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The Mystic Fable, Volume Two

The Sixteenth And Seventeenth Centuries

More than two decades have passed since Chicago published the first volume of this groundbreaking work in the Religion and Postmodernism series. It quickly became influential across a wide range of disciplines and helped to make the tools of poststructuralist thought available to religious studies and theology, especially in the areas of late medieval and early modern mysticism.
Though the second volume remained in fragments at the time of his death, Michel de Certeau had the foresight to leave his literary executor detailed instructions for its completion, which formed the basis for the present work. Together, both volumes solidify Certeau’s place as a touchstone of twentieth-century literature and philosophy, and continue his exploration of the paradoxes of historiography; the construction of social reality through practice, testimony, and belief; the theorization of speech in angelology and glossolalia; and the interplay of prose and poetry in discourses of the ineffable. This book will be of vital interest to scholars in religious studies, theology, philosophy, history, and literature.

312 pages | 9 line drawings, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Religion and Postmodernism

History: European History

Jewish Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Religion: Philosophy of Religion, Theology, and Ethics


"The Mystic Fable is a work of the first importance in its examination of early modern mystics. It continues and expands upon Certeau’s life-long project of understanding how we define ourselves in relation to others. The present, second volume provides an argument for which readers of Certeau have been waiting a long time—and they will not be disappointed. Certeau himself explained that the first volume of Mystic Fable traces the constitution of a “new science” (mystical speech) and its enunciation in the speaking subject.  The second volume, continued Certeau, is the presentation of the contents of this science. Brilliantly and intelligently edited and introduced by the scholar Luce Giard, Mystic Fable II is the product of a singularly gifted and innovative philosopher."

Françoise Meltzer, University of Chicago

"It is rare, and dazzling, to encounter in one scholar and thinker the erudition, historical range, and theoretical scope, rigor, and creativity, that are Michel de Certeau's. His Mystic Fable I, published in Chicago's Religion and Postmodernism Series in English translation in 1992, stood out at the time, and stands today, as one of our most learned and theoretically significant engagements with late medieval and early modern mysticism. The translation and publication of this second volume will not simply revisit a singular voice and moment in the history of twentieth century French thought; it will also renew and expand that voice for English readers along lines that remain as relevant today as ever. This exceptional and long awaited work will be received enthusiastically, and put to productive scholarly and pedagogical use, in contexts including religious studies and theology, philosophy, medieval and early modern history, and literary studies."

Thomas Carlson, UC Santa Barbara

Table of Contents

Mystic Historicities
1. A Social Documentation
2. A Non-Place of Philosophy
3. Unstable Scientific Objects
Mystic Operations

Chapter One
The Look: Nicholas of Cusa
1. The All- Seeing
2. A Geometry of the Look
3. The Circular Discourse: “All and Each at the Same Time”

Chapter Two
The Poem and Its Prose
1. The Poetic Beginning
2. A Scenography of History: From Silence to Discourse

Chapter Three
Shards of Speech

Chapter Four
Uses of Tradition
1. On Interpretation as a “Received” Text
2. Surin, Reader of John of the Cross through R. Gaultier
3. John of the Cross, a “Saint” Who Wields Authority
4. The “Mystic” Language
5. The “Mystic Phrases”: To Say and Not to Say
6. From Extraordinary Graces to the “Universal and Confused Notion”

Chapter Five
Absolute Reading
1. The Book of the “Spirituals”: A Historical Framework
2. The “Moments” of Reading

Chapter Six
Stories of Passions
A Stage for Voices: A Historical Site
The Modalizing Excess
Breakage and Noises
Chapter Seven
The Experimental Science of Madness
1. Distance or Space
2. The Other World: The Invention of a Body

Chapter Eight
Angelic Speech
1. Enunciative Metaphors: “Angelizare”
2. Styles: Being and Saying
3. Figures of Exceedance
4. Retreats before History

Chapter Nine
Biblical Erudition
1. Chiaroscuros: From Corruption to Reform
2. Theoretical Preliminaries
3. Le Maistre de Sacy
4. Richard Simon

Chapter Ten
The Strange Secret: Pascal
The Fourth Letter to Mademoiselle de Roannez
Text and Pre-texts
The Staging of the Enunciatory Instance
Tripartition of Modalities
The Ruses of Argumentation: A War of Movement
Meaning: Thinking of / Passing to / the Other
“You”: The Quoted God
The Approach Conceals

The Opera of Speech: Glossolalias
Fictions of Speech
A “Believing”
Two Types
The Illusion of Meaning
Pfister: The Equivocation of Communication
Saussure: A Speaking Taken for a Language
The Vocal Institution
The Senseless and Repetition
Ebrietas spiritualis: An Opera

Index of Names

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