The gift of tongues: Women's xenoglossia
in the Later Middle Ages.
Thus curatorial experience should stress this process, which is also reflected in the works themselves, as in the Johannesburg collective the Center for Historical Reenactrnents's Xenoglossia
, Reenactments's Xenoglossia
Note that Cooper-Rompato distinguishes xenoglossia from glossolalia, the miracle of speech other than or beyond
Associated ever after with the Pentecost miracle account in Acts 2, xenoglossia serves at once to facilitate the spread of Christianity and to mark its recipients as divine vessels, both of which functions Cooper-Rompato finds operative in the hagiographical literature that she interrogates in the book's first half.
Thus within the section the author moves from "Chaucer is very clearly implying that she receives a gift of xenoglossia" (164) to something less clear: "Is there an invisible interpreter (historical narrative), a gift of xenoglossia (saint's life), or an ignored linguistic barrier (romance)?
The final two chapters of the book attempt to identify xenoglossia in a few works of Middle English literature, the "autohagiography" of Margery Kempe and three of the Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer.
One form of xenoglossia is acquisition of foreign languages for large-scale preaching, with Dominican and Franciscan preachers appearing to be like some of the apostles in acquiring a language for a lifetime of missionary work.
Her signal contribution is demonstrating that long-lasting xenoglossia is characteristically associated with preaching by clerics while short-term xenoglossia for the sake of spiritual counseling and conversation is usually attributed to nuns (though see St.
X is for XENOGLOSSIA
, which the dictionary explains as 'an ability claimed by the likes of mediums and clairvoyants to speak a language with which they are unfamiliar.
The paper argues that Custance's being understood is best explained by recognizing the tale's reliance on the hagiographical trope of xenoglossia, the sudden, miraculous ability to speak or understand a foreign language.
I argue that in rewriting Custance from his sources, Chaucer creates a monolingual, Latin-speaking woman whose words are translated into English by means of a miracle usually experienced by medieval saints, the gift of xenoglossia, or the miraculous ability to speak, understand, or be understood in a foreign language that the recipient has never learnt formally.
Because this tale owes much of its form and content to the saint's vita and incorporates into it a number of hagiographic tropes, including the performance of miracles and conversion of pagans, an occurrence of a gift of xenoglossia would be quite fitting, perhaps even expected.