Netherlands, Nijmegen

Reading Mystical Texts

when 12 August 2019 - 16 August 2019
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 EC
fee EUR 450

The course offers a close-reading of a number of key mystical texts from the Christian tradition, from the early Middle Ages up to the 20th century. It introduces students into the characteristics of mysticism.

Contrary to religion, which seems to have lost its self-evidence, spirituality and mysticism make a better press. In the writings of the mystics, many find what they miss in institutional religion. Yet, what the study of the mystical corpus all too often neglects is the surprisingly critical dimension of the mystical tradition. The close-readings of monastic sources, Hadewijch, Nicolaus Cusanus, Fenelon, Protestant mysticism, Etty Hillesum, Marie Noël and others will discover that neglected dimension. The Radboud Summer School Reading Mystical Texts offers a promenade through some of the major mystical texts from the Christian tradition. Experts in that field explore in their reading the richness exemplified in the selected passages. One of their focuses is the critical dimension present in
these mystical texts and the latter's potential for contemporary thought. In times when the Cartesian Ego was not yet fully established, it was already being 'deconstructed' in the writings of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. In the works of Meister Eckhart, Ruusbroec and Thomas a Kempis, the criticism of the emerging 'bourgeois' mentality was already an important aspect.

Not only is the mystical tradition inherently critical, it has itself become an important reference for contemporary cultural criticism as well. One of the basic texts in Christian mysticism, Pseudo-Dionysius' Celestial Hierarchies, lays bare the hidden fundamentals of Western political power, so the philosopher Giorgio Agamben argues. A number of other contemporary critical theologians and
philosophers, such as Michel Foucault and John Caputo, are also inspired by writings from the mystical tradition.

Course leader

Prof. dr. Peter Nissen
Professor of Ecumenical Studies
Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies

Dr. Marc de Kesel
Titus Brandsma Institute Nijmegen

Target group


This course is designed for Master, PhD students, Post-Docs, and Professionals in the fields of Theology, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Culture and Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The course is highly recommended for interdisciplinary oriented students with a strong interest in the religious and mystical legacy of the Christian tradition.

Course aim

After this course you are able to:

Read and analyze exemplary texts from the mystical tradition of western Christianity,
Detect the critical dimension in those texts,
See how the mystical texts conceal 'dispositives' and 'structures' at work in the non-religious (political/ethical/cultural) discourses of modernity,
Understand the connection between the 'old' classic mystical argumentation and today's way of dealing with social and cultural challenges.

Fee info

EUR 450: Normal fee


€ 405 early bird discount – deadline 1 March 2019 (10%)
€ 383 partner + RU discount (15%)
€ 338 early bird + partner + RU discount (25%)

Register for this course
on course website