Congratulations to our recent PhD Candidate David M. Foley!

David M. Foley: “PETRI COMESTORISGlosae super Iohannem glosatumProthemata et Capitulum IA Critical Edition with an Historical Introduction” (University of Toronto 2020).

Recent discoveries surrounding the twelfth-century schools of Northern France have begun to attract the attention of scholars to a vast corpus of unedited lecture materials (reportationes) emanating from the cathedral school of Notre-Dame. This dissertation encompasses the first partial critical edition and specialised study of one such series of lectures, Peter Comestor’s Glosae super Iohannem glosatum. Delivered in Paris in the mid-1160s, Comestor’s lecture course on the Glossa ordinaria’ on the Gospel of John has been preserved in the form of continuous transcripts taken in shorthand by a student-reporter. From this original set of reportationes, likely revised and authorised by Comestor prior to their diffusion, all of the sixteen extant witnesses to the text ultimately derive. Despite the impressively stable textual tranmission of the Glosae, each manuscript contains unique information about Comestor’s immediate teaching environment: interpolations in the main body of text, student annotations, marginal glosses reporting Comestor’s teaching in his other classes, and additions made (or dictated) by the master himself. Accordingly, I have selected ten of the best witnesses dating from between the last quarter of the twelfth century and the first quarter of the thirteenth to produce a critical edition of the prothemata (i.e. prefatory material) and the first chapter of Comestor’s lectures. In addition to the text of the original lectures, I provide two appendices containing the layered accretions made by Comestor and his students to the lectures, as well as a third appendix containing an edition of the corresponding portion of the textbook from which Comestor lectured, the Glossa ordinaria’ on John.

The second part of this dissertation, comprised of five chapters, serves to provide a wide-ranging introduction to the historical and intellectual context of Peter Comestor’s biblical teaching. Chapter One presents an outline of Comestor’s scholastic career and known works, a survey of the scholarship on his biblical glosses, and a general introduction to the text of the edition: its date, genre, and title. Chapter Two charts the intellectual landscape of Comestor’s lectures: namely, the tradition of biblical teaching originating at the School of Laon, preserved in the Laonnoise Glossa ordinaria,’ and subsequently developed in the classroom by Peter Lombard and a succession of Parisian masters. Chapter Three represents a critical study of the portion of the Glosae presented in the edition: an overview of its structure and narrative sequence, an examination of Comestor’s teaching method and scholastic setting, an outline of the sources (both patristic and ‘modern’) behind his biblical scholarship, and a survey of his engagement in contemporary doctrinal controversies. In Chapter Four, I provide a detailed description of the ten manuscripts selected for the edition together with a stemmatic analysis of their relations. Finally, Chapter Five specifies the editorial principles observed in the critical edition, its various apparatus, and the appendices.

Congratulations to our recent PhD graduates!

Congratulations to our PhD students who recently defended their theses:

Riley, Bridget (2019) “Quotquot invenire posset: Inventiones and Historical Memory in Southern Italy, c. 900-1150″

“This dissertation examines inventiones, that is narratives of relic discoveries, written in southern Italy between the tenth and twelfth centuries. During this period, communities dealt with sweeping changes brought on by political upheaval, invasion, and ecclesiastical reforms. Several inventiones written concomitantly to these events have received little scholarly attention. This dissertation has two goals: to enhance our understanding of the genre in general and to explore further the local circumstances that prompted their composition and copying. The following four case studies pertain to Christian communities in Naples, Benevento, and Larino, and the abbey of San Vincenzo al Volturno respectively. This dissertation argues that, because of their “inventive” nature, these sources were powerful means of writing and rewriting history and, more often than not, the exercise of historical memory fueled their production. In particular, this dissertation contends that in eleventh-and twelfth-century southern Italy, as communities underwent the transition from Lombard to Norman authorities, the memory of the Lombard lords of the past was utilized in inventiones as a powerful tool to rewrite the identity of a community as it negotiated the changing political and ecclesiastical landscape. Furthermore, this dissertation argues that because of the devotional nature of inventiones, typically composed for use in the liturgy and thus potentially exposed to a large public, the history encoded within these sources was made all the more powerful. Inventiones reveal how the liturgy, ritual, and devotion were mobilized by medieval communities and display an inherent reciprocity between historical and devotional writing and thought. In order to unlock these features as well as the local conflicts and agendas that prompted the production of inventiones, both a close study of the original manuscripts of extant inventiones as well as attention to contemporary liturgical, diplomatic, and material sources are major components of each case study.”

Warnes, Julia (2019) “Dúngal: A Study of his Life and Works”

This study provides the first comprehensive treatment of the life and works of Dúngal, cleric and scholar active on the European continent during the ninth century. This dissertation has two main aims. First, it seeks to clarify what we can know about Dúngal based on an examination of the texts and manuscripts. It establishes a corpus of texts that can be attributed to Dúngal, and reassesses the palaeographic evidence of the manuscripts associated with him. Second, this dissertation provides a study of Dúngal in order to investigate broader questions about Carolingian intellectual history in the ninth century: what texts were they reading, what questions were they asking, or how were manuscripts being constructed, used, and reused? In sum, it examines Dúngal in order to contribute to our understanding of Carolingian intellectual culture in the ninth century.

