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Platonism and Poetry in the Twelfth Century: The Literary Influence of the School of Chartres

Platonism and Poetry in the Twelfth Century: The Literary Influence of the School of Chartres

Winthrop Wetherbee
Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1771
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    Platonism and Poetry in the Twelfth Century: The Literary Influence of the School of Chartres
    Book Description:

    Chartres as an intellectual and cultural force in the Renaissance of the twelfth century has engaged the attention of critics and scholars from R. L. Poole through Gilson, Curtius, and Huizinga to, most recently, Peter Dronke. Its importance as a poetic tradition is now reviewed by Winthrop Wetherbee, first as it developed at Chartres, then as it influenced later poetry, French as well as Latin. Mr. Wetherbee analyzes, and supports with his own translations, the poetry notably of Bernardus Silvestrus and Alain dc Lille: he defines the intellectual milieu of the Chartrian poets and their Platonic conception of nature, man, and poetry. Myth, philosophy, and the literary statement that gives them poetic being are Mr. Wetherbee's essential concern, as they were in fact the concern of the poets he discusses.

    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: 978-1-4008-7303-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
    Winthrop Wetherbee
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-1)
  5. CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE
    (pp. 2-2)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-10)

    The purposes of this book are three: to characterize the work of an important group of twelfth-century poets; to explain the intellectual background against which their work must be read and the conception of poetry on which it is based; and to suggest their place in the literary history of the twelfth century, the period when medieval poetry came into its own. The dominant figures in this group are the philosophical allegorists Bernardus Silvestris, Alain de Lille, and Jean de Hanville, and the unifying element in their work is their common engagement with the Platonism of the School of Chartres....

  7. CHAPTER ONE TWELFTH-CENTURY PLATONISM AND THE PURSUIT OF WISDOM
    (pp. 11-73)

    In hisDialogus super auctores, composed in the early twelfth century, Conrad of Hirsau warns his students about reading Ovid.¹ TheFastiand theEx Ponto, he says, contain tolerable matter, but theMetamorphosespresent problems. At times Ovid seems to have deviated into sense in the poem: the “quisquis fuit ille deorum” of the opening cosmogony, like the Athenian altar “to the unknown God” ofActs17, suggests a dim awareness of a deity who is one and supreme. But the work as a whole is idolatrous. It tells of men transformed into beasts and stones and birds, and...

  8. CHAPTER TWO PHILOSOPHY AND EXPERINCE: BOETHIUS, MARTIANUS CAPELLA, AND THEIR TWELFTH-CENTURY COMMENTATORS
    (pp. 74-125)

    As Chenu has demonstrated, the twelfth century was in many respects anaetas boethiana,¹ and it is of course doing scant justice to the place of Boethius in the Chartrian program to isolate for special consideration the literary aspects of theDe consolatione. For in their insistence upon a broad and humanistic curriculum, centered in theology but embracing all of philosophy and belleslettres as well, the Chartrians sought to fulfill what seemed the ideal role defined by theoeuvreof Boethius, which included treatises on the specific arts of music, arithmetic, and logic, as well as profoundly influential theological writings,...

  9. CHAPTER THREE THE POETRY OF THE TWELFTH-CENTURY SCHOOLS
    (pp. 126-151)

    The most striking features of Bernardus’ commentaries, his exploitation and systematization of mythography, and the strong sense of a Platonist allegorical tradition which coordinates his insights, have their counterparts in the “learned” poetry of the later twelfth century. In satires, didactic and comic “visions,” and a host of occasional lyrics, the subtleties of Martianus, the intensity of Boethius, and the insights of their commentators are assimilated to the uses of original creation, sometimes reduced to the level of witty conceits, sometimes made to symbolize deeply felt tensions and contradictions.

    Social as well as intellectual and literary influences were, of course,...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR FORM AND INSPIRATION IN THE POETRY OF BERNARDUS SILVESTRIS
    (pp. 152-186)

    In the course of the preceding three chapters we have seen how the cosmology of Plato’sTimaeusestablished itself as the framework of Chartrian thought, at once a manifestation of the divine wisdom and a measure of the scope and dignity of the mind of man. We have seen the emergence of a rich new sense of the capacities of human reason and imagination on the one hand, and on the other, the more or less simultaneous recognition of the complex, and at times the almost hapless psychological situation in which man’s immortal yearnings seem to place him when confronted...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE NATURE AND GRACE: THE ALLEGORIES OF ALAIN DE LILLE
    (pp. 187-219)

    In the work of Alain de Lille the implications of Bernardus’ cosmogony are elaborated in such a way as to clearly define its relation to sacred history. The analogy between creation andrestauratio, suggested chiefly in negative ways in theDe mundi, is systematized, and the disruption of man’s relations with Nature is analyzed in such a way as to define both the Fall and the restoration it makes necessary.

    This work of literary synthesis is only one aspect of Alain’s role in late twelfth-century thought. He is a special combination of Chartrian philosopher, preacher and author of devotional works,...

  12. CHAPTER SIX THE POETRY OF THE SCHOOLS AND THE RISE OF ROMANCE
    (pp. 220-241)

    The courtly poetry of the later twelfth century is social rather than philosophical, and its primary emphasis is on concrete emotional situations andavanture, rather than the abstract dialogues and tableaux of Chartrian allegory and mythographical lyric. But the major vernacular poets possessed the same grounding in classical poetry and rhetoric as their contemporaries writing in Latin, and an important development of the latter half of the century is the adaptation of the materials of school-poetry to the uses ofcourtoisieand romance.

    The famousAltercatio Vhyllidis et Florae, prototype of a host of debates betweenmilesandclericus, is...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN CHARTRIAN ALLEGORY AND THE WORLD
    (pp. 242-266)

    Though Chrétien deals with man’s life in the world, analyzes concrete moral problems, and goes far beyond Alain in exploiting the moral and spiritual suggestions implicit in the conventions and rituals ofcourtoisie, his emphasis is finally on transcendent values. His work resolves itself in the world-transforming experience of Perceval, and the actions and sufferings of all his heroes are most meaningful when seen as images of spiritual discipline, or as stages in the attainment of transcendent wisdom. Other poets of the later twelfth century, however, were coming to terms with thesilvaof experience in other ways. Even among...

  14. APPENDIX
    (pp. 267-272)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 273-284)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 285-292)