance in medieval meditations on the life of Christ. Emphasizing the cognitive significance of both imagination and the meditations that relied on it, this book revises a long-standing association of imagination with the Middle Ages. In this account, imagination was not simply an object of suspicion but also a crucial intellectual, spiritual, and literary resource that exercised considerable authority.