This article discusses the biblical story of the Old Testament hero Samson in order to exemplify the various modes of biblical discourse in medieval Latinate culture. Whether in prose or verse, the medieval writers dedicated their efforts to finding the meaning of creation and to establishing how the human relates to the divine. A few representative works illustrate the multifaceted role that the Bible played in the medieval literary imagination. The various modes of expression discussed show unequivocally that understanding and explaining the message of the sacred page was the defining feature of the literary discourse. The variety of approaches to the Scripture exhibited by the writers demonstrates that their relationship to the truth and mystery of the Bible was not dogmatic and uniform; rather, it was an impetus for intellectual curiosity and an inspiration for literary creativity. The text of the Bible opened many doors of understanding and showed a multitude of paths to enlightenment. Sacred Scripture, albeit inerrant, did not imply one meaning for the thinkers. They did not approach the text of the Bible mechanically. Sacred Scripture was their point of departure but also their font of inspiration.
In the course of its millennial history, much changed in the world around Byzantium. The Roman Empire from which Byzantium emerged as the true successor state was gradually pulled to pieces in late antiquity, a process of disaggregation which was but fleetingly reversed in the reign of Justinian in the sixth century. Byzantium proper — the reduced medieval state — was fashioned in the seventh century, when the explosive force of Islam blasted both established empires in west Eurasia, the Persian as well as the Roman, out of existence. For all the pragmatism shown in two centuries of comfortable existence, Byzantium never relinquished claims which were solidly founded in a well-remembered historical past. The behaviour of its neighbours cannot be understood unless they are placed in Constantinople's force-field. Yet more important, Byzantium itself cannot be understood, if, in retrospect, it is subjected to ideological castration. For the ultimate rationale of its existence was its Christian imperial mission. That conviction, widely shared in a thoroughly Orthodox society, was the shaping influence on its foreign policy.
More often than not in the course of its long history, Byzantium found itself in a defensive posture and its most dangerous enemies were Asiatics: Persians, Arabs, and various peoples of the steppe such as the Huns and the Turks. The ‘education’ of the Slavs calls for a more nuanced judgement. It means in effect the spread of Byzantine Christianity from the ninth century onwards to encompass the Bulgarians, Serbs, Russians, and (in part) Romanians, thus forming what Dimitri Obolensky has called the Byzantine Commonwealth, an ideological, not a political grouping, united by a common religion and the acknowledgement of Constantinople as its spiritual centre. Byzantium cannot be equated with Greece, nor is there any evidence that the Byzantine Empire pursued the diffusion of Greek language as a matter of conscious policy. That spoken Greek has survived, even as a minority language, may be considered, however, as one of Byzantium's positive contributions. This article considers Byzantium's role in world history.
This article focuses on the problematics of a medieval Latin canon and medieval Latin literary history, emphasising the idea of “minor literature” that Deleuze and Guattari reference in their subtitle. Given the dominance of the classical, one might well say that medieval Latin literature does not need to have either its own literary history or canon. Medieval Latin would then be appropriately treated as a mere phase of Latin literary history. It depends on a canon of auctores. Yet among the challenges of mapping medieval Latin literary history and its canon, it can be noted that there is no new and complete set of medieval Latin auctores or masters. Medieval Latinity is a literary culture content to have inherited the great majority of its masters and, further, one that, while affording the role of auctor supremacy, understands literary culture as involving a much more collective sense of authoring, including all the other functions involved or implicated in the processes of copying, annotating, and commenting.
Thomas E. Burman
Medieval European scholars often found themselves worrying over the reliability of their Latin texts. As Latin sought to establish itself in the Mediterranean basin as a language of learning and sophistication alongside the more prestigious Greek and Arabic languages, and eventually against the rapidly developing European vernaculars, more and more texts from those languages were, almost necessarily, translated into Latin and absorbed into the canon of works at the core of Latin education. Medieval Latin civilization continued to be dependent on the Greeks and would later become profoundly reliant on Arab civilization. But while the Arabic-to-Latin translation movement would, indeed, have never existed without the confi dent, ambitious, and—literally—expansive culture of the Twelfth-Century Renaissance. The simultaneous overpowering and giving in to Greek and Arab culture in the twelfth-century translation movement was, therefore, profoundly transformative, its conquering surrender issuing in strikingly new cultural forms. This transforming potential of translation can be seen in many ways in the Latin Middle Ages.