Congratulations to our recent PhD Candidates

Congratulations to our PhD students Bogdan Smarandache, Matthew Mattingly, and Morris B. Tichenor who defended their theses in September 2019:

Bogdan Smarandache: “Frankish-Muslim Diplomatic Relations and the Shared Minority Discourse in the Eastern Mediterranean, 517-692 AH/1123-1293 AD”

This dissertation examines the special link between Christian-Muslim diplomatic relations and the conditions of confessional minorities in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean. It begins with a preliminary analysis of the legal and ideological frameworks that guided Christian and Muslim rulers in their policies towards minorities. It then surveys how these rulers involved minorities in their negotiations, upholding or challenging these frameworks, from the earliest Christian-Muslim encounters in the first/seventh century to the Norman and Seljuk invasions of Sicily and Anatolia in the fourth/eleventh century. The dissertation then shifts focus towards the Frankish Coastal Plain (Arabic: al-Sāḥil; Old French: Outremer) and Islamic Greater Syria (Arabic: Bilād al-Shām; Latin: Majora Syria) from the First Crusade (488-492/1095-1099) to the conquest of the last Frankish stronghold of Acre by the Mamlūk sultan al-Ashraf Khalīl (689-693/1290-1293) in 690/1291. This dissertation offers a new analysis of Christian-Muslim relations that considers post-crusade developments in diplomatic practices as part of a continuum originating with relations between Byzantine emperors and Umayyad caliphs and their concerns over the welfare of minorities. It shows how rulers projected their authority by including minorities in their negotiations and how changes in the relations between rulers directly brought about the improvement or worsening of minority conditions throughout Mediterranean history. It also argues that the expressive (or symbolic) actions used to target minorities, or challenge the ability of rulers to protect them, were mutually intelligible across confessional divides. Thus, Frankish and Muslim rulers shared a common language of diplomacy that involved diplomatic conventions, such as gift-exchange, and they also shared a common conceptualization of authority tied to their treatment of minorities and their ability to protect minorities that evolved out of earlier discourses.

Matthew Mattingly: “Living Reliquaries: Monasticism and the cult of the saints in the Age of Louis the Pious”

At the genesis of this dissertation is the observation that numerous Carolingian monasteries of the ninth century were more than just enclaves for a spiritual elite following the Rule of St. Benedict but also functioned as popular religious shrines. These communities almost invariably identified with a patron saint particular to their institutions, whose bodily remains they protected and memorialized, and whose cults they actively promoted. This contrasts sharply with the early Merovingian period when monasteries and the shrines of the saints were mostly separate endeavors. My study aims to understand how and why this development came about, and what, if anything, the cult of the saints and their relics had to do with the monastic life and its ideals. It also serves to complicate the prevailing view that Carolingian monasteries were essentially “Benedictine” and functioned foremost as “powerhouses of prayer” for the aristocratic society that supported them.

A preliminary chapter provides historical context and introduces key themes by analyzing Queen Balthild’s decision, ca. 650, to organize the premier saints’ shrines of the Frankish realm as monasteries. The remaining chapters are then devoted to detailed case studies of the iii monastery-shrines of Saint-Wandrille, Saint-Denis, and Saint Gall, and are based on close readings of hagiographical works composed during the early decades of the ninth century in the midst of major institutional transformations. While scholars have previously focused on the adoption of the Rule of St. Benedict by these communities in the context of an imperially sponsored monastic reform, the changes are shown here to have been much more comprehensive, entailing large-scale building projects, artistic enhancements, liturgical renewal, and the production of new hagiographic literature. The larger aim, it is argued, was to create integrated complexes of sacred space, more worthy of the relics housed within, as the basis for Christian communities that comprised more than just their monks. The reformed monasteries themselves are represented, in effect, as living reliquaries, whose sacred duty was to protect, honor, and mediate the power of the relics entrusted to their care.

Morris B. Tichenor: “Cicero’s Incomplete Orator: The Transmission and Reception of the Mutilus Text”

This dissertation traces the tradition of Orator, Cicero’s late work on oratorical style, through the Middle Ages. During that time and due to mechanical losses, the text circulated in a reduced or mutilus form consisting of only the middle half and tail-end of the treatise. An early chapter (1) covers the tradition of the text as fragmentary quotations in other Classical and Late Antique authors. The core of my project, however, is a full codicological examination and catalogue (Appendix C) of the fifty-six surviving manuscript witnesses to this mutilus text. Proceeding from that research, I present the stemmatic relationships of the manuscripts, the geographic and chronological spread of the text, and the creation of two separate vulgate versions by early Italian humanists (Chapters 2 and 3). I present an edition of and commentary on a version of the text created by the early 15th c. schoolmaster Gasparino Barzizza, whose conjectures have long been praised by editors (Appendix A). I edit and classify the marginal and paratextual additions made by medieval readers to show how and why they read the text (Appendix B). Beyond the obvious contributions to textual criticism and the history of rhetoric, my dissertation demonstrates, through the lens of a single text, many of the various Ciceronianisms and Ciceros that existed in Latin intellectual history in the over millennium and a half following his death.

Congratulations to our recent PhD graduates!

Congratulations to our PhD students who recently defended their theses:

Annika Ekman: “Anselm of Laon, the Glossa Ordinaria, and the Tangled Web of Twelfth-Century Psalms-Exegesis”.

This thesis studies the textual relationships between a group of related early scholastic commentaries on the Psalms. At the centre of the discussion stands the commentary which is often said to epitomize the developments in teaching which emerged within the cathedral schools in the twelfth century, namely the so-called Glossa ordinaria on the Bible, and its association with Anselm of Laon, one of the most celebrated theologians of the period. Despite its central place in twelfth-century intellectual culture, relatively little has been able to be conclusively established regarding the origins of the Gloss. Likewise, the authorship of many of the early scholastic Psalms-commentaries related in some way to the Gloss remains uncertain. A great many suggestions have been put forward by modern scholars, but rather than looking only at one or two of the attributions, this thesis broadens the scope of the question and takes a comprehensive view of a larger group of these commentaries, showing that this is necessary if we want to be able to say anything conclusive about their authorship.

