Bernard of Clairvaux Criticism - Essay

Etienne Gilson (essay date 1940)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Gilson, Etienne. “Regula LXXII.” In The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard, translated by A. H. C. Downes, pp. 6-13. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1990.

[In the following excerpt from a work originally published in 1940, Gilson explores some of the influences on Bernard's writing, including Aelred of Rievaulx, Gilbert of Holland, Isaac L'Etoile, Cistercian mysticism, and, most importantly, Cicero's writings on love.]

Behind [St. Bernard and William of St. Thierry] certain secondary figures are visible in the background. Aelred of Rievaulx, although belonging to a later generation, still directly depends upon St. Bernard. Living wholly within...

(The entire section is 2475 words.)

Thomas Merton (essay date 1954)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Merton, Thomas. “Saint Bernard's Writings.” The Last of the Fathers: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and the Encyclical Letter, Doctor Mellifluus, pp. 47-67. New York, N.Y.: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1954.

[In the following excerpt, Merton surveys Bernard's best-known writings, which he says offer a coherent doctrine that embraces life. The critic characterizes them as the work of a mystic who emphasizes grace and expresses in lyrical terms his love for Jesus.]

It seems that one of the things Saint Bernard wanted to get away from, when he entered Citeaux, was literary ambition. Profoundly affected by the humanistic renaissance of the twelfth century, his works...

(The entire section is 5597 words.)

Jean Leclercq (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Leclercq, Jean. “St Bernard in Our Times.” In Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: Studies Commemorating the Eighth Centenary of His Canonization, edited by M. Basil Pennington, pp. 1-26. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1977.

[In the following essay, Leclercq surveys scholarship on Bernard's life and major writings in the 800 years after his death and reflects on the sociological, psychological, and linguistic possibilities for further research.]

In 1953 we celebrated the eight-hundredth centenary of the death of Bernard of Clairvaux. At the end of the last of the congresses held in Bernard's native Burgandy on this occasion, it occured to several of the...

(The entire section is 9497 words.)

William O. Paulsell (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Paulsell, William O. “Virtue in St Bernard's Sermons on the Song of Songs.” In Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: Studies Commemorating the Eighth Centenary of His Canonization, edited by M. Basil Pennington, pp. 101-17. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1977.

[In the following essay, Paulsell discusses the connection between virtue and spiritual progress in Bernard's sermons on the Song of Songs.]

The eighty-six sermons of Bernard of Clairvaux on the Song of Songs constitute one of the great classics of Christian spirituality. Here the Abbot of Clairvaux outlined for his monks a methodology of spiritual development. He saw a direct...

(The entire section is 5574 words.)

G. L. J. Smerillo (essay date 1977)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Smerillo, G. L. J. “Caritas in the Initial Letters of Saint Bernard.” In Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: Studies Commemorating the Eighth Centenary of His Canonization, edited by M. Basil Pennington, pp. 118-36. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1977.

[In the following essay, Smerillo explores the idea of Deus caritas est–God is love—as presented in Bernard's first twenty-one letters.]

This essay has as its intent the explication of one idea found in a small number of texts, an idea that is fundamental to the whole of St Bernard's thought. Its basis is 1 John 4: 16: Deus caritas est.

St Bernard's...

(The entire section is 7132 words.)

Thomas Merton (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Merton, Thomas. “Action and Contemplation in the Mystery of Christ.” In Thomas Merton on Saint Bernard, pp. 23-58. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1980.

[In the following excerpt, Merton discusses Bernard's ideas regarding the active, contemplative, and apostolic lives in his Sermons on the Song of Songs.]

1. ACTION AND CONTEMPLATION IN THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST

Before we approach the subject of this study, which is St Bernard's doctrine on the active and contemplative lives, let us first pause to consider the great mystery of action and contemplation in Our Lord Jesus Christ, as it is revealed to us in the New Testament....

(The entire section is 15237 words.)