This article explains the current questions and future prospects of medieval Latin literature. Three areas that are arguably of particular importance for medieval Latin literature's further development include: sustained sociolinguistic attention to the fact of Latinity's status as an alienated mode of expression whose artificiality is itself the basis of its flexibility; attention to the awareness specific texts demonstrate of their relation to a metropolitan centre of cultural authority from which the norms of this artificiality are disseminated; and a rigorous critique of the binary by which Latinity and vernacularity are articulated as a stable and mutually exclusive opposition—a critique that necessarily incorporates the legacy of deconstruction but which also must engage postmodern translation theory on issues of intertextual and interlinguistic exchange and the cultural work effected by the act of translation. Latinity as a tool for the focalization of culture is crucial as well to English hagiography of the decades just after the Norman Conquest and the installation of Lanfranc of Bec as Archbishop.
Sylvia Parsons and David Townsend
The pervasively male authorship and audience of medieval Latin literary culture powerfully naturalizes an ideology that allows the relativity of the tradition's gendered constructions to masquerade as given and unexceptionable. This article explores the ways that intertextual and reflexive constructions of authority and textuality both enable and circumscribe medieval Latin authors as they develop and critique models of gender. Implicit and explicit metacritical self-understandings of textuality are addressed through Benedictine texts: the dramas and narrative poems of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, the Waltharius, Reginald of Canterbury's Vita Sancti Malchi, and the lyrics of Baudri of Bourgeuil. The rhetoric of gender as deployed in medieval Latin reflects and shapes extratextual realities. At a prior level, it depends upon a system of palimpsested, specifically textual cultural markers bounded within the constraints of quintessentially Latinate expectations of diction and genre. Prior to the syntagmatic relations of text to social environment lay the paradigmatic requirements of gender as dictated by ubiquitous classical and patristic models, and as expressed not merely in the specifics of a male or female character's representation but in the very constraints of generic expectation.
Medieval thought leaves some of its richest records in glosses and commentaries on authoritative texts. To know how medieval thinkers viewed their treasured inheritance of ancient philosophy and literature, or how they imbued their students with a love for the liberal arts, or how they studied sacred Scripture, the best access is often through their expositions of the texts that they read, taught, and copied. The present article highlights this field under the following topics: terminologies, formats, and character of gloss and commentary; the nature of large freestanding commentaries and examples of secular learned and literary texts that supported this particular form of critical approach; and interactions between text and commentary which gave rise to important theoretical understandings, including authorial intention and the interpretive control of the commentator. To illustrate the procedures of the twelfth-century glossator, there is no better example than the practice of William of Conches in his influential glosses on Boethius's Consolatio Philosophiae.
Ronald G. Witt
The defining goal of humanism was to recapture in the writings the beauty of the poetry and prose of antiquity. The humanists articulated for the first time in European history the modern ethic in which the life of lay people had at least equal value to that of clerics in God's sight. This article expounds substantial continuities between fourteenth-century humanism and its medieval antecedents in literary culture, continuities that belie representations of the humanist movement as a categorical break with the medieval past. They created the secondary school curriculum focused on ancient Greek and Roman authors that dominated Western European education down to the twentieth century. The philological techniques and hermeneutical methods the humanists developed proved fundamental to the wave of religious reform movements that swept over the subcontinent in the sixteenth century. The ancient geographical and astronomical works that it made available provided vital spurs for the exploration of the earth. Finally, the humanists' highly developed sense of historical perspective helped Europeans gain control of the past by conceiving of it as a time-differentiated series of social, political, economic, religious, and intellectual changes, and also, by objectifying the present with a view to the reform of society and politics.
This article explores the medieval Latinity from a conceptual perspective. It suggests two possible lines of enquiry. The first is sociolinguistic, which leads to a study of the ideological and cultural functions of Latinity in the medieval West that might feature subjects such as Latinity's identification with learning and the clerisy, association with ethical habitus and the transcendent, and practical role in the slow societal transition “from memory to written record.” A sociolinguistic enquiry into medieval Latin, in other words, is bound up with the study of western pedagogy and learning on the one hand, and intellectual and institutional history on the other: linked areas of study long of central interest to medievalists. The second avenue, which is metalinguistic, focuses less on the functions of Latinity, moral or practical, than on the language's associations and meanings: on what Latinitas signified in the western Middle Ages, both in itself and, especially, in its relation to other languages.
