Essays in Medieval Culture

Essays in Medieval Culture

Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 522
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    Essays in Medieval Culture
    Book Description:

    Bringing together a collection of this distinguished medievalist's most important and controversial work, heretofore scattered and frequently inaccessible, this book constitutes both an appropriate introduction for students new to medieval studies and a convenient compendium for scholars established in the field.

    Originally published in 1980.

    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: 978-1-4008-5664-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Author’s Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)

    I should like to begin by thanking those who have helped me assemble this volume for the many hours of hard work they have devoted to it. The collection, which includes two hitherto unpublished lectures, covers a span of almost forty years, but it is arranged in accordance with general topics rather than chronologically. At the beginning of each selection I have provided a note. These introductory notes serve a number of functions. In some instances they call attention to what I now regard as errors in detail, or to details inadequately supported. These revisions, however, do not in any...

  5. I
    • Historical Criticism (1950)
      (pp. 3-20)

      Bu “Historical Criticism” I understand that kind of literary analysis which seeks to reconstruct the intellectual attitudes and the cultural ideals of a period in order to reach a fuller understanding of its literature. In actual practice not much criticism of this kind has been written. Although the literary historian sometimes ventures into the realm of historical criticism, he is usually preoccupied with purely literary rather than with intellectual traditions. He seeks to establish texts, to date them, to attribute them to the proper authors, and to determine literary sources and influences. The historian of ideas frequently centers his attention...

    • The Doctrine of Charity in Medieval Literary Gardens (1951): A Topical Approach Through Symbolism and Allegory
      (pp. 21-50)

      At the heart of medieval Christianity is the doctrine of Charity, the New Law which Christ brought to fulfill the Old Law so that mankind might be saved. Since this doctrine has extremely broad implications, it cannot be expressed satisfactorily in a few words, but for convenience we may use the classic formulation included in theDe doctrina Christianaof St. Augustine: “Charitatem voco motum animi ad fruendum Deo propter ipsum, et se atque proximo propter Deum: cupiditatem autem, motum animi ad fruendum se et proximo et quolibet corpore non propter Deum.”¹ The opposite of Charity, as St. Augustine describes...

    • Some Medieval Literary Terminology, with Special Reference to Chrétien de Troyes (1951)
      (pp. 51-72)

      In an article which has become one of the classics of Arthurian scholarship, William A. Nitze offered an elaborate explanation of the termssensandmatièreas they are used in the prologue to Chrétien’sRoman de la charrete.¹ The second term,matière, presents little difficulty, since it is more or less the equivalent of the modern expression “subject matter,” but the first term still lacks precise definition. Nitze definedsensas “signification” or “interpretation,” and showed that in some contexts it is also the equivalent of “lascianceousapiancequi vient a Dieu.”² Since this second meaning is...

    • Some Observations on Method in Literary Studies (1969)
      (pp. 73-84)

      A work of literature, or, indeed, a work of architecture, a statue, or a painting is usually approached in either of two ways. It may be presented as a “work of art” embodying elements that appeal more or less spontaneously to the student. Its relevance may be explained on the basis of the insights of the teacher regarding form, structure, and techniques that are thought of as belonging to the province of all art. On the other hand, the student may be led to examine sources, traditions, historical information of relevance to the work in question, and other matters thought...

    • The Allegorist and the Aesthetician
      (pp. 85-102)

      The two characters referred to in the title to this essay, “The Allegorist and the Aesthetician,” have been placed in that somewhat uneasy juxtaposition for the very reason that they frequently engage in altercation. Their voices raised in unmannerly contention may be heard in academic halls, in the pages of learned journals, and even occasionally in those of critical reviews. The undoubted brilliance of the Aesthetician has won many allies for his cause, and has even enabled him to acquire positions of honor in our universities. In fact, it has become fashionable recently for a third character, the Conventional Scholar,...

