Congratulations to our recent PhD students who defended over the last year:
Ryan Allen: “Visions of Unity: Philosophical Realism in Late Fourteenth-Century English Dream-Vision Poetry”
Over the past half-century literary critics have frequently depicted late fourteenth-century Middle English poetry, including dream-vision poetry, as embracing nominalism. The literary-nominalist scholars defending this claim have often started from a construal of nominalism now regarded as obsolete, yet it remains commonplace to find authors including Chaucer and Langland described as affirming nominalist views. This is unfortunate, for it is now known that most late fourteenth-century English philosophers rejected nominalism. To the contrary, it has become clear that the position opposed to nominalism, namely realism, was preponderant. This thesis seeks to restore late fourteenth-century English dream-vision poetry to its true intellectual context. More fully, it argues that taking the dream visions Pearl, Langland’s Piers Plowman, and Chaucer’s House of Fame to presuppose realism unlocks insights unavailable to literary nominalists. It first clarifies the character of realism and nominalism in fourteenth-century England. Realism and nominalism have been mistaken for theological positions, and nominalism has been equated with skepticism. But nominalism is not skepticism, and realism and nominalism are fundamentally philosophical instead of theological stances. I show that realism and nominalism centre on incompatible views about how language is related to reality and that, secondarily but no less importantly, realism and nominalism involve incompatible views about metaphysical interconnection among individuals. Another position, idealism, also comes into play insofar as realists held that nominalism leads to idealism. I then turn directly to Pearl, Piers Plowman, and The House of Fame. My readings of Pearl and Piers propose that they present, respectively, heavenly delight and human nature in a realist light (i.e., as real universals). My reading of Fame offers that this text depicts nominalism as leading to idealism. All three interpretations regard the poems’ authors, like contemporaneous realist philosophers, as deeming realism essential for ascent to the divine. Realism emerges as an important underpinning of poems which, by virtue of this realist basis, I consider visions of unity.
Emily Blakelock: “Doing It by the Book: Teaching Sexuality in the Twelfth-Century Classroom”
This dissertation demonstrates the extent to which concepts of sexuality were intertwined with teaching and learning in twelfth-century French schools, making a vital connection between the history of education and that of gendered sexuality. Learning, enculturation and socialization were combined in the new urban schools of the twelfth century, in which boys underwent rigorous grammatical and moral training while forming homosocial bonds with their classmates and teachers. Students in their early- to mid- teens would routinely read sexually explicit texts, such as Ovid’s Ars amatoria and Remedia amoris, Terence’s Eunuchus, Statius’ Achilleid, and Juvenal’s satires, as part of their training in Latin literacy. These classical Latin texts were categorized by medieval teachers as “ethical” despite the fact that they contain depictions of rape, adultery, prostitution, cross-dressing and male sodomy. I argue that such discussions of sexuality were incorporated into the program of mores which traditionally accompanied early education in grammatica. My research presents a new perspective on socialization in medieval schools, using classroom texts and commentaries which have rarely been examined as sources for the history of sexuality.
Starting with an overview of the role of the medieval school in male social formation, uncover the pedagogical discourse which connects grammar with sexuality, and with the sexual status of the medieval adolescent student. While Ovid identifies himself as a schoolteacher and establishes “rules” for love and sex with the help of his medieval commentators, and Alan of Lille describes sexual deviance as the result of mislearning the “grammar” of sex, Statius and Terence highlight the inherent gender fluidity and erratic sexual behaviour of adolescent boys, casting doubt on the stability of the boundaries established by such regulatory mechanisms. Juvenal and his twelfth-century commentators add to this discourse by implying that male sodomy is taught through homosocial networks, and identifying adolescent boys as especially prone to learning sodomy, with the school as the site of particular anxiety. These perspectives reflect twelfth-century anxieties about clerical celibacy and homosociality and demonstrate a medieval recognition of the social forces which underpin both education and sexuality.