Susan Boynton and Margot Fassler
This article emphasizes the performative aspects of a system, realized through repetition and voicing. The Latinity of medieval sung liturgical texts depends fundamentally on their performance, for the style of a chant is determined by the parameters of genre, local and regional traditions, and by the liturgical context within which it is sung. As a result, diverse stylistic layers and forms of Latin verse and prose coexisted within the medieval Mass and Office. Some of the elements were fairly fixed, while others changed over time and varied by region or ecclesial affiliation. Singing the liturgy was an embodied experience of group identity, both because it was performed in choir and because religious communities and urban centers had their own distinctive traditions. Singing was also a process of linguistic assimilation. The clergy internalized the Latin of the Bible. The Psalms, which were central to the medieval liturgy, were a primary point of reference for medieval writers, whose readings of Scripture were often influenced by their experience of the liturgy. The key bodies of knowledge, in their transmission across historical, geographical, and literary divides, function as “discourses” in a Foucaultian sense: as repertories of intellectual possibility that enable and simultaneously circumscribe the parameters of intelligible cultural production.
Late antique textuality acquires the mission of questioning common views of what “literature” is and, at the same time, it invites being put in productive comparison with literature produced in other ages. This will have the effect of tracing the reception of this often neglected textuality and challenges the various clichés that characterize the reading of late antiquity. This article interrogates widely accepted assumptions about periods of continuity and moments of departure in Latin literary history. In the survey of the late antique, the works of such as Claudian, Ausonius, Ennodius, Venantius Fortunatus, and Isidore are viewed as already standing across a radical divide from the classical authors and texts, which they ostensibly recall. The new modes of textuality these works explicitly and implicitly advance become the primary lens through which their successors in the Middle Ages look back at all earlier Latinity. Three textual aspects that are new and specific to late antiquity in comparison with earlier periods are discussed. These include the facets of late antique intertextuality that detach texts and their meanings from their original contexts by reconfiguring them within new frames and re-coding them through a process of resemanticization.
Latin existed as a language of authoritative tradition in Augustine's time, and it was also in this sense that it faced repeated challenges over the long course of its medieval development. Through prescriptive and descriptive grammar in the works of Donatus and Servius, Macrobius, and Priscian, among many other lateantique and early medieval grammarians, Latin's authority was established as a source of tradition by positing the unity of past expression and present understanding in terms of an unchanging grammatical code. The authority of the Latin language in the Middle Ages stemmed from its own status as the inheritor of originality in three distinct but intersecting senses: as the language of Rome and its empire; as the language of learning and wisdom, first as embodied in a standard canon of trusted auctores and later, as a rival to Arabic, inherited from Greece; and, finally, as one of God's three holy languages, the companion of Hebrew and Greek.
In the case of Latin, the characteristically medieval situation of language acquisition comes about at the point where one can say that all of Europe stands at a sufficient temporal, geographic, and cultural remove from Latin, which anyone who wishes to use the language must acquire through study. The distancing from Latin can be detected in the attitudes of compilers and commentators who mediated the grammatical literature of antiquity to medieval audiences. The Latin grammars that medieval teachers and students used in their project of acquiring Latin were originally written to induce in native speakers a conscious awareness of analytical categories for describing their own language. The extent of the distance between spoken and written forms of the language has been a topic of controversy among scholars of the development of the Romance languages and of Latin literacy. Any appraisal of the Latin-acquisition process for communities that encountered Latin afresh with conversion to Christianity is to some extent complicated.
Latin mythographic tradition came to fruition in the twelfth century. Medieval mythography assumed the universe of Plato's Timaeus as its implicit context. Within this cosmic framework, the Olympian gods of the classical poets coexisted with a host of personifications, philosophical concepts, natural forces, or attributes of the divine, giving rise to the tradition of “learned” mythography. From the Timaeus, the middle Ages learned a distinctively Platonic conception of myth and its function: myths need not be borrowed from the poets, but can be created for a philosophical purpose to translate the truths of intellect into sensible terms. Thus, the poetic and philosophical uses of myth were perceived as largely complementary. The text most immediately responsible for ensuring that perception was the De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii of Martianus Capella. The De nuptiis is a manual of the Liberal Arts in which cosmology and mythology are precisely correlated, and mythographical analysis involves no more than translation from one set of terms to the other. Under Martianus's influence, the Olympian gods, the Muses, and other mythical beings descended to the medieval schools invested with a rich orthodoxy of cosmological, pedagogical, and ethical associations.