The first chapter examines the latest scholarship on the Gloss on some other books of the Bible, showing how this bears on the question of Anselm’s authorship of the Gloss on the Psalms. The second chapter analyses the relationship of the Gloss on the Psalms to its two closest relatives and attempts to settle conclusively the question of the direction of influence. The third chapter examines the evidence and arguments for the attribution of one of the other Psalms-commentaries to Anselm, arguing, on the basis of the expanded scope of the examination, against the attribution. It also begins to examine the relationships that exist within the larger group, and introduces a new hypothesis for the place of the Gloss in the family tree and for Anselm’s involvement its creation. The fourth chapter analyses the relationships of the group as a whole, demonstrating how they are all related to one another but that none can be the sole source of the rest of the group, and arguing further for the hypotheses introduced in Chapter Three.

Kirsten Schut: “A Dominican Master of Theology in Context: John of Naples and Intellectual Life Beyond Paris, ca. 1300-1350”.

This dissertation provides the first comprehensive biography of the Dominican scholar John of Naples (Giovanni Regina di Napoli), who flourished during the first half of the fourteenth century. John studied and taught at the Dominican schools in Naples and Bologna, and at the University of Paris, where he was made a master of theology in 1315. He spent most of the rest of his life in Naples, where he was closely associated with the Angevin court. Chapter 1 surveys John’s life and works, setting his career in its Neapolitan context. Chapters 2-4 deal with different aspects of his teaching. Chapter 2 contrasts his contributions to debates about the nature of theology at Paris with the way he introduced this subject to his Dominican students in Naples. Chapter 3 examines the role of medicine in his theological teaching, where it served as a tool for interpreting core texts as well as a source of material for preaching. Chapter 4 analyzes the symbiotic relationship between his quodlibets and the literature of pastoral care. Chapter 5 looks at John as a Dominican friar and preacher, turning to his sermon collection as a source of information about Dominican life in southern Italy, and Chapter 6 investigates his relationship with the Angevin rulers of Naples and the role of politics and political theory in his works. Appendices to chapters 2-6 provide transcriptions of unpublished quodlibetal questions, sermons, and other texts used as the basis for this study. Two additional appendices provide descriptions of the main manuscripts and discuss the dating and placing of John’s works. This study considers John from a variety of angles – teacher, preacher, friar, courtier, Neapolitan – and suggests that these overlapping identities cannot be productively separated from one another. It highlights the vibrancy of intellectual life in early-fourteenth-century Naples, and the strong cultural ties between Naples, Paris, and Avignon, as well as other regions such as the Kingdom of Hungary. Furthermore, it illustrates how mendicant convents could help to disseminate theological teachings from the University of Paris to the provinces, while also serving as sites of innovation in their own right.

Congratulations to our recent PhD graduate!

Congratulations to our recent PhD graduate who defended in the last months:

Jason Brown: “St Antonin of Florence on Justice in Buying and Selling: Introduction, Critical Edition, and Translation.”

This dissertation presents an extensive introduction to the Summa of St Antonin (Antoninus, Antonino) of Florence and his teaching on justice in buying and selling. It also presents, for the first time, critical editions and English translations of three chapters of his Summa: 2.1.16 (On fraud), 3.8.1 (On merchants and artisans), and 3.8.2 (On the various kinds of contracts). St Antonin was a Dominican friar and archbishop of Florence from 1446 to 1459, and composed one of the most comprehensive medieval manuals of moral theology, his Summa. In his preaching and writing, Antonin sought to teach the merchants and artisans of Florence about the proper conduct of trade and exhorted them to practice virtue and moderation in the pursuit of profit. The first part of this dissertation is an introduction with four chapters. Chapter One provides a brief literature review on St Antonin and a biography. Chapter Two is a study of his Summa: its conception, textual witnesses, and process of composition. This chapter demonstrates that the manuscripts traditionally considered to be the originals are indeed the author’s autographs, and offers the most extensive analysis of these manuscripts yet produced. Chapter Three expounds the development of scholastic teaching on justice in buying and selling in the thirteenth-century faculties of canon law and theology. Chapter Four explains Antonin’s teaching: its social context in renaissance Florence; its content, sources, and method; and its purpose, namely, helping the clergy in their pastoral duties of preaching, hearing confessions, and resolving moral dilemmas. A postscript comments on Antonin’s place in the history of moral theology. The second part of the dissertation, the appendices, is the critical edition and English translation, preceded by an explanation of the edition and followed by tables illustrating the recensions of each chapter, as well as a description of Antonin’s handwriting.

Congratulations to our recent PhD students!

