Congratulations to our recent PhD students who defended in Fall 2015 or Spring 2016: Rachel Bauder, David Gugel, Madeleine Elson, Christopher Miller, and Andrew Dunning.
Rachel Anna Bauder (who defended in Sept. 2015), “Naming Particulars: A Thirteenth-Century Debate on Whether Individuals Have Proper Names”
Supervisor: Martin Pickavé. External reader: Henrik Lagerlund, University of Western Ontario
This dissertation is about a debate that occurred in thirteenth-century philosophy over an apparently bizarre question: Can individuals really have proper names? While scholarly studies have previously appeared on two philosophers (Geoffrey of Aspall and Richard Rufus of Cornwall) who discussed this question, I show that the question was widespread in the thirteenth century and involved many participants. Historically, I offer the first comprehensive account of how the debate over the possibility of proper names arose. I argue that it was instigated by Michael Scot’s translation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics and perpetuated by tensions within the new Aristotelian metaphysical and cognitive theories of the 1230’s-1260’s. Philosophically, I offer a detailed analysis of the arguments on both sides of the question, presenting and explicating over 15 arguments for and against proper names, in texts by eight different philosophers: Richard Rufus of Cornwall, Adam Buckfield, Geoffrey of Aspall, Robert Kilwardby, Pseudo-Kilwardby, Roger Bacon, Siger of Brabant, and Richard of Clive.
The questions I focus on are the following. First, how was it theoretically possible to doubt the nameability of individuals? To answer this question, I look at the medieval traditions in the language arts. Specifically, I argue that Boethius’s commentaries on Aristotle’s Perihermeneias provide criteria for what counts as a nomen or “name” in a philosophical sense, but those criteria specifically exclude words that might otherwise be regarded as nomina or “nouns” in a grammatical sense. Granting this distinction, I then ask the second question of the thesis: On what reasonable grounds might a philosopher think that a name of an individual is merely a grammatical “noun” rather than a genuine philosophical “name”? Here the answer seems to be that individuals cannot be named as such because they cannot be understood as such. I investigate two broad motivations in the arguments: (a) the human cognitive faculties are not equipped to grasp the individual as such, and (b) individuals are unknowable in themselves because they are composites of matter (which is unknowable) and form (which may be knowable, but which may also be common to many individuals).
David Michael Gugel (who defended in Feb. 2015), “The Social and Cultural Worlds of Elite Valencian Youth, 1300–1500”
Supervisor: Mark Meyerson. External Reader: Richard W. Kaeuper, University of Rochester.
This study examines the socio-cultural position of adolescents and youths – those between the approximate ages of fifteen and twenty-five years old – within aristocratic and patrician society in late medieval Valencia. It investigates how young people were defined and described by adult society, as well as how young people understood their own relationship with sources of adult authority – sometimes acquiescing to it and sometimes actively resisting it – and concludes that, far from being an insignificant or abbreviated period of transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescence was a vital and protracted period of preparation that was believed to require special vigilance and attention from adult society to ensure that adolescents and young adults became “successful” members of society.
The study begins, in Part I, by investigating how adolescence was understood and defined by the Valencian legal code, the Furs, which collectively codified adolescence as a period of “quasi-adulthood.” Then, the second part examines how adolescence and youth were constructed in works of prescriptive literature composed by ecclesiastical and secular authors in late-medieval Valencia, with particular attention given to the writings of the Franciscan writer Francesc Eiximenis, as well as Ramon Llull’s Llibre de l’orde de cavalleria, and Joanot Martorell’s chivalric epic, Tirant lo Blanc. These sources highlight the importance of paternal or adult supervision of a child’s education, while also giving insight into societal constructions of aristocratic masculinity and femininity, aristocratic honor, masculine aggression, and socially acceptable forms of sexual expression between young men and women. Finally, Part III of this study explores how the values expounded by the sources used in Parts I and II were expressed by young people within society. Using legal records (court cases and judicial records) and documentary materials, this section analyzes how young members of aristocratic households, particularly squires and the younger members of aristocratic families, were socialized into the culture of violence, honor, and “proper” sexual comportment by adult society and, consequently, reproduced these values in their own lives.
