The University of Western Australia
This article considers Richard Rolle's use of erotic imagery and romantic metaphor in his popular fourteenth-century devotional manual, The Form of Living. The Form engaged a widespread community of readers through the glorification of desire and pleasure, which were sanctified by merit of Christ, the lover that Rolle encouraged his readers to woo. While the use of language in the text is inclusive, allowing all readers to become lovers of Christ, the text is addressed to the particular needs of an ideal reader—a celibate anchorite in a nuptial relationship with him as a man—and thus also allows readers to participate in an exclusive romance as an observer. This article will examine The Form's popularity within a diverse readership, arguing that the spiritual and bodily romance Rolle constructed between an imagined lover and Christ is central to its appeal to all Middle English readers.