Congratulations to our recent PhD students who defended in the last months:

Leah Faibisoff: “Chancery Officials and the Business of Communal Administration in Republican Florence: Ventura and Niccolò Monachi, Chancellors of Florence (1340-48/1348-75)”

This dissertation studies the chancery of the Florentine Republic by examining the administrative offices which constituted the institution and some of the notary- administrators who held principal positions within the chancery. The scholarship on Florentine government often presupposes to the existence of some kind of permanent bureaucratic workforce that rendered stability to the city’s system of amateur, short-term political office. My dissertation instead suggests that the susceptibility to change in Florentine government extended also to its administrative organisation. It can be found at the level of institutional dynamics but it was also experienced by chancery officials themselves who continually had to negotiate between forces of instability and stability in the performance of their duties and in their attitudes towards their work.
The first half of this dissertation considers the institutional dynamics of impermanence within the chancery through an examination and description of the three main offices of the institution during the republican period: the notary of the priors, the notary of legislation, and the chancellor. The main contention of this section is that within the institution of the chancery there was an apparent tension between the semi-permanent, rationalizing force of a very few administrative agents and the impermanent destabilizing force of hundreds of administrative agents who cycled through the chancery. The second half of the dissertation then turns to look in detail at the lives and careers of two long-serving chancellors, Ventura Monachi (chancellor, 1340-1348) and his son Niccolò Monachi (chancellor, 1348-1375). In his lyric poetry, Ventura negotiates the incessant forces of unpredictability as both a notary-administrator and chancellor, while Niccolò’s book of Ricordanze demonstrates how even a notary-administrator who operated as a semi-permanent official was vulnerable to the shifting political sands of the Florentine commune.
This study contributes a new set of insights and perspectives to our understanding of the institution of the Florentine chancery through an examination of the relationship between socio-political dynamics and institutional form; the formation of an administrative habitus as evidenced by the exchange of symbolic capital in municipal poetry and communal art; and, the everyday functionality of an institution structurally based on a persistent tension between stability and instability.
Alexander Fleck: “The Narrative and Descriptive Influence of Latin Hagiography on Beowulf”The search for sources of elements in Beowulf has provided significant insight into the poem’s literary context, thematic makeup, and historical setting. While much value has been derived from identifying Norse and Old English analogues, less attention has been paid to Latin texts. If we accept that the Beowulf-poet was literate, Latinate, and possibly monastic, the influence of Latin literature—particularly hagiography—emerges as a distinct probability.

This dissertation suggests that the influence of hagiography manifests itself in similarities of narrative and description, and examines two common depictions found in both saints’ lives and Beowulf: sea journeys and the hostile wilderness. Through schematizing these scenes, it establishes a set of conventions underlying their depiction and compares them to their analogous scenes in Beowulf.

The voyages of seafaring saints can typically be articulated into overarching narrative components comprising a call to action, a commission and blessing, a procession to the shore and boarding, a voyage aboard ship, an arrival sequence, disembarking, and an onshore meeting, each component featuring remarkably durable elements. Beowulf’s two sea journeys echo the structural components of these vitae closely, and their corresponding elements tend to reflect those alignments found in hagiography.

Though less tied to narrative structure, sacred hermits’ wilderness homes typically depict a robust complement of primary elements: trees, water, mountainous stone, a route, hostile wildlife, fables about the region, negative descriptors, and fabricated space. Readers of Beowulf will be familiar with these elements as they appear throughout Hrothgar’s description of Grendel’s mere and its subsequent appearance in the text.

From these observations, it appears that the Beowulf-poet was incorporating the narrative and descriptive tendencies conventional to Latin hagiography into the Old English poem in spite of divergent subject-matter. These findings serve to reinforce the value of examining the Latinate literary culture of Anglo-Saxon England and its influence on Beowulf. Some compelling analogues within specific vitae suggest that further inquiry into their individual influence on the poem will be rewarded. However, this dissertation most clearly demonstrates the continuing value of seeking sources for elements of Beowulf in the wider conventions of hagiography.

Samuel Klumpenhouwer: “The Summa de penitencia of John of Kent: Study and Critical Edition”

This dissertation presents for the first time a critical edition of John of Kent’s Summa de penitencia and an accompanying study of the text. The Summa is a thirteenth century manual for confessors, informing them of the canon law of the Church and advising them on how to properly hear confessions. The dissertation has four introductory chapters before offering the edited text. The first chapter explains the contribution this critical edition will make to the scholarly community. The second chapter offers a general view of the scholastic milieu and pastoral reforms of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It likewise examines the genre of pastoralia, within which the Summa may be included. The third chapter offers all the known biographical details of John of Kent, including several newly discovered details that are discussed here for the first time. It also details the circumstances in which the Summa was written. The fourth chapter is an introduction to the edition itself. The codicological descriptions of the five extant manuscripts are here offered, as well as my stemmatic hypothesis, editorial choices and formatting decisions. The remainder of the dissertation is the critical edition of the Summa, which John of Kent divided into three books. The first book primarily addresses clerical issues, such as excommunication, simony and certain sacraments. The second book primarily addresses lay issues, such as marriage, tithes and oaths. The final book is a fictional priest/penitent dialogue, where the penitent is depicted confessing various matters in the confessional, with the priest responding appropriately.

Benjamin Wheaton: “Venantius Fortunatus and Christian Theology at the End of the Sixth Century in Gaul”

The writings of the poet Venantius Fortunatus are a major historical source for the study of Gallic society in the sixth century CE. The amount of Christian doctrine treated in these writings is considerable, and provides a fascinating perspective on late sixth-century Gallic theological thought and how it fit into broader Christian discussions of doctrine across the Mediterranean world. This approach to studying Fortunatus’ writings is different from previous scholarship on the poet, and in addition to shedding light on Gallic society’s approach to doctrinal issues will also serve to illumine Fortunatus’ own capacity for theological discourse. Part 1 of this thesis explores his two extant sermons, one on the Apostle’s Creed (The Expositio symboli) and the other on the Lord’s Prayer (The Expositio orationis dominicae). The Expositio symboli of Fortunatus, when considered in the context of both the text from which it was adapted, Rufinus of Aquileia’s fifth-century Expositio symboli, and other sermons on the same subject from the fifth and sixth centuries, showcases his skill at shaping and transmitting Christian doctrine. The Expositio dominicae orationis also does this, but has the additional facet of containing a strong polemic against semi-Pelagianism. It becomes clear from this polemic that Fortunatus held to a strongly Augustinian doctrine of the freedom of the will. Part 2 of this thesis looks at Fortunatus’ interaction with the Christological controversies of the sixth century, centring around the Three Chapters schism fomented by the decisions of the Second Council of Constantinople held in 553. Fortunatus’ writings that touch on the subject display a careful attitude towards the schism that sought to reconcile the two sides. Venantius Fortunatus shows himself to be adept at doctrinal exposition amidst a late sixth-century Gallic church that retained a vibrant interest in these matters.

