Marrying Christ: Bernard of Clairvaux and the Song of Songs in Aemilia Lanyer’s "Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum"
In 1611, an Englishwoman named Aemilia Lanyer published a volume of poetry and prose titled Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Throughout the volume, which centres on an 1800-line retelling of Christ’s death and resurrection, Lanyer draws from the Song of Songs as well as other biblical texts to produce an image of Christ as a Bridegroom. In so doing, Lanyer inserts herself into a hermeneutical genealogy populated by both Protestant and Catholic writers. A key figure in this interpretive tradition is the twelfth-century abbot and mystic Bernard of Clairvaux, whose sermon cycle on the first part of the Song of Songs offers a detailed character study of the Bridegroom. This article examines the cross-confessional nature of the bridal-mystical tradition epitomized by Bernard before conducting a close reading of the images that Lanyer associates with Christ. Ultimately, this article suggests that Lanyer puts bridal theology to a new communal use by producing a devotional poetic space in which female readers can engage with each other through Christ and with Christ through each other.
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