Myth and Science in the Twelfth Century: A Study of Bernard Silvester

Myth and Science in the Twelfth Century: A Study of Bernard Silvester

Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 348
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    Myth and Science in the Twelfth Century: A Study of Bernard Silvester
    Book Description:

    TheCosmographiaof Bernard Silvester was the most important literary myth written between Lucretius and Dante. One of the most widely read books of its time, it was known to authors whose interests were as diverse as those of Vincent of Beauvais, Dante, and Chaucer. Bernard offers one of the most profound versions of a familiar theme in medieval literature, that of man as a microcosm of the universe, with nature as the mediating element between God and the world. Brian Stock's exposition includes many passages from theCosmographiatranslated for the first time into English. Arising from the central analysis are several more general themes: among them the recreation by twelfth-century humanists of the languages of myth and science as handed down in the classical tradition; the creation of the world and of man, the chief mythical and cosmographical problem of the period; the development of naturalistic allegory; and Bernard's relation to the "new science" introduced from Greek and Arabic sources.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7236-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Throughout the greater part of the Middle Ages,scientiareferred neither to exact science nor to empirically verifiable fact but to all things knowable. Scientific thought and the language of science were inseparable from mythical modes of explaining how the universe arose and functioned. Scientific ideas frequently underwent evolution within the framework of myth and appeared less often as total revolutions in world-view than as internal, structural changes within the myths themselves. In this sense, theCosmographiaof Bernard Silvester was the introduction of a relatively new myth of the creation of the world and of man into European philosophical...

  7. CHAPTER I Narratio Fabulosa
    (pp. 11-62)

    Bernardus silvestris of Tours very probably wrote hisCosmographiasometime between 1143 and 1148.¹ Some seven centuries later an edition based upon only two unreliable manuscripts² was put into print by C. S. Barach and J. Wrobel. Both immediately after its appearance in the Middle Ages and after its publication in 1876, the encyclopedic myth made a considerable impact on the learned literary scene. The editor of the critical text, André Vernet, has counted dozens of manuscripts, and historians have been able to trace Bernard’s influence on a wide variety of medieval and renaissance authors, including Hildegard of Bingen, Vincent...

  8. CHAPTER II Nature’s Complaint
    (pp. 63-118)

    To turn from the twelfth-century theory of myth to Bernard Silvester himself, the dramatic action of theCosmographiabegins with Nature’s complaint and consists of a dialogue between her and Noys up to book i.2.47, at which point the task of subduing the unruly elements is undertaken. In the initial scene, Natura complains to Noys about the unpleasant state of chaos in the world and Noys, rebuking her gently, promises to do what she can to make the universe a more harmonious order. Although an educated, twelfth-century reader would have had little trouble in perceiving that Noys (=νου̑ς) was...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER III The Creation of the World
    (pp. 119-162)

    After Bernard has introduced Natura, Noys, and Silva/Hyle in the opening scene, the next act of theCosmographiadeals with the creation of the world. This unit,grosso modo, begins at i.2.78 and finishes at ii.3.13, when Noys, recapitulating her labors in another dialogue with Natura, turns to the problem of creating man. Within this part of the drama there are two further divisions: one, the actual creation of the cosmos and everything in it; two, an explanation of how the universe functions as a living organism and a mechanical fabrication.

    If read one after the other, sections i.2, 3,...

  11. CHAPTER IV The Creation of Man
    (pp. 163-226)

    Although entitledMicrocosmus, suggesting a comprehensive, formal parallel withMegacosmus, the second part of theCosmographiareally treats two inter-related themes: the celestial journey which Natura takes under the guidance of Urania, queen of the heavens, and the formation of man which Natura, Urania, and a third goddess, Physis, undertake in the presence of Noys. In general, ii.3-9 deals with the first topic, ii.9-14 with the second, and the opening scene of the second act consists of a recapitulation of book one. At Noys’ request, Natura leaves the earth to seek out Urania (ii.3.36 ff.), Martianus’ muse of the heavens,...

  12. CHAPTER V Bernard and Twelfth-Century Naturalism
    (pp. 227-284)

    Before turning to the problem of Bernard’s relation to his contemporaries, it may be useful to summarize the myth of theCosmographia. This will serve the purpose of bringing together the central points in the previous analysis as well as providing a framework for the discussion which follows.

    In general, theCosmographiamay be viewed as a myth in two distinct senses. The first is that of a primitive myth, like the book of Genesis, theTimaeus, or the various poetic cosmogonies of the ancient world. As such it is an attempt to build a cosmic order before the reader’s...

  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 285-298)
  14. Index of Manuscripts
    (pp. 299-331)