Miriam Shadis, Former Arthur J. Ennis Postdoctoral Fellow
As part of my duties as an Ennis Fellow, I was asked to put together a list of medieval sources which might be useful to faculty teaching the Augustine and Culture Seminar, along with some sort of introductory essay. What follows, I humbly beg, should be considered as a sort of work in progress -- another way of saying that promises are made which are not quite fulfilled; ideas are explored which could bear more consideration (and definitely more dialogue). In this introduction I have tried not so much to characterize the Middle Ages, nor the diverse texts which I present, but rather to situate the "why" of medieval studies in a Core Humanities Program. I beg the reader's indulgence; I speak only for myself here, from my own perspective. I welcome all critique, questions, and of course, compliments!
Why ought a medieval text be taught in the Augustine and Culture Seminar apart from the fact that in this vast period ' (some say 410-1453 CE) we see many developments which fostered and enabled modem humanistic study, such as the origins of the University, intercultural exchange between Jew, Muslim and Christian (especially in philosophy and science), Abelard's articulation of the dialectic, and the foundations of representative government, to name only a very few, there is a real need to appreciate the history of the texts which we read. To leap from Augustine to Shakespeare is to deny in large part the history of the humanities, and thus to misrepresent and misunderstand the important, but distinct historical contributions of thinkers and writers such as Shakespeare, or Augustine. Of real concern for those of us who teach these texts are problems of historical periodization and gender, the problem of teaching outside of one's discipline or field, not to mention the issue of canonicity, which is an implicit component of the Seminar Course -- the idea that some texts (and some kinds of texts) are more essential than others to a good education.
I shall use a rather infamous example to further my point: the work of Camille Paglia. In her obnoxious, but significant book Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Paglia ignores the entire Middle Ages (with the exception of a brief discourse on the plague); thus her work, a self-proclaimed demonstration of " the unity and continuity of western culture " which " accepts the canonical western tradition" is a historical failure. While hers is an extraordinary attempt to grapple with certain histories and texts of the western world in terms of her focus on paganism and the body, it is completely ordinary in its refusal to contend with 1200 or so years of the textual and artistic production and influence of the medieval European, North African and Near Eastern world.
Canonically speaking, however, it may be to our benefit that the Middle Ages have been somewhat ignored by those eager to praise the concept of canonicity itself, and who cling to, or stand firm by, its value. We are much more free, as a result of this, to apply the terms of value (e. g. , "great " ) to a variety of texts, and to determine through the text itself its propriety for the Humanities Seminar. The challenge of working with many medieval texts
often involves reconceptualizing what we mean by abstractions such as authority, justice, piety, or beauty, or even more concrete things like "church" or "family". We are often limited by a perspective highly influenced by renaissance ideals which leap over the formative years of western civilization, in order to explain them.
Furthermore, too much predetermination about what "fits" may not be always appropriate to the goals of the course. Including things that don't have an obvious "fit" can help students arrive at their own definitions of things like authority and power, and thus helps them assume some responsibility for their own learning. This speaks to what I understand to be one of the main goals of Core Humanities: getting students to think for themselves. I am not suggesting a type of syllabic anarchy, but rather that by broadening our notion of what is appropriate, we can relearn why or how an original " fit " was constructed.
Because at least two of our authors for the Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Thought Class are NOT women, we might also use the medieval text as an expedient and appropriate place to incorporate a woman's voice. Consider the words of medievalist Nancy Partner:
Like many profoundly important true things, this one, that human society consists of two sexes, can be stated so simply that it is faintly embarrassing to say or write it. But it is important almost beyond the power of expression to medieval studies... The "one-sex model" <to misuse a current phrase) of medieval society gives all the "body" to one part of society and all the "mind" to another, which is a notably corpselike arrangement. The restoration of women to the scene, to every locale and activity, restores a human world where body and mind are inextricably united, and where women and men struggle through their lives pursuing human wishes by human means, inevitably and always together (however inharmoniously), together in their emotions, thoughts, and imaginations, even when separate in their outward circumstances. "Introduction," Studying Medieval Women pp 1-2.