Daniel Jamison: “Fiscal Policy in an Italian Commune: A Study of the Lucchese Gabella Maggiore, 1370-1410″
This thesis concerns the interrelationship of fiscal policy and political culture in late medieval Lucca. In the thirty years following Lucca’s emancipation from Pisa in 1369, the constituents of this nominally popular republic gradually accepted the hegemony of a single clan of silk merchants and international bankers, the Guinigi family. The evident acquiescence to disenfranchisement on the part of middle and upper class citizens flies in the face of assumptions about political struggle and honor exchange in the premodern Italian republics. In this study, I work towards a better understanding of the nature of this quiet revolution through the lens of the city’s fiscal policy, which has rightly received so much attention as a nexus of public and private interests in neighboring Florence. I have focused on a single institution, the tax office called the court of the gabella maggiore. The gabella maggiore was the tariff on most goods entering or leaving the city; notaries working at the central clearinghouse registered manifests for every shipment that passed its threshold, the counterparts of the physical licenses issued to taxpayers for safeconduct. My approach relies on the rich survival of customs registers between 1373 and 1410, whose entries collectively provide a profile of urban commercial and industrial activity at the turn of the fifteenth century. I found that this material describes an ever-weakening market for local products, a picture completed by contemporary laments about failing businesses and poor fiscal health in the minutes of the city’s republican government. In the eyes of Lucca’s merchant-oligarchs, economic decline threatened to destroy the precious independence of Lucca by fostering emigration, decreasing production, and consequently lowering the revenues of the customs tariff. The governing councils were often slow to respond to these threats because of constitutional obstacles and what I describe as a lack of confidence and consensus within the inner oligarchy. Operating under high pressure in a low-information environment, the councilors more readily reacted to the advice of expert bureaucrats, including the chief magistrate of the gabella maggiore, and “invited” advisors not currently serving on the high councils. In the end, I argue that there is only a short distance between this informal mode of ceding authority and the formal devolution of the state upon Paolo Guinigi in 1400.
Nick Johnston: “Vexatio Falsorum Fratrum: The Medieval Laybrother in the Order of Sempringham in Context”
This dissertation examines the laybrothers and laysisters of the Order of Sempringham, otherwise known as the Gilbertines (after their founder, Gilbert of Sempringham), with a particular emphasis on their revolt that took place in the middle of the twelfth century. The view of the revolt is entirely one-sided in historiography; in this dissertation I ask whether this perception is justified and suggest a very different take on the matter. In order to provide context to the revolt and its aftermath, it is necessary to examine both the institution of laybrotherhood and the Order of Sempringham in closer detail. In the first chapter I study the historiography concerning when and how laybrothers arose (and eventually declined to much reduced numbers) as an institution and the various ways in which the laybrothers in general have been defined. In the second chapter I introduce the Gilbertine primary sources and discuss the history of the Order of Sempringham. My third chapter concentrates on the Gilbertine laybrothers’ revolt itself in context, and the fourth on the reputation incurred by laybrothers both generally as an institution in the Middle Ages and more specifically, those involved in the Gilbertine revolt. My fifth chapter considers the daily life of Gilbertine laybrothers and laysisters as a consequence of the revolt and suggests why no laysisters were involved in the revolt. Overall, this dissertation shows that the Gilbertine laybrothers had good reasons for their revolt, and that, rather than being rebuked and reviled, they ought to be listened to for attempting to deal with what they perceived as problems within the order. More generally, it is my opinion that medieval laybrothers have been unfairly portrayed, and this dissertation is in part an attempt to rectify that situation.
Chris Landon: “Conquest and Colonization in the Early Middle Ages: The Carolingians and Saxony, c. 751–842”
This thesis reconsiders longstanding questions regarding the economic and ideological forces which drove Frankish expansion into Saxony in the late eighth and early ninth centuries, Frankish strategies of rule in the newly conquered region, and the effects of conquest and cultural dispossession on the Saxons themselves. Specifically, the dissertation seeks to present a new interpretation of this critical historical episode as a process of colonization. After an introduction that briefly outlines various conceptions and definitions of colonization, and how these apply to the early medieval period, chapter one provides an overview of the main Latin and Old Saxon sources regarding Saxony and the Saxons in the Carolingian period from the coronation of Pippin III to the suppression of the Saxon Stellinga uprising in 842. The chapter emphasizes the tendentious nature of these sources, and the ways in which they reflect the perspective of the colonizer while obscuring the experiences of the colonized. Chapter two looks at the ideological justifications for the conquest advanced in the Frankish primary sources, arguing that the Franks’ forcible Christianization of the Saxons was driven in part by the Carolingian dynasty’s increasingly close ties with the papacy, and by ancient imperial prerogatives regarding the extension of the faith. Chapter three, in contrast, examines the economic forces driving Frankish expansion into Saxony, demonstrating that the region possessed more material wealth than is generally assumed. Finally, chapter four turns to the effects of conquest and colonization on the Saxons themselves, analyzing the ways in which imperial ideologies and practices of rule were presented to a newly converted Saxon audience in the Old Saxon Gospel harmony known as the Heliand.