  6. II
    • Certain Theological Conventions in Mannyng’s Treatment of the Commandments (1946)
      (pp. 105-113)

      The section ofHandlyng Synnedealing with the Ten Commandments frequently reflects commonplace patterns of medieval theology. It is the purpose of this article to call attention to certain of these patterns. No attempt is made to present a history of any given convention; I wish merely to show that the conventions existed. Their recognition, I believe, contributes materially to an understanding and appreciation of the text. For the purposes of this paper, matters pertaining to pastoral rather than doctrinal theology are deliberately disregarded.

      Under the First Commandment, Mannyng included, in addition to the obvious sin of forsaking God, much...

    • Frequency of Preaching in Thirteenth Century England (1949)
      (pp. 114-128)

      Statements to the effect that “a sermon was a rare event” in thirteenth-century England, indeed so rare that a typical parishioner heard one fewer than “the statutory four times a year” have become common in recent books about the Middle Ages.¹ It can be shown that such statements are unwarranted by the evidence at present available. The prevailing attitude is curious on the face of it when one considers the fact that across the channel, in France, the early thirteenth century witnessed a veritable renaissance of popular preaching, and that priests there, except in unusual circumstances, are thought to have...

  7. III
    • Two Poems from the Carmina Burana (1976)
      (pp. 131-150)

      We owe to Peter Dronke an account of “Dum Diane Vitrea” that treats the poem as a whole, and not only provides a newly edited text but a new translation.¹ Dronke’s attractive and gracefully written exposition envisions a rare form of “serenely perfect love” as the subject, although he finds that the poem is not a work of what he callsamour courtois. The more learned and elaborate poems in theCarmina Buranawere clearly written for a rather sophisticated audience of clerks (or students) whose background and training involved texts no longer familiar today, so that their interpretation is...

    • Five Poems by Marcabru (1954)
      (pp. 151-165)

      Carl Apprl’s conclusion that Marcabru celebrated afin’amorswhich is “die Liebe, die um Gott ist und mit ihm selber eins wird,”¹ supported in a long series of articles by Dimitri Scheludko,² and in a recent book by Guido Errante,³ has been seriously questioned.⁴ The traditional position was perhaps best stated by Scheludko, who wrote concerning the content of the poems, “Was den Inhalt anbetrifft, so führte Marcabrun in die Trobadordichtung die chrisdiche, spezielle Augustinische Konzeption von der Zweiteilung der Liebe eiń.” Further, he found the style of the poems to involve a use of scriptural symbols:

      Marcabrun besass eine...

    • The “Partitura Amorosa” of Jean de Savoie (1954)
      (pp. 166-172)

      Unfortunately only a small part of the purely literary work produced in the circle of Philippe de Vitry has been preserved.¹ Among the few surviving poems is a Latinpartituraby Jean de Savoie which develops thequaestio:

      An diligi debeat ocius

      Cupidinis experta jacula

      Sua pridem succensa facula,

      Vel penitus in ejus artibus

      Inexperta, ceteris paribus?²


      The respondent decides in favor of the inexperienced virgin, contrary to the judgment of the proponent. After some argument the two agree to place their quarrel before Philippe de Vitry, who renders a decision to the effect that “verus amans” should choose...

    • Chrétien’s Cligés and the Ovidian Spirit (1955)
      (pp. 173-182)

      The indebtedness of Chrétien to the poetry of Ovid has long been evident. We know that he translated theArs amatoriaand the story of Philomelà from theMetamorphoses, and what he says at the beginning ofCligésmay imply that he also translated theRemedia amorisand the story of Tantalus and Pelops. Foster E. Guyer has demonstrated that there are numerous reflections of Ovid’s poetry inCligés, Lancelot,andYvain, and that the conception of love in these romances owes much to Ovid.¹ We have been reminded in an essay by Jessie Crossland that imitation of Ovid played...