Women are provocateurs. In bigger way than Camille Paglia ever could, be women provokes students into thinking about not only gender difference, but
also historical,religious, cultural difference, as well as problems of evidence: asking questions about how we know what we know. It is true that students have a greater difficulty with placing women in the past and understanding historical difference than with almost anything else. A chronic problem of this kind of course is the tendency to get students to read Augustine, or Plato, or Montaigne without encouraging them to think: " Look, they are just like us. "I must
plead guilty to this charge as well; I often ask students to think about what' s familiar in the reading that they are doing, for fear it will otherwise seem all too foreign and weird. Women highlight not only gender, but historical difference -- their very presence is a sort of shock treatment or antidote to the ahistorical tendencies of the course. They are *not* like us, and yet, they help to explain *us.* Often enough, studying them helps us to see that the "us" we are is not the "us" we think we are.
I would like to conclude by offering one final observation about the relationship of the (or "a") canon to the Augustine and Culture medieval studies, and women. Medieval women have a complex relationship to any canon; certainly, educated medieval women such as Hildegard of Bingen with her mystical, exegetical and medical writings contributed to the canon of great western texts; women such as Christine de Pizan helped construct the canon as they valorized writers such as Boccaccio as authorities. But women have also been marginalized as serious contributors, and this marginalization is, I believe, linked to the marginalization of medieval texts as a whole in courses such as ours: medieval authors are thought to be poorly educated, irrational, spiritual, a historical -- in a word, effeminate. Adoption of such texts in courses designed to prompt students as they begin college also speaks to what Nancy Partner identifies as the "double exclusion" of the Middle Ages. If I have anything new to offer to this discussion, it is that the exclusion (or, more positively, inclusion) of medieval texts, as well as texts by and about medieval women has profound implications for the practice of teaching the Augustine and Culture Seminar.
The following list is arranged chronologically. I've tried to cross-reference texts which complement each other as much as possible, as well as to refer to other authors (e.g., Augustine; Shakespeare) used in the ACS: Traditions in Conversation course. I've tried to keep the list strictly medieval; it is of course idiosyncratic, as are the annotations accompanying the bibliography. I've not annotated some obvious choices, such as Chaucer, either because I' m unfamiliar with them myself (ergo, Chaucer), or because they are so deeply canonical (Chaucer again) they need no explaining. For those who are completely unfamiliar with medieval texts, I've included a sort of greatest hits medley: favorite quotes from each source, so you can have a sense of the style of the work. In the spirit of encouraging the study of medieval texts. I've left out texts which some may consider appropriate -- drawing the line generally well before the Reformation and high Renaissance (hence no Luther, More, Machiavelli or Erasmus: all fine fellows, but heroes of a new world.)
Because of the limits of and difficulties involved in finding complete, cheap, good editions of some medieval texts in translation, I've included in the discussion below texts which may not always be available independently of some sort of anthology or collection, but which usually can be obtained in part -- I've given at least one citation for each source where an enterprising instructor can find the text for photocopying.
Early Middle Ages
Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian (572-565) Fundamentals of Roman Law "rediscovered" in twelfth century "Justice is the constant and perpetual desire to give to each person his own due, right [ius] ... Jurisprudence [iurisprudentia] is the acquaintance with both human and divine things, the knowledge of what is just and what unjust .... These are 'the precepts of the law [ius] to live honestly, not to injure another, and to render to each his own. "
The Rule of St. Benedict The Rule (530) is the prescriptive basis for western monasticism. It describes in detail the purpose and function of a religious community, and is surprisingly humane in its approach to the cloistered life, with an emphasis on humility, work, and prayer. It is long (but easy) reading; one would want to pick selections, such as the chapters "Concerning the Kinds of Monks and their Manner of Living, " " Concerning Obedience, " or " Whether Monks Should Have Anything of their Own. " The following excerpt is from the section " Concerning the Amount of Drink" -- a student favorite. "Indeed we read that wine is not suitable for monks at all. But because, in our day, it is not possible to persuade the monks of this, let us agree at least as to the fact that we should not drink till we are sated, but sparingly. For wine can make even the wise go astray.
