Regulating Passions: Emotional Discipline in Early Mediaeval Monastic Rules

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Early Mediaeval monastic rules did not only provide outlines for organizing communities, behavioural norms and disciplinary measures but also aimed at controlling, repressing, and fostering emotions. They developed distinct strategies of emotional discipline based on different notions of the nature of emotions and their impact on the pursuit of salvation. I compare the emotional disciplines of three monastic rules: the Rule of Benedict, which became the guiding norm of Mediaeval monastic life; Caesarius of Arles’ Rule for Nuns, the oldest monastic rule written for a female community; and the Regula cuiusdam ad virgines, which responded to Benedict’s and Caesarius’ rules. Benedict’s emotional discipline centered on instilling fear and love and focused on repressing emotions that were harmful to the community and on fostering the motivation to submit to monastic discipline. Caesarius is primarily focused on a permanent spatial separation from the outside world and expected that enclosure and submission to the Rule made negative emotions irrelevant. The author of the Regula cuiusdam ad virgines considered emotions, rather than acts, the ultimate benchmark for attaining salvation and developed a disciplinary program that combined elements of Caesarius’ and Benedict’s rules with an elaborate system of incitement, surveillance and constant disclosure.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-40
JournalPakistan Journal of Historical Studies
StatePublished - 2020


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