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Title: Hunters, Hounds, and Allegorical Readers - The Body of the Text and the Text of the Body in Bernard of Clairvaux's Sermons on the Song of Songs
Author(s): BURROWS, M.S.
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 14    Date: 2004   
Pages: 113-137
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.14.0.505190

Abstract :
This essay explores the nature and function of allegorical reading as found in the sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux (†1153) on the Song of Songs. Bernard’s approach in these sermons should be understood, from a modern vantage point, not as an exegetical method but as a theological tool. As postmodern literary critics have suggested, allegorical readings are a form of ‘fiction’ by making meaning based upon a strong (mis)reading of the text. In a similar vein, Bernard’s interpretive approach is meant to help monks read and translate not only the literal sense of the text but also the carnal experiences of the body. Such an allegorical reading offers his community a means of spiritual exercise, or monastic ‘body-building’. In a formal sense, such a pre-modern use of an allegorical approach to texts anticipates the postmodern fascination with it as an interpretive strategy capable of subverting the literal sense in order to inscribe a community’s own meaning upon a classic text (scripture). The interpreted literal sense becomes in Bernard’s adroit hands the proper con-text for monastic conversion of life.

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