Gregory of Tours History of the Franks trans. Lewis Thorpe, Penguin Classics, 1974. Bishop Gregory of Tours' (539-594) history of Frankish Gaul is a detailed chronicle of the Frankish kingdoms, and includes Gregory's observations of contemporary society. It is important text for understanding the construction of history in this period, as well as the dynamics between Church and State with its parallels of the tension between the Gallo Romans and the newcomer Franks. Some significant episodes described by Gregory include the conversion of Clovis, and the foundation of the Abbey of the Holy Spirit by St. Radegund, as well as the endless battles between Queens Fredegund and Brunhild. " Meanwhile the revolt which, at the instigation of Satan, had broken out in the nunnery in Poitiers, became more and more serious as day followed day. I have told you how Clotild was set upon rebellion and had gathered round her a band of cut-throats, evil-doers, fornicators, fugitives from justice and men guilty of every crime in the calendar. These she ordered to break into the nunnery and to drag out the Abbess. " (X. 15).
St. Columban, Boat Song (ca. 600). St Columban was an Irish missionary to the east, responsible for founding several monasteries in Frankish territories, as well as the Italian monastery of Bobbio. His boat song is a beautiful, vigorous and short poem, which exemplifies the combination of adventure and fortitude embraced by the heroic monks of this period. It would be interesting for that reason to compare with the Rule of St. Benedict, and possibly with the Viking Sagas. The metaphor of conquering nature (conquering sin) might be interesting to compare with St. Francis's poetry. "Cut in the forests, swept down the two-homed Rhine, Our keel, tight-caulked, now floats upon the sea. Heia men! Let the echoes resound with our Heia! ... Endure and save yourselves for better things; 0 you who have suffered worse, this too shall end. Heia men!
Pope Gregory I; the Great (590-604). Gregory sent another Augustine to convert the English, and in his letters he expresses his philosophy (or politics) of conversion: "I have long been considering the case of the Angles, to wit, that the temples of the idols in that nation should not be destroyed, but that the idols that are in them should be. If these temples are well-built, it is necessary that they should be transferred to the service of the true God; and so that, when the people see that these temples are not destroyed, they may put away error from their heart and, knowing and adoring the true God, may have recourse
to the familiar places they have been accustomed to. "In his Book of Pastoral Care. Gregory sets out the obligations and characteristics of a good Bishop, answering the question " What manner of man ought to rule? "
Mohammed (d. 632), The Koran. The sacred text of Moslems sets out the tenets of Islam, defines the relationship of the "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians), and justifies Holy War. "Believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabeans -- whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does what is right -shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear or to regret .... Righteousness does not consist in whether you face towards the east or the west. The righteous man is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, in the angels and the Scriptures and the prophets; who for the love of Allah gives his wealth... " (Sura 2)
Central Middle Ages
Einhard and Notker the Stammerer. Two Lives of Charlemagne, trans. Lewis Thorpe, Penguin Classics, 1969.
Dhuoda, Manual for a son. This ninth century Frankish woman's instruction to her son is poignant and startling for what it reveals about human political activity, motherhood, and women's learning in the late Carolingian era. "I ask and humbly suggest to your noble youth, as if I were present, and also to those to whom you show this book that they may read it, that you might not condemn me and reproach me for the fact that I am so bold as to embark upon such a profound and perilous task: to direct to you instruction concerning God. " Generically, this work is both autobiographical and didactic; it might be categorized in the genre of "Mirrors for Princes, " as well.
Urban II, Crusade Sermon. In 1095, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II preached the first Crusade. His sermon, exhorting French nobles and clergy to retake Jerusalem (he called it a pilgrimage) was reported by Fulcher of Chartes, and by Robert the Monk, who were present. Urban promised remission of sins for Crusaders. "Concerning this affair, I, with suppliant prayer -- not I, but the Lord -- exhort you, heralds of Christ, to persuade all of whatever class, both knights and footmen, both rich and poor, in numerous edicts, to strive to help expel that wicked race from our Christian lands before it is too late. " Fulcher of Chartres, Chronicle of the First Crusade M.E. McGinty, trans. (UPenn Press, 1941.) Fulcher also describes the successful seige of Jerusalem as an eyewitness. For Raymond, see Dana C. Munro, Urban and the Crusaders. (UPenn; Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, vol. 1, no. 2 1985)
The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America. ed. and trans. Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson. (London, Penguin Classics, 1965.) The sagas of the Icelandic and Greenlander voyages throughout the north Atlantic are a combination of history and epic poetry. The voyages described actually took place (around the year 1000), but the intervening 200 years in the development of the text has lent a fictional quality to the story. It might be interesting to read these in conjunction with Shakespeare's The Tempest or More's Utopia "Some time later, Bjarni Herjolfsson sailed from Greenland to Norway and visited Earl Eirik, who received him well. Bjarni told the earl about his voyage and the lands he had sighted. People thought he had shown great lack of curiosity, since he could tell them nothing about these countries, and he was criticized for this .... There was now great talk of discovering new countries."