    • The Idea of Fame in Chrétien’s Cligés (1972)
      (pp. 183-201)

      We are often led to think that fame is a subject celebrated in Antiquity, neglected during the Christian Middle Ages, and revived in the Renaissance, when men, freed from the shackles of asceticism, turned once more to the pursuit of laurel crowns and immortal reputations. When fame is desired or praised in early medieval poetry, we are likely to think of that poetry as “pagan,” and when fame is celebrated in a chivalric environment later on, we usually say that it is “secular.” There may be a certain very limited truth in this view, but as Maria Rosa Lida de...

    • Love Conventions in Marie’s Equitan (1953)
      (pp. 202-206)

      Although it is clear that Marie’sLaisreflect a variety of attitudes toward love, and that she was concerned with love of various kinds, some of which are not easy to define precisely, her description of love inEquitanis specific enough to enable us to draw certain conclusions from it. In 1933 Ernest Hoepffner published a study of the poem in which he concluded: “Nous pensons qu’en Ie faisant Marie a entendu prononcer une condamnation sévère de cet amour qui n’est motivé par rien que par Ie simple désir sensuel…. Tel est done l’amour qui entraîne les amants au...

  8. IV
    • The Pearl as a Symbol (1950)
      (pp. 209-214)

      In discussions ofThe Pearlit has not been possible to formulate a consistent symbolic value for the central figure in the poem which would meet with more than temporary or qualified acceptance. A reexamination of some of the relevant Scriptural commentary may yield a satisfactory value. Usually when commentaries are consulted, the result is a confusing list of possible symbols, none of which seems entirely consistent with the Poem.¹ J. B. Fletcher made the Pearl a symbol of innocence, the possessor of innocence, or the means and reward of salvation.² More recently, Sister Mary Hillman has said that the...

    • The Heresy of The Pearl (1950)
      (pp. 215-217)

      The charge thatThe Pearlis heretical is a very grave one. Heresy was not something to be taken lightly in the fourteenth century; moreover, heretical doctrine seems especially strange in a work which emphasizes the importance of purity of spirit with evident sincerity. It has been said that the poet’s interpretation of the Parable of the Vineyard includes the “heresy of Jovinian,” to the effect that there is no differentiation in status in the celestial Jerusalem. Further evidence is available, however, in support of the view of J. B. Fletcher, R. Wellek, and others to the effect that there...

    • The Question of Typology and the Wakefield Mactacio Abel (1974)
      (pp. 218-232)

      Recent studies of medieval mystery plays have demonstrated a growing interest in what is called “typology,” conceived as a discipline in which Old Testament events are “figures” or “types” of events in the New Testament. The learned and convincing article by Rosemary Woolf, “The Effect of Typology on the English Mediaeval Plays of Abraham and Isaac”¹ did much to stimulate interest in the subject; V. A. Kolve sought to show the relevance of “typological” considerations to the general structure of the dramatic cycles;² and in her recent book Woolf has been careful to keep before us the “typological” relationships suggested...

  9. V
    • The Historical Setting of Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess (1965)
      (pp. 235-256)

      Criticism of Chaucer’sBook of the Duchess, the first major work of a young man who was to become England’s most famous poet, has sometimes neglected not only the immediate historical setting of the poem and the most probable circumstances of its first publication, but also themoresof its audience. At the beginning of the year 1369 the most notable poet attached to the English court was Jean Froissart, who wrote under the patronage of Queen Philippa. Both Edward III and his Queen spoke French (rather than English) as their natural language, and the Queen in particular was quite...

    • The Concept of Courtly Love as an Impediment to the Understanding of Medieval Texts (1968)
      (pp. 257-272)

      I have never been convinced that there was any such thing as what is usually called courtly love during the Middle Ages. However, it is obvious that courtly love does exist in modern scholarship and criticism, and that the idea appeals to a great many people today.

