Collapse Into Silence: Denys the Areopagite as the Key Source of Richard of St. Victor

Change log
Attanasio, Clelia 

This thesis deals with the process of transmission of Pseudo-Dionysius’ texts over the centuries. Dionysius’ texts have been translated into Latin by many scholars- above all, John Eriugena, whose translation was used during the Middle Ages. The school of St. Victor, during the eleventh and twelfth century in France, was strongly fascinated by Eriugena’s translation, as it can be seen from the commentary written by Hugh of St. Victor (c.1096–1141). Richard of St. Victor (c. 1110 – 1173), Hugh’s pupil, also read Denys’ texts and was able to build a system of contemplation based on Pseudo-Dionysius’ philosophy, which can be seen in his text the Benjamin major. In order to render the path these texts took over the centuries, the dissertation describes, first, Pseudo-Dionysius’ philosophy and his Neoplatonic inheritance, especially focusing on Iamblichus’ and Proclus’ philosophy (chapter 1). Then, the study describes the historical and philosophical environment in which Richard of St. Victor developed his contemplative theory in the Benjamin major, and how he came to know Dionysius’ texts in the translation of John Eriugena (chapter 2). Hence, the thesis goes on with a detailed description of the topics and structure of both Richard and Denys’ texts, in order to underline some common themes between these two philosophers (chapter 3). At this point, the study explores and develops the discussion on the common topics identified in the previous chapters, such as angelology, the differences between theurgy and hierurgy and how this difference bears on Richard’s sacramentalism and symbology, the role of Moses as philosophical archetype, and the concept of love when reaching the apex of contemplation (chapter 4). Finally, this thesis offers some possible interpretations to better understand Dionysius’ legacy in Middle Ages, especially in Richard of St. Victor’s texts, based upon what the research has found.

Hedley, Douglas
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Richard of St. Victor, Theurgy, Neoplatonism, Medieval Philosophy, Theology, Moses
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge