title.none: RESPONSE: Wieland on Irvine on Wieland on Irvine (Schluss)

identifier.other: baj9928.9505.015 95.05.15

identifier.issn: 1096-746X


publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1995

identifier.citation: BMMR 95.03.12, RESPONSE: Irvine on Wieland on Irvine (see BMMR 95.02.10).

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.05.15

BMMR 95.03.12, RESPONSE: Irvine on Wieland on Irvine (see BMMR 95.02.10).

Reviewed by:

Ed. note: Our established policy is and has been that authors reviewed have right of reply, reviewers then may reply one further time. If at that point, further dialogue is desired, we request that it find a different forum.

Lest, according to the principle qui tacet consentit, silence on my part be construed as agreement with Irvine's response (12 Apr 95: BMMR 95.03.12), I take BMMR's open policy on responses as an opportunity to engage in an academic dialogue with Martin Irvine. Let me begin with the areas of agreement. In my original review (BMMR 95.02.10) I had, for instance, stated that "Irvine's book is encyclopedic in its broad sweep from Greek antiquity to the eleventh century," that Irvine is "doubtless correct in claiming that grammatica... shaped, and was intimately linked with, the works of the canonical auctores," that he "is also correct in demonstrating that the close link between Vergil and the late imperial grammarians provided the model for the Christian grammatica," that "his overall contention of grammatica's all-pervasiveness is well documented and persuasively argued," and that his "book succeeds in lifting grammatica from its relative obscurity and assigning it a more prominent place in European intellectual history than it has hitherto occupied." Irvine attacks none of these statements, and I consider his silence agreement. Further agreement has been fashioned by his response to my review. I had originally criticized Irvine's statement that "[e]arly medieval monastic and cathedral centers became the dominant textual communities, the growth, power, and authoritiy of which was sustained by grammatica" by suggesting that surely secular patronage must have created the enconomic basis for these textual communities to flourish. While no statement to that effect can be found in Irvine's book, in his response he agrees "that an economic base is a necessary precondition for a textual community." Some consensus has been created. Additional consensus has been brought about by his response to my criticism of his sentence "a compilation implied a synthesis of knowledge and authority." Because certain manuscripts contain the same text twice, I had suggested that "an originally much slimmer compilation was expanded with the addition of grammatical texts, regardless of whether these texts were in the manuscript already or not. And because of the duplication we can conclude that the compilation was mechanical and automatic and not in order to achieve a 'synthesis of knowledge.' Irvine responds that "[a]n earlier rationale for a collection may be superseded by another or totally ignored in a later rebinding of gatherings and booklets," and thus provides a statement with which I can agree, but which I had not found in the book. Inevitably there are still some areas of disagreement, at least one of which is wholly attributable to the polysemy of a word. Irvine took one sense of a word, where I had intended another. My original sentence read: "It is ironic that a book in praise of the ratio recte scribendi et loquendi should have so many violations against both English and Latin orthography." As examples I gave words such as "decendants" or cuis, which Irvine in his response calls "typographical errors." My Webster's New World Dictionary gives as the first definition of orthography "spelling in accord with accepted usage." Irvine will surely agree that neither the English "decendants" nor the Latin cuis are spellings "in accord with accepted usage;" by calling them "typographical errors" he provides the reason for the incorrect spelling of these words, but does not deny that they are not spelled "in accord with accepted usage." He took offense at my statement because, as his response makes abundantly clear, for him "orthography" means a "method of spelling," which my Webster's gives as another definition of the word. Some disagreement has been created by what Irvine considered my review to be saying, whereas it does not. I had, for instance, mentioned that Irvine's book "does not always construe its Latin correctly," and I gave a few examples. In his response Irvine charges that I "disingenuously suggest[.] that they [i.e. the mistranslations] are representative." I did not, and I do not: "does not always" means that most translations are correct, but some of them are not. This is a position I still hold, and the examples I have given will bear me out. Nor did my review say that I am "irritated by the use of ...'the now fashionable Derridean and Foucauldian jargon.'" What I did say is this: "There are other irritants as well. Much of the book is written in the now fashionable Derridean-Foucauldean jargon. *In itself this would be acceptable* [emphasis added] if either the statements therein contained were proven or if terms were clearly defined." I was, and am, much more irritated by unproven statements and by lack of definitions than by jargon. As an example of both lack of definition and failure of proof I quoted the sentence: "grammatica also created a special kind of literate subjectivity, an identity and social position for litterati which was consistently gendered as masculine and socially empowered," and I asked "[w]hat does 'socially empowered' mean," and further wanted to know how Bede was socially empowered, how social empowerment helped Boethius, or whether social empowerment gave the anonymous author of Ad Cuimnanum an identity. In his response, Irvine does not answer these specific questions. The term "social empowerment" is so vague that readers need guidance. The book, however, does not provide this guidance, nor does the response. Other areas of disagreement will have to remain. I had criticized certain large gaps in Irvine's attempt "to show the continuity of grammatica from Greek to medieval times," and I specifically wondered about "the mechanism by which one canon (Vergil's works) was replaced by another (the Bible)." In response, Irvine draws my attention to the disclaimer on p. 16 of his book where he says: "this study therefore does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather locates representative texts and writers within various historical moments." I take note of the comment (and I had known it when I wrote the review), but would like to ask: "Does the Bible not constitute a 'representative' text, if not the representative text of the Middle Ages?" If grammatica has all the social empowerment that Irvine grants it, how can a text that is outside the canon intrude into the canon, and actually replace the major text of the canon, namely Vergil? I see grammatica as powerless in this very important change of canonical texts, since grammatica only reacts to the change but does not cause it. Disagreement also remains on the question whether Julian of Toledo and Asporius can be considered "insular" because their texts were transmitted through insular centers. The words "a distinctively Insular corpus" to me mean a corpus of insular writers, especially when, as Irvine had done in his book, the sentence is followed by the statement "and indicate an Anglo-Saxon line of textual transmission." If "a distinctively Insular corpus" means, as Irvine argues in his response, a corpus "transmitted in Insular scriptoria," then I fail to see why in his book he added what amounts to a redundant clause. One final disagreement remains: Irvine had argued in his book, and repeats the argument in his response, that "grammatical lectio is represented in interlinear glosses and enarratio in marginal glosses," an argument which I had criticized as "so neat that it cannot be correct." I had suggested he modify the language to say that "marginal glosses 'usually' are concerned with enarratio" and "interlinear glosses 'usually'" with lectio, and I repeat this suggestion. The difference between interlinear and marginal glosses consists in the space available to them: the margin provides space for lengthy comments, the interlinear space only for short ones. Lengthy comments most often are concerned with enarratio, and short comments usually suffice for elucidating lectio, but that is not always the case. Differentiae, for instance, belonging to lectio, often are long and will be found in the margin, not because of their category, but because of their length. If the allegorical meaning of a lemma can be elucidated in a single word, then, despite the fact that it belongs to enarratio, it will be written into the interlinear space and not in the margin. My detailed study of glosses in Anglo-Saxon Psychomachia and De Actibus Apostolorum manuscripts has confirmed this pattern over and over again. Length, not the content of a gloss, determines its placement on a page. Considering the length of Irvine's book, these disagreements - even if they are augmented by the points I had mentioned and to which Irvine did not respond, as e.g. to my criticism of the book's "unexplained Anglo-centrism" - do not amount to very much. They are marginalia to his text, as is an approximately ten-page review to a 604 page book. Irvine would do well to keep in mind the principle enunciated at the beginning of this response: qui tacet consentit, which allows him to assume that I silently agree with all the points in his book with which I do not explicitly disagree. Disagreement, however must be allowed, and does not, as Irvine charges, constitute "bad faith" or "some of the worst features of the profession of medieval studies and of Anglo-Saxon and Latin studies:" disagreement not only recognizes the different points of view different people have, it is the very lifeblood of our academic enterprise. If in this response I have not specifically commented on Irvine's charges that my review is "dishonest, trivializing, and groundlessly contentious," or on any of the other ad hominem attacks, then not because I agree with these statements, but because I think they have no place in an academic dialogue which is, after all, what he apparently wishes to conduct.

Gernot Wieland, University of British Columbia,