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Glamorous Sorcery: Magic and Literacy in the High Middle Ages

David Rollo
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Glamorous Sorcery
    Book Description:

    Through the analysis of magic as a metaphor for the mysterious workings of writing, Glamorous Sorcery sheds light on the power attributed to language in shaping perceptions of the world and conferring status.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9141-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    According to Georges Duby, the sophisticated lay culture that developed in twelfth-century England and France was a direct consequence of improved fiscal control.¹ As systems for calculating and coordinating levies gained greater efficiency, the francophone baronies of the era augmented their disposable wealth and began to appropriate some of the literate prerogatives previously restricted to the clergy.² Learning became an object of acquisition, as younger sons were sent in increasing numbers to receive a formal education at cathedral schools;³ and, toward the end of the century, the education they thereby acquired itself became a commodity liable to trade.⁴ Not only...

  4. 1 William of Malmesburyx: MAGIC AND PRESTIGE
    (pp. 1-31)

    William of Malmesbury’s eminent position among twelfth-century Insular historians has long been established and critically endorsed, and his writings still partly constitute the foundation for modern studies of Anglo-Norman England.¹ Yet his major work of secular history, theGesta regum Anglorum, at intervals displays curious detours into anecdote, picturesque tales that evoke such curiosities as necromantic hags, animate statues, talismanic rings, eternal flames, and sempiternal corpses.² These have elicited a far more nuanced response from critics. In some cases, they have met with puzzled agnosticism, bracketed as superficially frivolous yet with a potential for ulterior meaning;³ in others, they have...

  5. 2 Geoffrey of Monmouth and John of Salisbury: Themes of Credulity
    (pp. 32-56)

    By using thePseudo-Clementine Recognitionsto help explicate the Anecdote of the Ass, William of course exposes his maneuvers only to the highly literate. Indeed, he himself suggests as much. Peter Damian, who uses an exemplum from the work, is expressly designated as being skilled inlitteratura, a word that carries a more extended sense than its modern European cognates (“Dubitantem papam confirmat Petrus Damianus,litteraturae peritus, non mirum si haec fieri possint”). I have rather clumsily translated “the field of writing” in an effort to render a meaning that embraces not only a written epistemology that tends for us...

  6. 3 Benoît de Sainte-Maure: Magic and Vernacular Fiction
    (pp. 57-96)

    John’s caricature of the mid-twelfth-century court is far too polemical to be taken as an accurate portrayal of anything save clerical distrust. This applies in particular to his strident dismissal of the intellectual aptitudes of the secular barony, and it establishes certain boundaries of caution that the twentieth-century critic must respect before attempting to determine how the illiterate and semiliterate responded to works of fiction.

    First, under no circumstances must illiteracy be taken to equal stupidity. While we are certainly free to state that the illiterate had no direct access to an existing corpus of texts and therefore could not...

  7. 4 William FitzStephen, Richard FitzNigel, Benoît de Sainte-Maure: Bureaucratic Power and Fantasies of Literate Control
    (pp. 97-121)

    As William of Malmesbury’s tale of the Campus Martius demonstrates, an awareness of the financial value of learning had come to exist even in monastic circles as early as the 1120s, and, although in context energetically resisted as a satanic compromise, it does nonetheless adumbrate the increasingly secular function that writing was to assume in late-twelfth- century England. However negative in its implications, William’s biography of Gerbert suggests the possibility of a single cleric assuming almost unlimited temporal power, transforming the metaphorical gold of Augustinian knowledge into the literal wealth of the terrestrial city and affording the papacy a regal...

  8. 5 Gerald of Wales: Writing for the Crowned Ass of England
    (pp. 122-156)

    During the half century of his prolific career, Gerald of Wales produced works revealing a prodigious range of interests, including Neoplatonic philosophy, ethnography, political ethics, secular history, and ecclesiastical reform.¹ He was also something of a historical anomaly in the extent of his autobiographical writing. Gerald not only liberally inserted personal anecdotes into contexts only marginally related to himself;² he also wrote his own life history, collated the passages he most admired in his own works to create an authorized florilegium, and wrote two short tracts of unabashed literary self-endorsement,³ both evidently designed to prompt others to share his own...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 157-172)

    By way of closure I shall first reiterate a point I made in the introduction: my analyses are not intended to define how particular sectors of the twelfth-century public responded to given works; they are rather commentaries on literary devices through which authors envisaged how and by whom their writing could be understood. All of the admonitions I consider are directed first and foremost toward those William of Malmesbury callslitteraturae periti, and they are designed to exhort such sophisticated readers to clarify obscurities for the benefit of those who cannot do so for themselves. By its very nature this...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 173-224)
  11. Index
    (pp. 225-231)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 232-234)