High Middle Ages
Al-Ghazali, (1058-1111) Faith and practice of Al-Ghazali W. Montgomery Watt, (Chicago, 1982); This Moslem philosopher wrestled with the problem of
"systematic doubt; "his solution was found in illumination from God. "From my early youth, since I attained the age of puberty before I was twenty, until the present time when I am over fifty, I have ever recklessly launched out into the midst of these ocean depths, I have ever bravely embarked on this open sea, throwing aside all craven caution; I have poked into every dark recess, I have made an assault on every problem, I have plunged into every abyss, I have scrutinized the creed of every sect, I have tried to lay bare the inmost doctrines of every community. All this have I done that I might distinguish between true and false, between sound tradition and heretical innovation . . . . . .
Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of St.-Denis and Its Art Treasures. trans. Erwin Panofsky (2nd edition 1979 Princeton University Press.) This is the fascinating and sweet record of the Abbot Suger's (1081-1151) efforts to restore and rebuild the Abbey Church of St. Denis, near Paris. Through Suger's autobiographical writing, we see how aesthetic choices were made, how buildings were financed, how Suger made manifest neoplatonic ideals in the "new" gothic architecture. Issues of piety, competition between monastic orders (Suger was an old-fashioned Benedictine during the first Rush of Cistercian reform), contemporary politics, and self-aggrandizement also abound. "Thus, when -- out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God -the loveliness of the many-colored gems has called me away from external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect, transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial, on the diversity of sacred virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling, as it were, in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven; and that, by the Grace of God, I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world in an anagogical. manner."
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). St. Bernard is one of the most important, influential religious, institutional and political figures of his day. A member of the first generation of the Cistercian Order, he profoundly influenced the successful development of that Order. I like to think of him as having a finger in every pie, however: Bernard preached the second Crusade, censured Abelard, advised kings, and wrote mystical treatises on the Love of God. He had a special affection for the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus, which can be related to an increased "humanism" in the practice of Christianity in this period. There is a huge corpus of Bernard's work, much of it available, (I believe) through the Paulist Press. Here is a selection from his writing on the foundation of the monastic-military order, the Knights Templar: " The knight of Christ, I say, is safe in slaying, safer if he is slain. He is accountable to himself when he is slain, to Christ when he slays ... For when he kills a malefactor, he does not commit homicide but, I might say, malicide, and is clearly reputed to be the vindicator of Christ, bringing punishment to evildoers, and praise in truth to good men."
Autobiography of Ousama (1095-1188), trans. G.R. Potter (1929). Ousama Ibn Mounkidh wrote down his observations of the western Crusaders in Jerusalem (he referred to them generically as "the Franks. ") He remarked on their capacity for friendship, and intelligence, criticizing what he believed to be a perverse sense of honor and jealousy. Although he generally found them to be barbarians, he admired their capacity as warriors. Ousama suggests a humanizing influence in intercultural relations: "It is always those who have recently come to live in Frankish territory who show themselves more inhuman than their predecessors who have been established amongst us and become familiarised with the Mohammedans."
