Sister Lucia Treanor authors book on Franciscan writings

LOWELL, MI (02-21-2012) - Sister Lucia Treanor, FSE, Ph.D., an affiliate professor in the Writing Department at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, has published a book on the palindromic structure contained in late medieval writings, including Franciscan texts. Some may ask, "What is palindromic structure?" Simply put, it means a word or phrase that reads the same backwards or forwards, for example, the words civic, kayak, and level, and the phrase, "Live not on evil."

Published by Mellen Press, the new book, The Symmetrical Patterning in Franciscan Writings of the Late Middle Ages, A Study of the Palindromic Structure of Language, has received positive comments from reviewers:

"In short, this monograph, a full-length study of the palindrome in any language, strikes me as an essential work, a significant achievement by any standard, and I am glad to endorse it without the slightest reservation." Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor in the Humanities for Italian, Yale University

"Sister Lucia’s work, which is a complete study of palindromic structures, brings to light an inner structure that allows the reader to understand not only the rhetorical complexity of Medieval writing, but also the way in which the Franciscan mind understood the relationship between human artistic endowers and God’s Art.  I highly recommend the volume without any reservation." Santa Casciani, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Italian, John Carroll University, The Jesuit University in Cleveland.

Sister Lucia Treanor bookThe Franciscan Community congratulates Sister Lucia on her publication and is proud of her professional accomplishment!

An Abstract of the book follows:


            This study traces the development of a chiastic metatext known as palindromic structure in the works of Bonaventure, Dante, Boccaccio and Franciscan writers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.  Minute, often translingual and usually hidden, the compositional patterning was used by medievals to create conversation particularly beneficial to religious who were trying to “pray constantly” (1 Thess. 5.17) in their quest to become more spiritual, and who seem to have been the primary audience.  
            The structure is difficult to perceive within the literal text, but its recognition is essential for a complete understanding of the works that employ it.  Since a skill is involved in working out the palindromes, we have included a short tutorial in the preface to assist the reader; and because palindromic structure is a part of medieval exegesis, we have provided a retrospective of that well-known method of scriptural explication, also in the preface.  In addition, in order to demonstrate that the elements have been intentionally set in place, we have applied the Douglas criteria to the palindromes that we have parsed.
            We have organized the book as follows:  Chapter 1 introduces Francis of Assisi, the palindromic structure of Thomas of Celano’s Vita prima, that of Henri d’Avranches’s Vita sancti Francisci versificata, and ends with a consideration of “The Canticle of Creatures.”  The next chapter shows the palindromes of and intertextuality between Hugh of St. Victor’s De arca Noe morali et mystica and Bonaventure’s Itinerarium mentis in Deum.  In order to demonstrate the ubiquity of the structure, chapter 3 examines Aquinas’s Summa theologiae (Ia) and Adoro devote, suggesting that their palindromes were informed by Albertus Magnus’s Super Dionysium de ecclesiastica hierarchia.  It also chronicles analogical thought after Bonaventure and Aquinas, particularly that of the Franciscan, Nicolas de Lira.  In chapters 4 and 5, anagogy and antilogic are investigated in Dante’s Epistola and Comedia, with reference to Antiphon’s “On Truth,” Xenophon’s Memorabilia, Plato’s Parmenides, Aristotle’s Physica, and Klement of Alexandria’s Protreptikos pros Ellenas and Stromata.  After a discussion of the Genealogia deorum gentilium, Chapter 6 inspects Boccaccio’s Decameron, in particular the novelle of Gianni and Restituta and Frate Cipolla.         
            Because it identifies the palindrome as a basic compositional unit of many great works, this study is useful for all scholars of fictive literature, particularly those who are ready to discover the structures in the novels, stories or poems of their specialty.  It is also of interest to students of Franciscan Studies, as it points to palindromes in treatises of the Franciscan canon.  And it is of special moment to those in the emerging field of theological aesthetics, because it advances a more thorough definition of anagogy, and shows how antilogic, first used by the Greek sophists, challenges the contemplative to convert the text.

Key words: anagogy, antilogic, Boccaccio, Bonaventure, Dante, Franciscan, palindromic structure, theological aesthetics