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Kienzle, Beverly Mayne, Hildegard of Bingen and her Gospel Homilies: Speaking New Mysteries.

Kienzle, Beverly Mayne, Hildegard of Bingen and her Gospel Homilies: Speaking New Mysteries (Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts, 12), Turnhout, Brepols, 2009; hardback; pp. xvi, 338; R.R.P. 70.00 [euro]; ISBN 9782503517773.

This is the 'first comprehensive study' (p. 16) of Hildegard of Bingen's Expositiones evangeliorum, or homilies on the Gospels. Beverly Mayne Kienzle is well known for her scholarship on Hildegard as a preacher and teacher. This fine study complements her other two works on the homilies--a critical edition, with Carolyn Muessig, in Hildegard Bingensis Opera minora (Brepols, 2007) and an English translation, Homilies on the Gospels (Liturgical Press, 2011)--and makes these lesser known Hildegardian works accessible to a broader audience.

The Expositiones consists of fifty-eight homilies, most of which were delivered by the magistra of Rupertsberg to her community of nuns, and four delivered to the monks of her former community at Mt St Disibod. These homilies illustrate Hildegard's preaching, teaching, and exegesis in practice, and present an extraordinary witness to a medieval woman instructing her community during the course of the liturgical year. As Kienzle stresses, for Hildegard the responsibility of religious leaders to instruct their communities was integral to her concept of leadership. The homilies demonstrate how Hildegard put this tenet into practice for her nuns at Rupertsberg.

Hildegard's originality is evident in her homiletic approach. Kienzle refers to her exegetical method as 'intratextual glossing', a form of progressive commentary through which the speaker follows the Gospel text word by word, and inserts into it a running commentary that provides her spiritual interpretation of the text. The gloss constitutes a narrative in its own right, creating a 'dramatic narrative exegesis' on the Gospel texts. In describing the performative quality and context of the homilies, Kienzle posits that 'the story unfolds like the acts of a drama voiced and performed by Hildegard herself as magistra, narrator, and interpreter' (p. 152). The author also examines three characteristically Hildegardian themes in the Expositiones--her concept of salvation history, the 'virtues', and heresy--to situate the homilies within the context of her life and work.

Kienzle's analysis of Hildegards exegetical method poses questions about her claims to spiritual authority. The magistra does not adopt a visionary persona in her homilies. The absence of reference to her visions in these works indicates that she felt no need to justify her authority to preach and teach when it involved commenting on scripture to her own community of nuns. Her position as their superior, bound with the obligation to instruct, provided the authorising environment to deliver her exegesis.

Importantly, Kienzle situates Hildegard and her learning within the wider context of the vibrant monastic milieu of religious reform and intellectual exchange. She deftly outlines the breadth of monastic women's learning in Germany in the twelfth century, and their involvement in intellectual networks, emphasising the formative nature of this religious culture for Hildegard. Through the Expositiones Hildegard develops a distinctive exegesis for a female audience that in turn 'speaks to multiple audiences', like her other visionary and epistolary works.

Julie Hotchin, Independent Scholar, Canberra
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Author:Hotchin, Julie
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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