Abelard and Heloise, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. including Abelard's History of My Calamaties trans. Betty Radice, Penguin Classics, 1974. Peter Abelard (1079-1142) is justifiably known as one of the most famous scholars of his day. His philosophical works explored the problem of dialectic (Sic et Non), the nature of the Trinity On the Unity and Trinity of God), as well as the importance of moral responsibility Ethics: Know Thyself. However, Abelard is probably best known for his tragic relationship with his student/wife Heloise (1100- 1163), which along with the successes and failures of his career is chronicled in his autobiography The History of My Calamities (automatically one might think of pairing this with Augustine's Confessions; both works complicate the genre of autobiography by wrestling with and even exemplifying the author's philosophy). Heloise's letters to Abelard, after their adoption of holy orders and separation reveal all of the qualities for which she was famous: her erudition, her passion for Abelard, and her struggle to accept (or not accept) her vocation as nun and abbess. Heloise frankly describes her divided self (cf the divided mind of Augustine) and her unwillingness to submit her interior self to her exterior fate. Abelard and Heloise are difficult for students who are not accustomed to characterizing intellectuals as heroes, but the same students usually find the pair personally fascinating, as well. Abelard: " Since therefore I was wholly enslaved to pride and lechery, God' s grace provided a remedy for both these evils, though not one of my choosing: first for my lechery by depriving me of those organs with which I practised it, and then for the pride which had grown in me through my learning -- for in the words of the Apostle, 'Knowledge breeds conceit' -- when I was humiliated by the burning of the book of which I was so proud. " <p. 65) Heloise: "my love rose to such heights of madness that it robbed itself of what it most desired beyond hope of recovery, when immediately at your bidding I changed my clothing along with my mind, in order to prove you the sole possessor of my body and my will alike...
It was not any sense of vocation which brought me as a young girl to accept the austerities of the cloister, but your bidding alone, and if I deserve no gratitude from you, you may judge for yourself how my labours are in vain. I can expect no reward for this from God, for it is certain that I have done nothing as yet for love of him. " (113-117)
Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias or Know the Ways. trans. Bruce Hozeski (1986) Book of Divine Works w/ Letters and Songs; Book of the Rewards of Life as well as other mystical, cosmological and scientific treatises. Along with Heloise, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) enjoys the reputation of being one of the most learned people of her day. This twelfth century Abbess was a .visionary/prophet, who preached and taught, as well as ran a powerful abbey. Hildegard is considered to be a significant theologian, scientist (her interest was medicine), musician and dramatist, and all of her work and life has been the subject of much scholarly interest recently. Her works include published letters to notable figures of her day (such as St. Bernard, and the Emperor Frederick 1. Her visionary record., Scivias. or Know the Ways is replete with contemporary illustrations, and is divided into three parts: 1) a historical vision, which describes the evolution of the relationship between God, the world, and humans; 2) a vision of redemption, and 3) an architectural vision of salvation. "And I am Reason, and have the wind of the resounding Word through which every creature has been made, and I have given my breath to all these things so that none of them is mortal in its kind, for I am Life. I am Life whole and entire, not cut from stone, not sprouted from twigs, not rooted in the powers of a man' s sex; rather all that is living is rooted in me. For Reason is the root, and in it blossoms the resounding Word. " Liber divinorum onerum 1.1.
Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love. While often offensive, this text reveals misogynist attitudes (whether ironic or not) towards women and love. The possibility that this work was commissioned by a woman can provoke students to think about women' s collusion with social attitudes about themselves. The work outlines rules for various types of love (and lovers, especially in regard to class). Some examples of the Rules of Love include: 1) Marriage is no real excuse for not loving. 2) He who is not jealous cannot love. 13) When made public, love rarely endures. "Love is a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex, which causes each one to wish above all things the embraces of the other and by common desire to carry out all of love's precepts in the other's 'embrace. " It certainly would be interesting to compare this text with Plato's Symposium or even the Gospels.
Moses Maimonides. Guide for the Perplexed; Eight Chapters; Laws Concerning Character Traits. Maimonides (1135-1204) was an important Jewish philosopher, and cultural leader of the Hebrew community in his adopted Cairo (he was originally from Cordoba, but was expelled with other members of the Jewish community). Maimonides' works range from the scientific to the ethical, and explore the tension between piety and society. In the Laws Concerning Character Traits, he advocates a "middle way, "invoking the "Golden Rule, " and encouraging the care of the self for the good of society. Eight Chapters discusses the care
of the soul; the problem of human freedom, and the role of Law. See The Ethical Writings of Maimonides ed. Raymond L. Weiss with Charles E. Butterworth (New York 1975) or which contains excerpts from many of these works and has a very helpful introduction. From "The Fifth Chapter: On directing the power of the soul toward a single goal: Man needs to subordinate all his soul' s powers to thought... and to set his sight on a single goal: the perception of God (may He be glorified and magnified) I mean, knowledge o Him, in so far as that lies within man's power .... he should made his aim only the health of his body when he eats, drinks, sleeps, has sexual intercourse is awakes and is in motion or at rest. The purpose of his body's health is that the soul find its instruments healthy and sound in order that it can be directed toward the sciences and toward acquiring the moral and rational virtues, so that he might arrive at that goal."