Theresa Moritz (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Moritz, Theresa. “The Church as Bride in Bernard of Clairvaux's Sermons on the Song of Songs.” In The Chimaera of His Age: Studies of Bernard of Clairvaux; Studies in Medieval Cistercian History V, edited by E. Rozanne Elder and John R. Sommerfeldt, pp. 3-11. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1980.

[In the following essay, Moritz examines Bernard's ninth sermon in his Sermons on the Song of Songs and argues that it reflects Bernard''s conviction that the Church is Christ's true bride.]

In the Sermons on the Song of Songs, Bernard of Clairvaux identifies the Bride, whose marriage the Song celebrates, as a figure both for the...

(The entire section is 4048 words.)

Emero Stiegman (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Stiegman, Emero. “Humanism in St. Bernard of Clairvaux: Beyond Literary Culture.” In The Chimaera of His Age: Studies of Bernard of Clairvaux; Studies in Medieval Cistercian History V, edited by E. Rozanne Elder and John R. Sommerfeldt, pp. 23-38. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1980.

[In the following essay, Stiegman argues that theological humanism underlies Bernard's writings, noting that he held a deep sense of human worth and profoundly humanistic ideas about the genesis of human love.]

Humanism, like all terms which historians invent to label a complex but broadly identifiable set of attitudes, is subject to ambiguity; the attitudes...

(The entire section is 6253 words.)

Thomas Renna (essay date 1980)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Renna, Thomas. “St. Bernard and the Pagan Classics: An Historical View.” In The Chimaera of His Age: Studies of Bernard of Clairvaux; Studies in Medieval Cistercian History V, edited by E. Rozanne Elder and John R. Sommerfeldt, pp. 122-39. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1980.

[In the following essay, Renna explores Bernard's attitude toward the Latin classics, explaining that while he himself was learned in classical works, Bernard opposed the study of pagan writings for monks.]

Was there a monastic attitude towards pagan literature during the early Middle Ages? While historians prior to the 1920s stressed the monks' hostility toward the latin...

(The entire section is 4038 words.)

Thomas Renna (essay date September 1993)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Renna, Thomas. “Bernard and Bede.” American Benedictine Review 44, no. 3 (September 1993): 223-35.

[In the following essay, Renna compares Bernard's outlook regarding the goals and function of monks to that of the Anglo-Saxon Bede.]

Bede and Bernard. The one, the great monastic illuminary from Anglo-Saxon England; the other, from twelfth-century France. They lived at two important junctures in the development of Western monasticism. Modern historians have generally emphasized Bede's place in the Northumbrian renaissance, and Bernard's role in the monastic reforms after 1100. Bernard is sometimes contrasted with Benedict of Nursia, Benedict of Aniane,...

(The entire section is 4405 words.)

M. B. Pranger (essay date 1994)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Pranger, M. B. Introduction to Bernard of Clairvaux and the Shape of the Monastic Thought: Broken Dreams, pp. 3-18. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1994.

[In the following excerpt, Pranger speculates about the effect that the physical environment of the Cistercian monastery may have exerted on Bernard and his writings.]

Entering the site of the twelfth-century Cistercian monasteries at Fontenay in Burgundy or Le Thoronet in Provence, the visitor takes in two seemingly different sets of images. On the one hand, there is the austere but massive architectural form of the buildings making up the monastic complex, with their simple geometrical proportions. On...

(The entire section is 4256 words.)

Robert Englert (essay date 1998)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Englert, Robert. “Monastic Humility: A Study of Humility in Bernard of Clairvaux and the Author of The Cloud of Unknowing.Studia Mystica 19 (1998): 36-44.

[In the following essay, Englert discusses Bernard's seminal ideas on monastic humility as the theological model for the fourteenth-century mystical text The Cloud of Unknowing.]

This study will deal with the subject, “monastic humility,” as it develops in the works of Bernard of Clairvaux and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing. These representative authors of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries exhibit a continuity in doctrine that is characteristic of a monastic theology invoking...

(The entire section is 3509 words.)