Jessica Lockhart: “Everyday Wonders and Enigmatic Structures: Riddles from Symphosius to Chaucer”
As I am proposing it, the medieval everyday is “what we see” rather than “what we know”––it is made up of the sights, objects, and encounters of lived experience. This dissertation points to a way of thinking about the everyday that I trace from Latin and Old English riddles through to late medieval riddles and Chaucer’s dream vision poems. My approach is structured by two key claims. My first is that riddles seep into other literary genres through what I call ‘enigmatic structures’––passages of heightened uncertainty governed by riddling conventions. My second claim is that for my medieval authors and their readers, everyday wonders––wonders in lived experience––are often understood through enigmatic structures and vice versa. My chapters are about poets for whom the wondrous in the everyday was a shared concern as they debated the origins of wonder, teased out questions about their own poetics, and applied riddling techniques to philosophic and literary problems.
Chapters 1 and 2 show how a particular affective mode of engaging with the everyday coalesces in Anglo-Saxon riddles and wisdom-texts, and acquires enigmatic structures and distinctive wonder-related vocabulary. Chapter 1 explores the origins of this trend in the Latin riddle collections of Symphosius, Aldhelm, and Alcuin. Chapter 2 examines how everyday wonders and enigmatic structures create a technology of wondering in the Old English Boethius, Solomon and Saturn II, and the Exeter Book Riddles. My final chapters argue that late medieval riddles inform Chaucer’s approach to everyday wonder. Chapter 3 surveys the landscape of late medieval riddling and examines Chaucer’s deployment of enigmatic structures and everyday wonders in The Book of the Duchess and The Parliament of Fowls. Chapter 4 proposes a new intertext for Chaucer’s House of Rumour in the Secretum philosophorum, and offers a new reading of the “queynte hous” as a were––a pun that refers both to a fish weir, and to a condition of radical uncertainty. From the Anglo-Saxon period to the fourteenth century, riddles both inscribe and respond to wonder within the familiar world, charting a wise approach to the everyday’s deep mysteries.
Peter O’Hagan: “Teaching the Tradition: Twelfth Century Scholastic Commentaries on Paul’s Letter to the Romans”
This thesis provides the first study of the relationship between three of the most important commentaries on Paul’s Letter to the Romans produced in the cathedral schools of northern France during the twelfth-century, a period usually defined as “early scholasticism.” Studies of this period usually focus on the theological works of the teachers in these schools, leaving to one side their biblical exegesis. This thesis argues for the central importance of biblical exposition to the study of theology in early scholasticism by emphasizing two related aspects of these commentaries: first, that they are the result of classroom teaching rather than written treatises, and second, that the primary goal of this teaching was the handing on of a tradition of reflection on the Bible.
The first chapter studies the so-called Glossa ‘ordinaria’ on Romans. The Glossa was the most important exposition of Romans in the twelfth century, existing in hundreds of manuscripts and forming the basis for teaching. The first chapter traces the sources and methodology of the Glossa, arguing that it is better understood as a classroom text than as a reference work. The second chapter turns to the Glossa’s most influential user, Peter Lombard (d. 1160), whose Magna glosatura on Romans also exists in hundreds of manuscripts. Chapter two analyzes Lombard’s use of the Glossa and how he uses it as the gateway to his own teaching of Romans. The third chapter studies the Postille in Apostolum of Stephen Langton (c.1150-1228), tracing Langton’s use of Lombard’s Magna in his own teaching of Romans and arguing for the unity of Langton’s biblical lectures and his theological works. This study therefore establishes a trajectory of teaching the tradition of reflection on the Pauline Epistles, from the Glossa, through Lombard’s Magna, to Langton’s Postille.
Robin Sutherland-Harris: “The Production and Use of Administrative Documents in Somerset from Glanvill to Magna Carta”
This thesis studies how various kinds of administrative documents were produced and used through the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries within the geographical and administrative territory bounded by the shire of Somerset and the diocese of Bath and Wells. Documents were increasingly part of administration in medieval England at all levels, from royal government to the local land market, from archbishops to cathedral canons. Parallel to the growing importance of administrative texts, an increasingly regularized body of administrative personnel also emerged during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This thesis is therefore situated in the intersection of a flourishing documentary culture and a burgeoning administrative class. Theoretical frameworks provided by scholarship on the partial shift from memory to the written word, on textual communities, and on pragmatic literacy inform the analysis throughout.