Nicholas Wheeler: “Perjury and False Witness in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages”

This dissertation investigates changing perceptions of perjury and false witness in the late antique and early medieval world. Focusing on primary sources from the Latin-speaking, western Roman empire and former empire, approximately between the late third and seventh centuries CE, this thesis proposes that perjury and false witness were transformed into criminal behaviours, grave sins, and canonical offences in Latin legal and religious writings of the period. Chapter 1, ‘Introduction: The Problem of Perjury’s Criminalization’, calls attention to anomalies in the history and historiography of the oath. Although the oath has been well studied, oath violations have not; moreover, important sources for medieval culture – Roman law and the Christian New Testament – were largely silent on the subject of perjury. For classicists in particular, perjury was not a crime, while oath violations remained largely peripheral to early Christian ethical discussions. Chapter 2, ‘Criminalization: Perjury and False Witness in Late Roman Law’, begins to explain how this situation changed by documenting early possible instances of penalization for perjury. Diverse sources such as Christian martyr acts, provincial law manuals, and select imperial and post-imperial legislation suggest that numerous cases of perjury were criminalized in practice. Chapter 3, ‘Peccatization: Perjury and False Witness in Latin Patristic Literature’, investigates analogous developments in the Latin Christian church. Chapter 4, ‘An Early Medieval Case Study: Perjury and False Witness in the Visigothic Church and Kingdom’, studies the effects of these developments on one early medieval society. A concluding chapter suggests a class-based dimension to these changes; interrogates the nature of perjury; and proposes further avenues for research. Conceived as a thesis in the history of law and religion, this dissertation doubles as an investigation of a prominent feature of late antique and early medieval culture.

Congratulations to our most recent PhD graduates!

Congratulations to our recent PhD graduates who defended over the last few months:

Daniel Brielmaier: “Selves and Subjectivities in Medieval North Atlantic Verse”

This thesis explores the construction of speaking-subjects and their subjectivities in medieval North Atlantic verse.  Although first-person poetry in medieval Irish and Welsh, Old English, and Old Norse-Icelandic has enjoyed a good deal of critical attention, little of it, with the exception of the Old English material, has focused on the strategies and rhetoric poets employed in the creation of lyric poetry’s speaking personas.  The intent of this project is thus to analyze, discuss, and bring to light the creativity and skill with which medieval North Atlantic poets brought the speaking-subjects of their poetry to life.
“Subject” and “subjectivity” are understood in psychoanalytical terms, primarily through the narrative of signficiation articulated by Julia Kristeva.  In particular, Kristeva’s understanding of the formation of subjectivity through the interaction of the semiotic (i.e., the wordless drives of the body) and the symbolic order (i.e., the world of objects and social structures outside the self) forms both the thesis’s primary tool of analysis – along with close reading – and its organizing principle.  The lyric poems under consideration here are thus organized into chapters according to the relationship of the semiotic and symbolic in the formation of their speaking-subjects. The first chapter, then, examines how Irish monastic poets constructed a Christian subjectivity in
which the semiotic, bodily drives of the speaking-subject – in its ideal form – ran in perfect accord with the Christian symbolic order.  The second chapter takes up the theme of consolation, and examine how Old English, Irish, and Norse verse could be used as a therapeutic tool to end a speaking-subject’s alienation by modelling a process through which the subject signifies himself within an alternative symbolic order, one which enables the speaker to understand his or her subject-position in a more positive light, thus bringing semiotic and symbolic closer to accord.  The third and final chapter turns to those alienated speaking-subjects for whom there is no hope of achieving accord between the semiotic desires of the body and the symbolic order, or of
finding even consolation.  The chapter explores some of the topoi of alienation – eros, old age, illness – prevalent in North Atlantic verse, examining the conditions through which these lyric speakers have become alienated, and what strategies poets employed to represent their estranged state.

Jacob Wakelin: “Making History in High Medieval Austria (1145-1203)—The Vorau Manuscript in its Secular and Spiritual Context”

This dissertation focuses on the historical, social, and political context of the Vorau manuscript (Stiftsarchiv Vorau Codex 276), a collection of more than a dozen Middle High German poems from the late eleventh to the mid-twelfth century in addition to Otto of Freising’s Gesta Friderici I. imperatoris.  When taken together, the manuscript’s disparate assortment of texts creates a roughly coherent history of the world from Genesis down to about 1150. Compiled by the Augustinian canons of the Styrian house towards the end of the twelfth century under the provost Bernard I, the manuscript references local historical events and individuals that were intimately tied to the region’s monastic houses.  As Styria’s margraves, the Otakars (1055-1192) were the founders and advocates of a large number of the monastic communities, and this dissertation argues that the interplay of interests between the Styrian court and its religious houses forms the backdrop to the Vorau manuscript’s creation.  These interests centred on the political legitimacy, social relevance, and stability of both parties that resulted from a monastery’s role in creating a history of a dynasty through commemorative practices and historical writing.  This emphasis on dynasty and heritage was also a key aspect of crusading movement of the twelfth century, playing up the importance of dynasty and heritage in the context of salvation history and increasing demand for the commemorative services offered by canons and monks.  The spiritual and secular importance of dynastically driven historical consciousness at Styria’s monasteries and its court constitute the context which imbued the texts of the Vorau manuscript with relevance for its composers and subsequent users.

