The Anticlaudianus and the “Proper” Language of Theology

The Anticlaudianus and the “Proper” Language of Theology

Sweeney, Eileen C.

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 4 (1987)


In Book V of the Anticlaudianus Prudence accompanied by Reason arrives at the summit of the world. Prudence has undertaken the journey from earth to heaven at the behest of Nature; what they seek is a soul from God for the new and perfectly good man they are fashioning. Alan spends Book V portraying the transition from earth to heaven. This section of the poem emphasizes the discontinuity between the two realms. The laws of nature are contradicted everywhere Prudence looks, and Prudence herself loses her ability to function properly; most important, and a mirror of these changes in the natural order, the language of the poem discards the rules of ordinary discourse. What I would like to trace in this paper is the relationship of theology to the liberal arts and of proper to improper language portrayed by the poem at the juncture between heaven and earth. An examination of the events and language of the Anticlaudianus reveals that though, according to the poem, there is a definite place where the rules of language and the laws of nature no longer function, they cease to function in a way that it is possible to explicate. Language ceases to function “normally” because it is transcended and becomes a “higher” kind of language, and the laws of nature no longer function because Prudence finds herself in the presence of the source of those laws.

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