Francis of Assisi, Rule, Testament, Canticle of the Sun
(See also, Francis and Clare: the Complete Works, trans. Armstrong and Brady, Paulist Press 1982)
Marie de France, The Lais of Marie de France, trans. Robert Harming and Joan Ferrante, Labyrinth Press, 1978. The Lais of Marie de France are wonderful tales of medieval knights and ladies, and they enable us to see a woman' s claim to authority through her art -- Marie is very concerned that we know that these are HER stories. The stories themselves reveal complicated ideas about love and righteousness; I would particularly recommend Yonec, Eliduc, and Guigemar. Certainly it would be interesting to compare these texts with the Art of Courtly Love,or with the historical and nearly contemporary example of Abelard and Heloise. The Lais are widely available and successful with students. Marie is also the author of a series of medieval Faibles . "Whoever deals with good material feels pain if it's treated improperly. Listen, my lords, to the words of Marie, who does not forget her responsibilities when her turn comes. " (Guigemar)
The Poem of the Cid, trans. Rita Hamilton and Janet Perry, Penguin Classics, 1975. This late twelfth-century epic poem is the first written in the Castilian vernacular. It is semi historical, but sets out contemporary ideals of the virtues of a good knight and a good lord. Loyalty, valor, honor, and adventure are key themes, as are the problems of gender and religious difference. "The Cid, sure of success, shouted his battle cry: "Attack them, my knights, for the love of God! I am Ruy Díaz of Vivar, the Cid Campeador! " They assailed the Moorish ranks, where Pedro Bermúdez was already in the thick of the fight. There were three hundred knights with lance and pennon, and with every lance thrust a Moor fell dead. " (35) "Who could say how many lances rose and fell, how many shields were pierced, coats of mail torn asunder and white pennons stained red with blood, how many riderless horses ranged the field? The Moors called on Muhammed and the Christians on St James. In a short time one thousand three hundred Moors fell dead upon the field. " (36)
Marguerite Porete (?-1310). The Mirror of Simple Souls. The orthodoxy of this theologically sophisticated text, for which the author was ultimately burned at the stake, has been much debated. Marguerite Porete was a Flemish woman, probably of the upper-class, who belonged to the order of Beguines, a later medieval order of urban women who lived a usually communal, usually celibate, simple life devoted to prayer and charity. Marguerite presents in her Mirror at least two important points -that faith, not knowledge, is the route to salvation (much of the Mirror is a dialogue between Reason and Love), and that the soul is annihilated in its ultimate union with God. It is a mystical text, describing the journey of a soul from a position of piety to perfection in God. Because of her struggle to define the nature of God, her stance on works, and on free will, Marguerite would be very interesting to read along with Augustine. " 5. Now there is another life, which we call peace of charity in annihilated life. Of it, says Love, we wish to speak, asking that one find 1) a soul 2) who saves herself by faith without works, 3) who is alone in Love, 4) who does nothing for God, 5) who leaves God nothing to do, 6) who can be taught nothing, 7) from whom nothing can be taken, 8) to whom nothing can be given, 9) who has no will.
Late Middle Ages
Boccaccio, Giovanni, The Decameron late medieval; social reflection -- perhaps helpful in situating Shakespeare for both its chronological and geographical situation.
