The Sense of Feeling in Richard Rolle’s Incendium Amoris

Arthur Russell, PhD student in the Department of English at ASU will be presenting his award-winning paper at ASU before he travels to the Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University to present at the Medieval Institute in May.

Eventbrite - Ad Hoc Lecture: The Sense of Feeling in Richard Rolle’s Incendium Amoris

Free and open to the public

Richard Rolle’s Incendium Amoris (1343) is something of a watershed work. The treatise is the first of the English hermit’s major works that does not derive the majority of its content or form from canonical sources. Instead, Incendium Amoris is structured around Rolle’s lived experience. In the opening lines of the prologue, for example, Rolle recounts a rather peculiar event, a divine encounter, when he felt “in a real not imaginary way” the fire of the love of God burning in his heart. At some level, Rolle’s sensual imagery runs counter to longstanding conceptions, and suspicions, of emotional and physical experience of the divine. In particular, Rolle’s imagery challenges a strand of medieval theology that regards the somatic and the affective as inferior modes of spirituality. Incendium Amoris, I suggest, is Rolle’s first formal attempt to marry the affective (vis inferior) and the rational (interioris hominis spiritus), to construct a contemplative discourse that utilizes, and even values, physical sensation.

The aim of this paper is to explore the role of “feeling” in the Incendium Amoris. The paper begins with an examination of Rolle’s insistence on the physicality of his experience of the fire of love, and ends with a consideration of his highly stylized, and overtly sensual, conception of spiritual rapture (raptus). This paper argues that the mystical theology advanced in Incendium Amoris offers an altogether innovative approach to mystical union that not only validates somatic and affective experience, but also perceives them as integral components for true “union” with God.

About the ACMRS Graduate Student Travel Award:
Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) announces a research award for the outstanding paper written by an ASU, NAU, or UA graduate student working in any aspect of Medieval or early Renaissance Studies. The award provides up to $500 toward the travel expenses of the student to attend the International Congress on Medieval Studies sponsored by the Medieval Institute and held every year in May at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo. *Please note that in order to receive the award you must be able to attend the next Medieval Congress as posted on their Web site to present (

The conference is an important international meeting of scholars engaged in the study of Medieval and early Renaissance culture. The quality of the conference has attracted numerous international participants. The Program Committee, however, has continued to welcome the participation of graduate students and junior scholars, making this conference one of the best forums for those beginning their scholarly careers. In support of the ACMRS research award, the Medieval Institute will guarantee a place in an appropriate session on the program for the graduate student selected and will waive all fees for registration, as well as provide for conference-sponsored meals and housing. The winning paper will also be included in the ACMRS Spring lecture series. Applications should consist of a 15-page paper on any subject suitable to the Kalamazoo program and the name and contact information of a faculty mentor ACMRS may consult regarding your work. For more information about the application process, contact the ACMRS Outreach Coordinator (Kendra TerBeek). Applications should be emailed to Dr. Robert Bjork, Director, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Arizona State University, at by the application due date.

Part of the ACMRS Ad Hoc Lecture Series

Lattie F. Coor Hall, Room 4403, ASU Tempe Campus