Amanda Wetmore: “The Hermeneutics of Desire in Medieval English Devotional Literature”

This dissertation explores the way medieval English devotional writers utilized the hermeneutics of contemporary biblical exegesis, in order to frame their depictions of an erotic and embodied encounter with the divine. The way they manipulate the construction of literal to allegorical realities enables—rather than constrains—the relationship of flesh to spirit, so that the desiring body does not disappear into discourse, but rather, language operates in service of the flesh, articulating a profoundly incarnational devotion, not divested of the body that produced it.  My first chapter explores these themes in Aelred of Rievaulx’s (died 1167 CE) De institutione
inclusarum and De Iesu puero duodennni, where I examine the way Aelred constructs an economy of affect through his manipulation of readers’ desire through the focalization of their gaze on the body of Christ. In my second chapter, I analyze John Whiterig’s (died 1371 CE) Meditacio ad Crucifixum, and notably his erotic semiotics, and erotic interpretation of the Crucifixion, following a four-fold biblical exegesis. Third, I look at the way the The Cloud of Unknowing (late 1300s CE), as part of the “negative” or apophatic tradition, deconstructs some of the typical ideas of cataphatic devotion, positing its own way of accessing the indescribable divine, through darkness, silence, binding, and even anal eroticism. In this chapter, I use modern BDSM (bondage, domination, and sado-masochism) as a comparative context with which to
compare the Cloud’s use of bondage and denial to achieve transcendence. Finally, I analyze the parable of the Lord and Servant in Julian of Norwich’s (died 1416 CE) Long Text, in which I argue that Julian constructs her own “exegesis,” which both responds to and critiques the dominant hermeneutical modes of her day. Julian’s parable demonstrates a metonymic structure of relations, in which the literal and spiritual levels are not hierarchized, but united.

Congratulations to our recent PhD students!

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.

Congratulations to our recent PhD students

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 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.


Andrew Nelson Judd Dunning (who defended in March 2016), “Alexander Neckam’s Manuscripts and the Augustinian Canons of Oxford and Cirencester”

Supervisor: Joe Goering. External reader: Faith Wallis, McGill University

Alexander Neckam (Nequam, Neckham; also known as Alexander of St Albans; 1157–1217) was a teacher and Augustinian canon, leading St Mary’s Abbey in Cirencester as abbot from 1213 to 1217, where he took part in royal and papal operations. His extensive writings are typically studied according to genre (grammatical treatises, biblical commentaries, sermons, poetry) and assumed to be directed to two separate audiences, scholastic and monastic. This dissertation shows that Alexander’s works form a more coherent whole by considering them within the historical circumstances of his career and the intellectual context of the Augustinian order.

While past scholarship has assumed that Alexander only became a regular canon c.1197 at Cirencester, he more likely had already joined the Augustinians in Oxford, where he moved c.1190 and was associated with the Priory of St Frideswide (now Christ Church). The order’s influence shaped Alexander’s largest body of writings: his commentaries on the biblical wisdom books, often thought of as encyclopedias but better understood using his own label of meditationes. These reify the idea of meditation as a natural step in the progression of learning, as promoted by figures such as Hugh of St Victor. Alexander viewed this as a means of caring for souls, promoting female figures as universal models of holy living and seeking closer cooperation between religious orders.

Alexander’s fellow canon Walter de Melida directed a campaign to preserve and promulgate these writings. Walter’s work is reconstructed here from cartularies, letters, and palaeographical analysis of manuscripts. His efforts were outwardly focused, using books to pursue closer relationships with Cirencester’s neighbours.

Sol meldunensis, the miscellany in Cambridge, University Library, Gg.6.42, is here identified as having been created by Geoffrey Brito, who as Alexander’s nephew and a canon at Cirencester personally benefited from the preservation of the abbot’s memory. He presented the collection to Geoffrey, abbot of Malmesbury from 1246 to 1260, and the two houses exchanged the book with successive additions, continuing a literary relationship dating to the time of Robert of Cricklade and William of Malmesbury, and providing a fitting monument to Alexander’s unreserved optimism and nurturing of sustainable enlightenment.

Congratulations to our recent PhD students

Congratulations to our recent PhD students who defended in the Spring or Summer terms of 2015: Lisa Chen Obrist, Jennifer Kostoff-Käärd, Ann Wesson, Anna Wilson, Sean M. Winslow, Christopher Berard and Eduardo Fabbro.


Lisa Lynn Chen Obrist (defended in April 2015), Time and How to Calculate It: A Study and Edition with Translation of Book 10 of Hrabanus Maurus’ De rerum naturis. Supervisor: John Magee. External reader: Helmut Reimitz, Princeton University.