Francesco Petrarca. Books of Familiar Things (including "The Ascent of Mount Ventoux; Letters to his Socrates; Letter to Cicero); The Secretum. Petrarch (1304-1374), as the "Father of Humanism" manifests in his works a significant turn in late medieval letters towards a new perspective on the Ancient writers. Petrarch was particularly fond of Augustine (see the Ascent of Mount Ventoux; his "Guide" up the Mountain is Confessions), and Cicero (in whom he became vastly, personally disappointed). His letters generally bear witness to the vitality and personality of the late medieval scholarly world; particularly interesting are his letters to Boccaccio, telling him not to give up on Literature, and his personal observations on the destruction of the Black Death. "To Marcus Tullius Cicero; from Verona, 16 June 1345. Franciscus sends his greetings to Cicero. I have been hunting for your letters long and persistently. I discovered them where I least expected to, and avidly read them. I could hear your voice, Marcus Tullius, confessing much, complaining of much, speaking in various moods. I was already well aware what a master you were for others; now at last I learned what kind of a guide you were for yourself ... Why did you choose to involve yourself in so many vain contentions and unprofitable quarrels?... How much better it would have been for you, the philosopher, to have grown old in country peace, meditating, as you yourself write somewhere, on eternal life, not on this transitory 'existence! How much better if you had never held the fasces of power, never longed for triumphs, never corrupted your spirit with any Catilines! But how vain are my wordsl Farewell forever, my Cicero. "
Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, The Letters. A Doctor of the Church, Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) is a remarkable example of a medieval person. Her dictated letters to Popes (regarding the Babylonian Captivity at Avignon) and other rulers of her day are passionate documents of her sense of correct order, divine will, nationalism ("let's speak humanly: Christ on earth is an Italian and you are all Italians") and the responsibilities of Christian leaders, as well as of her own love for God. From a letter to three Italian Cardinals: ".. . one who does not love and fear his creator loves himself with a sensual love and all that he loves, the delights, honors, and privileges of the world he loves sensually. He has been created for love and cannot live without love. So he either loves God or he loves himself and the world with a love that brings him death, since it fixes the eye of the intellect, darkened by his own love of self, upon these ephemeral objects that flit away like the wind."
Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (Persea Books, 1982) The Treasure of the City of Ladies trans. Sarah Lawson (Penguin Classics, 1985). Christine de Pizan (c. 1365 - c. 1429) has been called the first professional woman of letters. She is certainly the best known medieval woman author. Concerned with correct moral order, Christine champions women, and is a significant contributor to the construction of the canon. In her City of Ladies,. Christine posits an allegorical " city " of women from history (drawing heavily on Boccaccio' s De Mulieribus Claris), that other women might look to for inspiration. A sort of sequel, Christine's Treasure of the City of Ladies originally known as The Book of the Three Virtues, is a didactic treatise designed to instruct noble women in behavior appropriate to their positions as wealthy, powerful, Christian matrons. I have found Christine's Treasure to work very well when read in conjunction with Machiavelli's Prince for it addresses many of the same issues of grasping power, the importance of appearances, the practice of religion, and the obligations of those in authority. (The Treasure can be a lot of fun for students: Christine is not without certain prejudices of her own!). Christine also is significant as the instigator of an academic debate known as the Querelle des Femmes or the debate about women. This debate began with Christine' s response to Jean de Meung, author of the Roman de la Rose: Christine identified the text as misogynist, and publicly accused Jean de Meung of this. The ensuing debate is generally identified as lasting until the writings of Mary Wollestonecraft, at which point feminist writing takes a new turn. Finally, Christine authored an autobiographical "vision", which detailed the development of her intellectual career <and provides a sort of late medieval humanist syllabus). Mary of these writings are collected in The Writings of Christine de Pizan selected and edited by Charity Cannon Willard (Persea Books, 1994). From Christine's Vision: "...I came to the realization that the world is full of dangers and that there is only one good: the way of truth. So I turned to the path of study, towards which I was inclined by nature and constellation. I closed those gates that are the senses, which no longer wandered amongst external things, and took up those beautiful books with the intent of recovering part of what I had lost. I was not presumptuous, enough to delve into the obscure sciences, whose language I could not understand, for as Cato says, "to read and fail to understand is not truly to read. " But like a child who first learns the alphabet, I began with the ancient histories from the beginning of the world, ... and then to what scientific learning I was able to grasp in the time available for study. "