Focusing on the production and use of administrative documents over a short time period and in a specific region makes it possible to approach them in detail and at multiple levels. At the level of the institution, both the diocese of Bath and Wells and the monastery of Glastonbury made use of administrative documents while in conflict with one another. At the level of the individual, the archdeacons of the diocese found a range of administrative roles in royal government, in which they relied on pragmatic literacies tailored to their individual circumstances. At the level of the documents themselves, connections between surviving charter originals reveal the articulation of large-scale changes in documentary and administrative culture in the uneven small-scale nuances of scribal and chancery production. Each chapter examines documentary culture and pragmatic literacy in the local context, exposing bureaucratic rather than literary or religious reading communities. Rather than the high-culture focus adopted by most studies of medieval literacy, the emphasis here is on the more wide-spread and practically engaged world of administrative bodies, personnel, and documents; this allows a “core sample” of evidence from a local temporal and geographical microcosm to be tested against our understanding of macrocosmic changes in the uses of texts and the roles of literacy in the medieval west.
Simona Vucu: “Henry of Ghent and John Duns Scotus on Self-Agency and SelfMotion: An Inquiry into the Medieval Metaphysics of Causal”
In the Physics, Aristotle argues that everything that moves is moved by something else, and thus that things cannot move themselves, in the sense of self-motion that refers not just to changing location, but also more generally to causing a change in oneself. This dissertation focuses on how, working within the framework of Aristotle’s philosophy, Henry of Ghent and John Duns Scotus defend the possibility of self-motion and self-agency (in contrast to self-motion, in self-agency a thing causes a feature in itself, but there is no temporal moment to which we can assign this causal fact). To understand Henry’s and Scotus’s defences of self-motion and self-agency, I consider their views about causal powers: in any case of causation, including self-motion and self-agency, things do what they do by exercising their causal powers. I argue that Henry and Scotus think very differently about the nature of powers and their causal contribution. Henry takes powers to be without causal efficacy, a view that pushes him to assign to them only an explanatory role, and to argue that in causation, what causes the change and what undergoes the change is the whole thing that has a power. In contrast, Scotus understands powers as forms, that is, as entities that can have direct causal efficacy, and thinks that in causation, what causes the change and what undergoes the change are these forms, which are parts of things. I further explain how Henry’s and Scotus’s views about causal powers are responsible for their different understandings of self-change. Because he focuses on how the whole thing is affected in a causal interaction, Henry is forced to conclude that in created beings, no perfect self-change is possible, for what starts the change and what ends it are not strictly the same. By focusing on the causal contribution of the parts of a thing, Scotus manages to bypass Henry’s conundrum, and develops an account according to which things can change themselves in virtue of having active and passive principles by whose mutual manifestation a feature is produced by the self-agent in itself.
Natalia Zajac: “Women Between West and East: the Inter-Rite Marriages of the Kyivan Rus’ Dynasty, ca. 1000-1204”
This dissertation examines the marriage alliances of the Riurikids, the Orthodox rulers of Kyivan Rus’, with western-rite (Latin Christian / Catholic) rulers. Using both narrative and legal sources, it considers the process by which the brides in these marriages acculturated to the environment of their husbands’ courts, and the degree to which they were able to maintain ties with the culture of their birth. Through the prism of these women’s lives, the dissertation adds to our understanding of the social history of Orthodox-Catholic interaction among lay elites from the early eleventh century to 1204. While individual clerics such as Metropolitan Ioann of Kyiv disapproved of Orthodox-Catholic marriages in the 1080s, such condemnation was an extreme position for its time, and was rooted in concerns with preserving the ritual purity of Orthodox believers. Beginning in the late twelfth century, some western lay persons and clerics also may have disapproved of ties with Rus’, but their views remained in the minority. The dissertation confirms previous findings that the so-called Church Schism of 1054 was not an essential factor in the formation of these marriages until the thirteenth century. It demonstrates that brides in these inter-rite marriages did not experience a complete conversion to the religious tradition of their husbands nor rigidly maintain their allegiance to the culture of their birth; rather, they were able to keep some aspects of their former confessional and cultural identity, depending also on the specific court culture in which they found themselves. Cultural continuity with Rus’ was especially strong when brides were sent to areas of so-called “New Europe” (neighbouring Scandinavia, Poland, and Hungary). The dissertation concludes that marriages between the Riurikids and western-rite dynasties contributed to a cosmopolitan court culture among medieval elites at a time when barriers between Orthodoxy and Catholicism still remained porous.