Location, Location, Location: Geography, Knowledge, and the Creation of Medieval Latin Textual Communities
The work of paleographers and codicologists has helped us to appreciate the materiality of the books written in the Middle Ages. The collection and dissemination of information and the creation of such a complex text as Pliny's were enabled by the network of institutions, such as the book trade and schools, that the ancient elites patronized and which in turn reproduced them. Each book testifies to the state of knowledge out of which it was produced, even as it becomes an element of the “geography of knowledge” for subsequent generations. The milieux in which these and other individuals gained their knowledge of Greek exemplify the linkage of knowledge and location, whether the site be Constantinople, Antioch, Sicily, Rome, or the entire southern half of the Italian peninsula, where Greek monastic communities remained established. One might well describe Orléans as a “textual community” and set it alongside other textual communities or transmissional niches, each with its own particular sets of resources and interests. Textual communities can also be extended by visitors who pass through or students who move on to other regions.
This article addresses the ubiquitous matrix of cultural capital in the Latin Middle Ages, namely the liberal arts through the lively panoply of Martianus's disciplinae cyclicae. This is carried out in the company of the other divisions of knowledge within which the liberal arts were differently subsumed at different periods in the reception of Martianus's text: the divisions of Boethius, Cassiodorus, and Isidore of Seville. The commentary tradition on Martianus Capella's fifth-century allegorical encyclopedia of the liberal arts, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, provides an enclosed and rugged terrain through which to map the differing conceptual frameworks within which the liberal arts gained pedagogical and philosophical traction. Martianus remained the ancient authority on the liberal arts from his “re-discovery” at the beginning of the ninth century through to the close of the twelfth. The trajectory of the De nuptiis through its medieval commentary tradition is charted. Despite the continuity ostensibly guaranteed by the nearly uninterrupted use of a single text, the interpretative mutability of the De nuptiis's elaborate allegorical frame provided a site for the continual renegotiation of the liberal arts.
Jan M. Ziolkowski
Translation studies have generally burgeoned as a field of scholarly investigation in recent decades. This article considers the fortunes of Medieval Latin literature in Modern English translation. The translation of Medieval Latin into English has received only very short shrift. Medieval Latin played only a marginal role in the process: professionalization presupposes a profit motive that is rarely imaginable where Medieval Latin texts or translations are at stake. Despite the cultural significance that is accorded to Latin books, the decision of which texts to translate and publish is governed largely by purely commercial factors. Cultural institutions counterbalance the market, and Latin has suffered from lacking such institutional backing. In the second half of the twentieth century, a few prolific translators who earned their livings through their craft became well known among readers of high-cultural literature. The dearth of professional translators of Medieval Latin results partly from the fragile status of translating within the large culture and especially within academic culture, but it also reflects the marginality of medieval Latin literature.
Anne L. Clark
This article focuses on the shaping of subjectivity by the circumstances of medieval Latin literary culture in the field of spirituality. Medieval Latin spirituality can be characterized as the Christian practice of cultivating the self, through reading, hearing, seeing, singing, meditation, often institutionalized and experienced communally, so as to experience the objects of this world—books, architecture, images, nature, other people—as leading one into the divine presence. The focus is on Latin spirituality, which illuminates a domain that was largely limited to the professed religious: men and women who lived in institutions which trained them for literacy and the practice of literate spirituality. This implies that medieval Latin spirituality was, for most of the Middle Ages, a religious practice of the educated. This “professional” or elite constituency opened up in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with increased literacy and the creation of texts offering versions of Latin spirituality for lay practice.
The introduction of movable type printing had revolutionary consequences for the production and circulation of literary texts. The replacement of a manual with a mechanical process for book reproduction immediately brought long-term mechanisms and methods into play, and laid the groundwork for a series of radical transformations. Latin texts composed during the middle Ages were inevitably caught up in these transformations. This article offers an account of the uneasy and sometimes belated passage of medieval Latin texts into the medium of print, and their eventual transformed emergence in modern critical editions. A brief census of medieval Latin works printed in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries is quite instructive. It provides a snapshot of the book market's interests in terms of medieval Latin works, since the selections made by editors and printers were commercially driven. The works that became available to libraries in printed form indicate which among them made the greatest contribution to the shaping of subsequent centuries. The specific circumstances as well as the most important consequences affecting them are examined, both immediately and over the course of the following centuries.