The Goodman, or Menagier of Paris; Manual - The Manual is a treatise written by an elderly bourgeois of Paris for his young wife; it instructs her in great detail how to be a good, Christian wife and household manager, and, eventually, widow. Published partly in A Medieval Home Companion: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century,Tanya Bayard, ed. & trans. From the jacket "Around the year 1393 an elderly citizen of Paris married a girl of fifteen and presented her with a book of moral and domestic instruction that he had written to guide her. " Unfortunately, the translator has made certain editorial choices which perhaps undermine part of the " Goodman of Paris " ' s original goal: to assert the religious & pietistic aspects of marital relations, including a wife's obedience to her husband. The treatise does appear to cover everything from the marital debt to keeping roses alive in the winter to appropriate menus and the hiring and firing of servants. Perhaps a more thorough, if dated translation is by Eileen Power, Le Menagier de Paris, (London, 1928). (Yes, it's in English.) "By God, if a man keeps his wife's honor and a wife casts blame on her husband, or allows others to cast blame on him, either secretly or openly, she herself is to be blamed, and justly so. For he is either wrongly or rightly accused. If he is wrongly accused, then she should fiercely avenge him. If he is rightly accused, then she should graciously protect and lovingly defend him. For certainly if the blame is not wiped away, she will be considered as bad as her husband and share in the blame because she is married to such a wicked person. "
Julian of Norwich, Revelation of Divine Love, trans. M.L. del Mastro, Garden City: Image Books, 1977. This late fourteenth-century English mystic's vision focuses not only on her Love for God but on the Love of God for His creation, and explores the "mothering" nature of God, as well as the nature of the Trinity. "And for the great endless love that God has for all mankind, He makes no distinction in loving the blessed soul of Christ or the least soul that shall be saved... Our soul is made to be God's dwelling place, and it dwells in God Who is the first and only Creator. It is a special insight to see and know that God, Who is our Creator,. dwells in our soul, and an even deeper insight to understand that our soul which is made by God shares His nature, which makes us what we are. "
Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe. Margery was a fifteenth-century English bourgeoisie, from whom we have the first English language autobiography. Margery's Book describes her spiritual and actual journeys to find God, to overcome the requirements of her bourgeois life and marriage (specifically, she struggles with her husband to enable her to live celibately), and with the presence of a " secret sin, " which torments her. Margery has mystical experiences, travels on pilgrimages, and tries to cope with what we might call the "daily grind. " She is a psychologically fascinating character, contemporary with Julian of Norwich (whom she visits). "On a night, as this creature lay in her bed with her husband, she heard a sound of melody so sweet and delectable that it seemed to her as if she had been in paradise. And therewith she started out of her bed and said: "Alas that ever did I sin; it is full merry in heaven. " (Ch. 1).
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) wrote one of the most immensely popular works of devotional reading of all time, emphasizing the human need for God's love. The Imitation is divided into four sections: The Counsels on the Spiritual Life, On the Inner Life, On Inward Consolation, and On the Blessed Sacrament. "Of what value are lengthy controversies on deep and obscure matters, when it is not by our knowledge of such things that we shall at length be judged? It is supreme folly to neglect things that are useful and vital, and deliberately turn to curious and harmful things. " (Ch. 3)
The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc, trans. W.P. Barrett, London: Routledge, 1931. Also, The Trial of Joan of Arc. ed. W.S. Scott (London: 1956). Joan of Arc has long served as a popular religious icon, especially in twentieth-century France. The documents surrounding her trial (which took place in 1431, resulting in her being burned at the stake as a heretic), however, permit exploration of a variety of issues of concern to late medieval society, and ethics in general. These might include gender roles (Joan was famous for her cross-dressing), the relationship between faith and religion, between religion and secular law, popular piety and nationalism, gender and warfare. Certainly the process of the trial itself is important as both a cultural relic and as a window into the history of modem legal procedure and thought. "You have said that, by God's command, you have continually worn man's dress, wearing the short robe, doublet and hose attached by points; that you have also worn your hair short, cut en rond above your ears, with nothing left that could show you to be a woman; and that on many occasions you received the Body of the Lord dressed in this fashion, although you have been frequently admonished to leave it off, which you refused to do, saying that you would rather die than leave it off, save by God' s command... As for these points, the clerks say that you blaspheme God in His sacraments; that you transgress divine law, the Holy Scriptures and the canon law; you hold the Faith doubtfully and wrongly; you boast vainly; you are suspect of idolatry; and you condemn yourself in being unwilling to wear the customary clothing of your sex, and following the custom of the Gentiles the heathen. " It might be interesting to read selections from Joan's trial and then compare with the film "The Return of Martin Guerre, " which, although set during the French Wars of Religion about 100 years later, exposes many of the same issues.