      Our evidence concerning medieval people as it appears in court records, historical narratives, and other sources reveals them as being severely practical within the limits of their knowledge, and not at all sentimental. But what modern scholars have described as “courtly love,” a thing, I might add, that medieval scholars refrain from describing,...

    • Chaucer’s Franklin and his Tale (1974)
      (pp. 273-290)

      Among the portraits in the General Prologue toThe Canterbury Talesthere are some whose significance is readily apparent today. The Parson, for example, is obviously compounded of a collection of ideal attributes, some of which comment rather bitterly on the character of many priests Chaucer and his contemporaries could see about them in London; and for those today familiar with the rich body of iconography generated by anti-fraternal propagandists from the days of William of St. Amour onward there is nothing very obscure about the picture of the Friar. At times we are assisted by deliberate contrasts like that...

    • Some Disputed Chaucerian Terminology (1977)
      (pp. 291-302)

      Chaucer’s language may be obscure to us for various reasons. There are, in the first place, words likeviritootin the Miller’s Tale (3770)¹ that are etymologically obscure, so that aside from the evidence of the context and conjecture we lack any means of making a preliminary assessment of their meanings. Others are subject to occasional doubts, often unexpressed. For example, it has always seemed to me thatembosedinThe Book of the Duchess(353) would make more sense as a word based on OFbos“wood,” meaning that the hart “so moche embosed” was protected by a retreat...

  10. VI
    • In Foraminibus Petrae: A Note on Leonardo’s “Virgin of the Rocks” (1954)
      (pp. 305-307)

      Critics have encountered considerable difficulty in explaining the setting of Leonardo’s “Virgin of the Rocks.” Thus Ludwig H. Heydenreich asserts, “Das Bild schildert kein Ereignis der biblischen Geschichte.”¹ A background of apocryphal or legendary material has been postulated and denied.² Although biblical history offers no explanation for the rocks, a very simple and obvious source appears in conventional biblical exegesis. A convention arose in the twelfth century whereby theSponsain the Canticum could be taken as the Blessed Virgin as well as the Church, and this attitude persisted in Catholic countries well after the time of Leonardo.³ Thus Canticles...

    • Sidney’s Metaphor of the Ulcer (1941)
      (pp. 308-311)

      In the introduction to hisElizabethan Critical Essays, G. G. Smith indicates that “Sidney’s metaphor of the ulcer discovers a trace of that Italian tradition which expresses the original medical sense of κάθαρσις.”¹ The passage under consideration is a part of the famous defense of tragedy in theApologie for Poetrie, where Sidney wrote:

      So that the right vse of Comedy will (I thinke) by no body be blamed, and much lesse of the high and excellent Tragedy, that openeth the greatest wounds, and sheweth forth the Vlcers that are couered with Tissue; that maketh Kinges feare to be Tyrants,...

    • A Medievalist Looks at Hamlet
      (pp. 312-331)

      I should like to say at the outset that I am a medievalist, not a Renaissance scholar, and that I have used only very obvious sources in support of what I have to say here. Perhaps because of my background, not to mention certain prejudices widely attributed to me, Shakespeare’s play looks very different to me from the picture of it usually developed by Renaissance scholars and literary critics. In the first place, the idea that a prince who is obviously a murderer and a schemer and whose actions allow his kingdom to fall into the hands of its traditional...

    • Pope and Boethius (1964)
      (pp. 332-340)

      Pope’s interest in theDe consolatione philosophiaeof Boethius is attested by his partial translation of the ninth meter of the third book, completed, perhaps, “not later than 1710.”¹ The translation involves only the first four and the last seven lines of the original meter, leaving the intervening seventeen lines unused. The meter itself is a kind of poetic summary of the beginning of Plato’sTimaeus, although it is probable that Boethius was actually interested in the Christian implications of these materials. Pope’s translation omits the obviously Platonic content of the meter, so that the result gives the impression of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 341-382)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 383-384)
  13. Index
    (pp. 385-404)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 405-407)