This study investigates the text and context of book 10 of Hrabanus Maurus’ De rerum naturis (DRN) and presents a new edition of the Latin text and an English translation. Chapter one provides an introduction to the topic of computus in the early middle ages, beginning with a definition of the term computus and its cognate disciplines. The chapter continues with a summary of the historical development of the computistical sciences from the early Christian Church up to the Carolingian age. In order to contextualize book 10 of DRN, an overview of the encyclopedic genre is offered to lead into the discussions of Hrabanus’ computistical and encyclopedic works: De clericorum institutione, De computo, and DRN. Chapter two presents the first modern edition of the Latin text of book 10 of DRN based on the earliest manuscripts and includes descriptions of the sources and textual history, the manuscript witnesses used, and the editorial principles applied. Chapter three provides a commentary on the structure, content, textual sources, and literary traditions of book 10 of DRN. Particular attention is given to the four main source authors: Venerable Bede, Isidore of Seville, Cassiodorus, and the anonymous author of the Clavis Melitonis. As well, previously unidentified passages in book 10 are now attributed to eight new sources including works by Ambrosiaster, Origen, and Paterius. Additional passages which were introduced in the later manuscript and print traditions have also been identified and sourced. Chapter four explores the reception and influence of book 10 of DRN and the story behind the possible twelfth-century additions to the text as well as possible future avenues of study. The three appendices comprise the new English translation of book 10, a glossary of computistical terms, and instructions for calculating the date of Easter.


Jennifer (Jenny) Lynn Kostoff-Käärd (defended in June 2015), The Glossa Ordinaria on Ecclesiastes: A Critical Edition with Introduction. Supervisor: Alexander Andrée. External Reader: Mark Clark, The Catholic University of America

This dissertation describes the discovery of the earliest version of the Glossa Ordinaria on the Book of Ecclesiastes and presents this text in its first ever critical edition. Included is a study of its sources, its development throughout the Middle Ages and its relationship to other exegesis on Ecclesiastes. The Glossa Ordinaria, which surrounds each verse of the scriptural text with traditional interpretations, stands as the sine qua non of the medieval study of the Bible, a resource whose influence began in the early twelfth century and persists in theological writing beyond the sixteenth century. Despite this, and perhaps because the Glossa’s ubiquity deters scholars from making editions from the available manuscripts, we have only a few editions of Glossa Ordinaria texts.

The dissertation begins with the exegetical history of Ecclesiastes, from patristic up to modern approaches to the text. Central to this section is a classification of the main strategies which exegetes throughout history have used to resolve interpretive difficulties in Ecclesiastes. This classification was created to be applicable not only to Ecclesiastes exegesis but to exegesis on all the biblical books. A further approach to the exegetical history of Ecclesiastes is offered by a series of case studies, each posing an interpretive question and then juxtaposing the responses of exegetes and glosses. The subsequent section reveals how the edited text was discovered, this text’s link to the version of glossed Ecclesiastes reproduced in the first printed edition of the Glossa, and the relationship of the versions to their sources. The applicability of the designation “Glossa Ordinaria” to both versionsis considered. The final section offers an edition of early glossed Ecclesiastes with the layout of the manuscripts adapted for the printed page, thereby contributing to ongoing discussion concerning the best way to present medieval texts to modern readers.


Ann Wesson (defended in June 2015), Colonization and the Church in High Medieval Sardinia. Supervisor: Joe Goering and Mark Meyerson. External reader: Sally McKee, UC Davis

This thesis investigates the role that the Church played in the political, spiritual and economic colonization of Sardinia in the high Middle Ages. By using Robert Bartlett’s conception of the European “center” and “periphery,” it shows that Sardinia represents an unusual case of a territory that was culturally both central and peripheral. Within this ambiguous cultural setting, and using papal letters, political treaties, chronicles, monastic documents, and onomastic evidence, the thesis examines the way Pisa, Genoa and the Roman pontiffs used Rome’s spiritual and cultural authority to strengthen their own political and economic claims in Sardinia. Specifically, by focusing on the archbishop of Pisa and the bishops and archbishops of Sardinia, it shows that the personnel of the Church, which are not commonly considered agents of colonization in Sardinia, were in reality fundamental to bringing Sardinian society closer to being a political and cultural extension of the Italian mainland. It also, however, investigates the ways in which local Sardinian rulers at times strongly resisted ecclesiastical pressures to conform to the norms of Rome, or used the spiritual prestige and cultural tools offered by the Roman Church to negotiate political advantages for themselves. In this way, the thesis finds that foreign cultural colonization in Sardinia was at times less effective than is generally assumed, and that in certain situations the personnel of the Sardinian Church could offer the means for resistance to foreign colonization. Finally, the thesis draws comparisons between Sardinia and other examples of political, economic and spiritual colonization within Europe, to show how Sardinia is both part of a wider medieval European pattern, and simultaneously a unique case in the study of medieval colonization.


Anna Wilson (defended June 2015), Immature Pleasures: Affective Reading in Margery Kempe, Petrarch, Chaucer, and Modern Fan Communities. Supervisor: David Townsend. External reader: Karma Lochrie, Indiana University.

This thesis explores the ideological significance of immaturity to several late medieval texts that focus on the conjunction between reading and feeling. Using examples from modern fanfiction to help theorize affective reception (that is, reading and response that privileges feeling), this thesis argues that approaching medieval texts with a ‘fannish hermeneutics’ highlights how ideas of age and temporality structure relationships between reader and text across late medieval reading communities. In particular it examines how Margery Kempe, Petrarch, and Chaucer performed, resisted and played with the idea of immature reading in their texts. For each author, an immature relationship with texts becomes a space of inappropriate desires and emotional excess, ambivalence, anxiety, and subversive power. Although these authors moved in different intellectual communities, all interacted with a shared cultural ideology of immaturity and reading that emerged primarily from monastic theories of reading and worship from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. Chapters One and Two argue for the centrality of a ‘fannish hermeneutics’ to reading the Book of Margery Kempe and her contemporaries; Chapters Three and Four further argue Petrarch’s debt to this same tradition of affective piety. Chapter Five treats Chaucer’s reception of Petrarch in the Clerk’s Prologue and Tale, arguing that Petrarch’s portrayal of vernacular poetry as childish is central to Chaucer’s poetics of reception. Finally, in addition to analyses of individual late medieval texts, this study also examines how metaphors of immaturity have shaped twentieth- and twenty-first-century reception of medieval texts, particularly in the relationship between ‘amateur’ (a category I juxtapose with ‘fan’) and ‘professional’ medievalism. How does the cultural narrative of the movement from childish love to mature objectivity structure our understanding of history? And how might returning to ‘immaturity’ as a theoretical category shape modern approaches to medieval literature?


