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By J. Raymond

According to refractions of previous ideals, smooth angels - immediately poor and comforting, frighteningly different and reassuringly beneficent - have bought a strong symbolic worth. This interdisciplinary learn seems at how people conversed with angels in medieval and early sleek Europe, and the way they defined and represented those conversations.

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Extra info for Conversations with Angels: Essays Towards a History of Spiritual Communication, 1100–1700

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While monastics treated angels as noble cousins, the Scholastics regarded them somewhat as our more imaginative contemporaries consider extraterrestrial aliens. Without risking a too-facile chronology, we can observe that, at certain points in the later Middle Ages, attitudes toward conversation with angels appear to change. g. 14 Even within monastic literature, angelic interactions cease to be uniformly described as a fact of existence, and are occasionally represented as an object of desire.

But Tasso himself blamed his dementia on a severe loss of Christian faith. Deliberately or not, he stage-managed his definitive imprisonment to coincide with his thirty-fifth birthday, 11 March 1579, ‘nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita’, the moment that Dante had identified with personal and religious crisis in the opening verse of the Inferno. 48 Judging by its arguments and characterization, Il messaggiero constituted Tasso’s subsequent attempt, in the solitude of his cell, to reconvert himself to Christianity.

3. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, ed. , 61 vols (Cambridge, 1964–81), 14: 107–19, 192–93. 4. Stuart Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 1997), esp. ch. 19. 5. Though for a discussion of the limited usefulness of the term ‘angelology’, see my Milton’s Angels: The Early-Modern Imagination (Oxford, 2010), ch. 2. Introduction 19 6. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiæ, vol. 9: Angels (Ia. 50–64), ed. and trans. Kenelm Foster (Cambridge, 1968), xxi–xxii for the editors’ arguments; St Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Separate Substances, trans.

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