Neomedieval  Peregrinatio in Stabilitate

On the use of fourfold allegory in performance fictioning

  • Alex Plent Independent Researcher


The responsibilities and vows owed by medieval monastics to their cloistered communities, aside from other practicalities, made leaving the monastery to embark on pilgrimage difficult. Emphasising the spiritual and allegorical character of pilgrimage—in which—the physical journey merely represented the individual moral journey from sin to grace and the collective ascent from Earth into the Heavenly Jerusalem—medieval monastics developed a set of meditational practices historiographically referred to as  peregrinatio in stabilitate. These practices enabled pilgrimage to be conducted through the imagination while remaining within the sanctity of the cloister.

It has been hypothesised that climate change could increase the future incidence of pandemics thereby making the imposition of lockdowns and other non–pharmaceutical interventions more and more commonplace.  This prospect is understood to not only threaten the future viability of conducting many forms of fieldwork but  to further damage our already–weakened collective capacity to imagine emancipatory futures from within ever more restricted presents.  Responding thereto this paper proposes a neomedieval method, analogous to the medieval practice of  peregrinatio in stabilitate, by which self–isolating anchoritic practitioners may perform world–creating fictions from the safety and stability of their own cloisters.

Following the work of David Burrows and Simon O’Sullivan, neomedieval  peregrinatio in stabilitate  is proposed as a form of performance fictioning and justified according to a constructivist methodology: here it is assumed that performance fictioning has a mythopoetic capacity to not only describe realities but to create them and that imaginary fieldwork functions as 'the catalyst not for judgement or education but for the articulation and actualisation of [...] a people to come’. Medieval  peregrinatio in stabilitate  and resources used by its historical practitioners are discussed in order to demonstrate the performative qualities of the proposed practice’s historical antecedent while a commentary on the concept of neomedievalism details the nature of the relation between medieval and neomedieval  peregrinatio in stabilitate.  Finally,  drawing upon Fredric Jameson’s  Allegory and Ideology,  this article finds  fourfold medieval allegory to provide a model for the development of complex neomedieval performance fictions that may engender new modes of subjectivity and forms of political agency.