Sean Winslow (defended July 2015), Ethiopian Manuscript Culture: Practices and Contexts. Supervisor: Michael Gervers. External reader: Timothy Graham, University of New Mexico.

The Ethiopian tradition of manuscript production, despite being the longest-lived in the Christian world, is one of the least studied. My dissertation, based in part upon a series of field interviews conducted with scribes and manuscript craftsmen in the Ethiopian highlands between 2007 and 2011, presents information from those interviews and contextualizes it in relation to other published sources in order to describe the Ethiopian tradition in its own terms before transitioning to selected conclusions about how scholars of non-Ethiopian manuscript traditions might use the Ethiopian tradition to inform their approaches to historical practices.

The work is divided into seven chapters: Chapter 1 introduces the research approach. Chapter 2 analyzes what is known about the contexts of manuscript production in Ethiopia, with a special emphasis on interrogating the lack of surviving books from the earliest periods of Ethiopian bookmaking. Chapter 3 describes the practices of parchmenters in the Ethiopian tradition and documents their tools. Chapter 4 describes the work habits of scribes including the cutting of pens, preparation of quires, and the situation of writing. Chapter 5 relates methods and recipes for the making of inks. Chapter 6 covers the processes and tools of the book binder and decorator.

Chapter 7 transitions away from describing the Ethiopian tradition and focuses on what scholars of non-Ethiopian manuscript traditions can learn from ethnographic parallels with documented practices. The Ethiopian tradition is continuous since at least late Antiquity, and serves as an important source for analogies to those who wish to better understand vanished historical practices.


Christopher (Chris) Berard (defended September 2015), Arthurus Redivivus: Arthurian Imitation in Early Plantagenet England, 1154–1307. Supervisors: James Carley and Mark Meyerson. External reader: Richard Moll, University of Western Ontario.

This dissertation is a diachronic study of when and how the first five Plantagenet kings of England and their opponents attempted to use the figure of King Arthur for political gain. Medieval chronicles, chivalric biographies and occasional poetry from the British Isles and Continental Europe constitute its raw materials. Fundamental to this work is reconstructing the ways in which the pseudo-historical Arthur existed in historical memory in the time and places under consideration. This study provides a history of Arthurian self-fashioning that is concomitantly a reception study on medieval understandings of Arthur.

The ideological basis for the practice of Arthurian imitation is the myth of King Arthur’s return: the idea that the legendary sixth-century hero of the Britons would somehow rise again and ‘re-establish’ a great Western European empire based in Britain. Although it is commonly assumed that exspectare Arthurum was an indigenous belief of the Brittonic peoples of Brittany, Cornwall and Wales, this dissertation underscores that there is no evidence to sustain the position that the construct was either ancient or Brittonic in origin. The idea’s earliest attestation dates from 1125 and is a statement about Brittonic belief by a non-Brittonic writer.

The central argument of this dissertation is that the Plantagenets, beginning with Henry II, exploited the myth of Arthur’s return in two ways. First, they advanced the idea that the Brittonic Celts mistakenly clung to a literal interpretation of exspectare Arthurum and were fruitlessly awaiting the return of the original King Arthur. Explicit analogies were drawn with the Jews awaiting their messiah; the purpose of this racist stereotype was to provide moral justification for Plantagenet expansion into Wales and Brittany. Second, the Plantagenets communicated that the myth should be understood figuratively and that they, by virtue of their insular crown and territorial possessions, were Arthur’s true successors.


Eduardo Fabbro (defended September 2015), Society and warfare in Lombard Italy (c.568-652). Supervisor: Nicholas Everett. External reader: Chris Wickham, Oxford.

The aim of this dissertation is to re-evaluate the role of warfare and the military from the establishment of the Lombards in Italy to the end of King Rothari’s reign (c. 569–652). A thorough reassessment of the source material suggests that the Lombard kingdom was a breakaway section of the Byzantine army in northern Italy, which, seceding from the Empire, produced an independent government in Italy. Chapter one analyzes the evidence connecting the advent of the Lombards in Italy with a military rebellion, and produces a picture of the social context of the army in the 560s, highlighting the reasons behind the rebellion and the connections between mutiny and barbarian gentes. Chapter two tackles the trajectories of the Lombard policy after the rebellion, the role of Kings Alboin and Cleph, and the collapse of the Lombard monarchy (c. 574–84). Chapter three analyzes the role of the Franks in the re-establishment of the Lombard monarchy, and the importance of northern Italy for Frankish Alpine policy. The fourth chapter covers the period from Agilulf to Rothari examining the political and military achievements of Agilulf and Rothari, and evaluating the changes in the performance of the army, to suggest that the social conditions behind the support of the army had changed from the early to the mid seventh century. The social aspects of the army in the seventh century are discussed in chapter five, which looks at Italian society under Lombard rule, analyzing the evolution of economy and social organization, and the impact of the military on society. Finally, chapter six uses the data on the performance of the army and on the social structure presented in the previous chapters, to provide an analysis of the mechanisms of recruitment and the impact of military policy and changes on Italian society under the Lombards.