image of About the obsession with expression - How research on metaphors in mystical poetry can lead you to CERES

About the obsession with expression - How research on metaphors in mystical poetry can lead you to CERES

Rodrigo Bergareche is the first PhD student to come to Bochum through the short-term fellowship program of the Graduate School of Metaphor (GSMR), the integrated research training group of the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 1475. We spoke with him about his application for the fellowship, his research interests, and his plans for his time in Bochum at CERES.

Dear Rodrigo, it's great that you have come to CERES as a GSMR fellow - congratulations on your scholarship. 
Why don't you briefly introduce yourself and your academic career so far?

I come from the west of Spain. I grew up in the countryside, but 12 years ago I went to Madrid to study at the Complutense University, where I graduated in Hispanic Studies. Then, to broaden my academic horizons, I did a second Master's degree in Spanish Language Teaching. Finally, three years ago, I decided to research Spanish mystical poetry because it has always been a passion mine, ever since a lecture I received in High school. It was given by one of my Spanish Literature professors sixteen years ago. Then, a few years later, when I was preparing to apply for the PhD program, Erik Willem Coenen, who later became my supervisor and is an expert on the literature of the Spanish Golden Age (16th and 17th centuries), suggested that I work on mystical metaphors. 

What made you apply for the GSMR scholarship?

Professor Roger Friedlein from the Spanish Department here at the Ruhr-University told me that there was a CRC dedicated to religious metaphors. Then, after some months of contact with different people, Maren Jordan informed me about this scholarship last August (so I would like to thank her for that). Since I study metaphors in mystical poetry, working within the CRC "Metaphors of Religion" is a good opportunity to immerse myself in the subject and to advance my thesis. My goal is to develop the second chapter of my dissertation during my time here. In this chapter I will be linking religious metaphor theory, the issues of negative theology and poetic language.

How did the application process work out for you?

I spent three days in Bochum in October 2023 to present my dissertation project at CERES, therefore I feel that, it was easier for me to structure and organize my proposal for the short-term fellowship program after that experience. I send a proposal to develop the chapter I want to accomplish here with a bibliography and a timetable. I also considered joining the C03 sub-project "Metaphors of everyday life " after a nice meeting with Linda Simonis, who suggested that I explore the metaphors of the inexplicable (I would also like to thank her for this idea). The choice of subproject is a good fit, as the mystic authors tried to explain their experiences by means of concrete, everyday things such as objects (candles or fountains), animals (doves or deers) and fruits (apples or pomegranates), among others.

Can you give us a brief insight into your research project?

I am doing research on the metaphors of ecstasy in three Spanish mystical poets (16th and 17th centuries). I have always been interested in (or obsessed by) the fact, that mystical poets face the problem of expression since there are no adequate words to describe these experiences. At this point, metaphor emerges as one of the main tools to try to carry out a discourse that addresses what is a priori inexpressible.

Is there something that has particularly surprised you in your research into Christian mystical poetry so far?

Regarding what I said in my last answer, I am always fascinated when mystical poets explicitly acknowledge that they cannot say anything about God’s love and then the next expression they make is a suggestive metaphor that in some way points to what they said was unsayable. For example, St. Teresa of Jesus [Teresa of Ávila, 1515-1582, Carmelite nun and mystic, editor’s note] in one of her passages admits her linguistic frustration, but the next thing she states is that God’s grace is a perfume that fills her interior. I am fascinated by this verbal persistence.

Beyond your research interests, do you have anything else you would like to do during your time in the Ruhr region?

Of course, I would like to visit as many cities and places as I can and discover a new natural landscape. For example, in my hometown there are no beech trees because they do not grow in those southern latitudes, so I am glad to see and experience different things here. I would also like to visit museums and football stadiums, which are two of my passions.

Thank you for your time and all the best for your academic research.

Thanks, it was a pleasure.

For further information on GSMR follow the link: Graduate School of Metaphor and Religion (GSMR) - CERES - Ruhr-Universität Bochum (