Madeleine Beth Elson (who defended in March 2016), “Chaucer’s French Sources — Literary and Codicological Play and the Author’s Persona”
Supervisor: Alexandra Gillespie. External reader: Ardis Butterfield, Yale.
This dissertation studies the ways that Chaucer and his French contemporaries, Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, Oton de Graunson, and Eustache Deschamps, craft poetic authority. They do so in relation to the books that convey their writing and literary reputations to their audiences.
Chaucer, translating the work of these French poets, reacts to the constructions of authority he finds in medieval sources, in manuscripts, and in a scribal culture in which the transmission of texts can be unpredictable. I argue that Chaucer adapts Machaut’s pseudo-autobiographical narrative voice in his own poetry. He responds to a contrast evident in manuscript culture between the single-author codex — for example, surviving books of Froissart’s poetry, Paris, BNF f.fr. 830 and 831 — and the ubiquitous miscellany, a contrast that seems to operate along gendered and poetic as well as codicological lines. Chaucer adapts the poetic form of Graunson’s Cinq Ballades to ensure that his Complaint of Venus circulates as a single piece, unlike some copies of his source text. Finally, I argue that Deschamps invites Chaucer to participate in a cross-Channel exchange of invective, one that is part of a bookish and literary tradition.
The main argument of my dissertation is that Chaucer puts ideas about books into play in his poetry. He imagines manuscripts as forms for literature and as forms for authority. For example, he models the form of the polyvocal miscellany in his General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in order to create — ironically — a work of literature resembling a single-author manuscript: this miscellany is also a collection of works by a single author that circulates intact. Chaucer’s investigation of bookish forms is playful, but it also has high poetic stakes: for Chaucer, as for his French contemporaries, play locates the poet in an authoritative literary tradition and secures his future renown.
Christopher Liebtag Miller (who defended in March 2016), “Die sah man weinen: The Representation of Emotion and Dispute in Middle High German Heroic Epic”
Supervisor: Markus Stock. External Reader: Jan-Dirk Müller, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München.
This thesis approaches the depiction of conflict and emotion in Middle High German heroic epic from an anthropological perspective, thereby establishing the norms and practices that obtain within the fictive societies the texts present. I argue that these epic narratives problematize the anxieties of medieval aristocratic society, critique those human elements deemed most disruptive to it, and establish positive and negative models for its ordering through variations upon a traditional progression of conflict and through the representation of communicative emotion within this progression.
Across many texts, medieval German heroic epics present a remarkably consistent
set of practices and behaviour associated with conflict. With recourse to medieval law codes and anthropological observations of societies lacking effective centralized authority, I demonstrate that these practices provide the texts with a flexible narrative structure and are a framework for engaging with social and political concerns. In chapter one, I begin with a consideration of the role played by displays of emotion as symbolic communication within heroic narrative, demonstrating that such displays are a primary means by which status and identity is expressed and established. In chapter two, I contextualize these displays within a semi-standardized progression of conflict comprising more-or-less discrete stages of dispute. In so doing, I show that the communicative content and performative valence of emotion is dependent upon its position within the conflict progression. In the third chapter, I establish these disputes as the expression of an economy of symbolic capital with honour as its essential currency.
Approaching these strategic performances in such a manner reveals that the dispute
practices previously outlined function as a form of status competition in which the
negotiation and valuation of honour serves to establish and consolidate social hierarchies. The final chapters are devoted to the varied communicative valences of specific emotion displays in this context. Here, I demonstrate that public displays of grief are utilized to delineate and confirm membership within the honour group, even as they broadcast collective injury, solicit aid, and legitimize violence. Public anger, on the other hand, serves to make or refute status claims, threatening or accompanying reactive violence.