“You should know that God must and pour Himself into the moment He finds you ready.”
(German sermon 4, trans M. O’C. Walshe)

Meister Eckhart Gesellschaft Conference 2013

Imagery and the Language of Images in Meister Eckhart and in his Time

Mainz 19. – 21.04.2013

A conference of the Meister-Eckhart-Gesellschaft, the Academy of the Diocese of Mainz and the Max-Weber-Kolleg for Cultural and Social Science Studies, Erfurt.

Mystical communication is communication about the unspeakable und unthinkable, a dance on the knife-edge of the linguistic expressibility and the intellectual graspability of the spoken word. But exactly here lies its attraction.

The language of Eckhart’s German works, on the one hand characterised by its many seemingly innovatory latinate loan words, on the other hand by an accumulation of rhetorical stylistic devices such as oxymoron, tautology and metaphor, has fascinated scholars of German Studies from the beginning. The impenetrability of his images, embedded into a fully transparent sentence structure, has been made responsible for the condemnation of the “heretical sounding” articles of his (especially German) works. Indeed, to this imagery is owed primarily his reputation as a mystic. Eckhart makes use of this extraordinary language of images as a means of confronting the contradictio in adiecto inherent in speaking of the ineffable and then also to translate the conceptual exactness and the speculative power of his thinking into the apprehensive capacity of his listeners and into the expressive potential of everyday speech. And so we hear about the way sealing wax embosses, about echoes as the reverberations of voices not heard, about the equality and inequality of grassblades, about a process of perception which unifies wood and eye, about images which reciprocally reflect but are not fixed. He has made it his task, as Henry Suso later surmises, “to drive out images with images” and therewith at length to question the expressiveness of symbols and images in the face of the divine.

Scholarship has hitherto tended to neglect the rich tradition which supports Eckhart’s language of images. And this is by no means only germanophone. We could thus ention the the linguistic side of Dionysius’ Negative Theology; thinkable is also the poetically-couched theology of Marguerite Porete or of Mechthild of Magdeburg.
The conference will pursue the following questions: To what extent do we find Eckhart’s language of images in the Latin Works; to what extent does it carry to perfection or indeed go beyond Eckhart’s conceptually elaborate language; to what extent is it influenced by 13th/14th-century literary developments in France or Germany or is there maybe a reciprocity with contemporary musical trends, fine art and art theory. With the female mystics we swiftly assume influences from courtly literature and culture on their diction – could this be the case with a university scholar?

We would like to invite academics from diverse disciplines to present the results of their research into the literary language of Eckhart’s German and Latin works in an intertextual, intermedial or diachronistic-comparative context or into the language of images as used by Eckhart’s contemporaries. The presentation may be in German or in English.

Prof. Cora Dietl

Speakers’ travel and accommodation costs will be reimbursed. Contributions will be published after the conference in the M-E-G Yearbook.

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