We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Voice of My Beloved

The Song of Songs in Western Medieval Christianity

By E. Ann Matter

Publication Year: 1992

The Song of Songs, eight chapters of love lyrics found in the collection of wisdom literature attributed to Solomon, is the most enigmatic book of the Bible. For thousands of years Jews and Christians alike have preserved it in the canon of scripture and used it in liturgy. Exegetes saw it as a central text for allegorical interpretations, and so the Song of Songs has exerted an enormous influence on spirituality and mysticism in the Western tradition.

In the Voice of My Beloved, E. Ann Matter focuses on the most fertile moment of Song of Songs interpretation: the Middle Ages. At least eighty Latin commentaries on the text survive from the period. In tracing the evolution of these commentaries, Matter reveals them to be a vehicle for expressing changing medieval ideas about the church, the relationship between body and soul, and human and divine love. She shows that the commentaries constitute a well-defined genre of medieval Latin literature. And in discussing the exegesis of the Song of Songs, she takes into account the modern exegesis of the book and feminist critiques of the theology embodied in the text.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (68.6 KB)
pp. vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (113.8 KB)
pp. ix-x

Because I have been interested in commentaries on the Song of Songs since I first began to study the Middle Ages, the completion of this book gives me the opportunity to thank a long list of organizations, friends, teachers, and students who have helped me to understand and articulate...


pdf iconDownload PDF (214.6 KB)
pp. xi-xiv

read more

The Vulgate Text of the Song of Songs

pdf iconDownload PDF (735.0 KB)
pp. xv-xxxvi

...11 while the king was on his couch my nard gave out its fragrancenc suscitetis neque evigilare faciatis dilectam donee ipsa velit6: i my beloved went down into his garden to the garden of spicesThe Latin is adapted from the critical Vulgate edition of R. Weber,1with some changes of spelling to reflect medieval forms more closely, and...

read more

1 Introduction to the Genre

pdf iconDownload PDF (956.4 KB)
pp. 3-19

The complexities of the commentary on and use of the Song of Songs in medieval Europe may seem on first consideration to be of limited interest, addressing only specialists in Christian literature. Actually, the subject is relevant to many aspects of the study of medieval religious...

read more

2 Hidden Origins: The Legacy of Alexandria

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 20-48

The essential framework of medieval Latin commentary on the Song of Songs developed in the ratified intellectual atmosphere of Alexandria, far from the cloisters and schoolrooms of medieval Europe. To understand the basic premises on which the genre developed we need to consider...

read more

3 The Key to the Code: Allegory and the Song of Songs

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 49-85

The last chapter pointed to allegory as a major factor of medieval Song of Songs commentaries, one not always sympathetically received by modern readers. In part this is due to modern suspicion of traditional Christian...

read more

4 The Song of Songs as the Changing Portrait of the Church

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.4 MB)
pp. 86-122

The second commentary of Honorius demonstrates in action some of the outstanding characteristics of medieval allegory of the Song of Songs: the elaborate schematization which nevertheless allows for fluidity of movement between modes of interpretation, and the manipulation of...

read more

5 The Marriage of the Soul

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 123-150

The association of the Song of Songs with the love between God and the individual soul is present in the Christian tradition from the beginning; as we have seen, it is present in Origen, and remains a secondary...

read more

6 The Woman Who is the All: The Virgin Mary and the Song of Songs

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 151-177

The female gender of one of the voices of the Song of Songs, so much more obvious in Latin than in English, elicited little comment from the medieval exegetes who worked in the allegorial and tropological modes...

read more

7 The Genre as Trope: The Song of Songs in the Vernacular

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 178-200

In showing how commentary on the Song of Songs developed as a medieval genre, this book has frequently looked backward, to historical precedent and literary tradition. This final chapter will instead suggest some ways in which the genre moved outward from its monastic setting...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (99.6 KB)
pp. 201-202

It is a long way from third-century Alexandria to early modern Europe. As the Song of Songs moved through these overlapping and contrasting worlds, it was read by each generation as biblical evidence of God's love— for his people, collectively and individually, and for the medieval Christian...

Appendix: Latin Commentary on the Song of Songs to 1200

pdf iconDownload PDF (279.2 KB)
pp. 203-210

Index of Biblical References

pdf iconDownload PDF (113.6 KB)
pp. 210

Index of Manuscripts

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.1 KB)
pp. 214-215

Index of Modern Scholars

pdf iconDownload PDF (332.5 KB)
pp. 216-220

General Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (742.0 KB)
pp. 221-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200560
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812214208

Page Count: 268
Publication Year: 1992