Irvine, Martin

title.none: RESPONSE: Irvine on Wieland on Irvine (see BMMR 95.02.10)

identifier.other: baj9928.9503.012 95.03.12

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Irvine, Martin, Georgetown University,

publisher.none: .



type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.03.12

Reviewed by:

Irvine, Martin
Georgetown University

It's been a long time since I've read a review written in such bad faith as Gernot Wieland's review of my The Making of Textual CultureCambridgeCambridge University Press1994. That such dishonesty, misrepresentation, and blind disregard for my central argument should come from a colleague with whom, until now, I enjoyed mutual respect is deeply troubling both professionally and personally. In his concluding paragraph Wieland states that he has focused on what he considers my book's "faults" because the book deserves "a detailed criticism." I'm delighted that Wieland thinks so highly of my book, but the "detailed criticism" has not come from him. I would like to use this opportunity to respond to Wieland's comments and to reflect on what they mean for our profession and for the global electronic community served by BMMR.

Let us consider first the substantive issues that Wieland raises. For some reason, Wieland feels called upon to uphold the anti- intellectualism of the old philology with respect to literary and cultural theory. He says he is irritated by the use of what he terms "the now fashionable Derridean and Foucauldian jargon" in my book. I don't know what he means by this. In my Introduction I outline very clearly the historical method I use and the reasons for using it. If he disagrees with the intellectual foundations of this method then he should make his own argument about methodology. Wieland thus succeeds only in calling attention to his own nonparticipation in the central discussions of our profession over the past twenty years.

As an example of my "irritating" jargon, Wieland cites my statement on p. 2: "grammatica also clearly created a special kind of literate subjectivity, an identity and social position for 'litterati' which was consistently gendered as masculine and socially empowered." He states that many litterati weren't so socially empowered and that those grammatici who were enjoyed their social standing from proximity to political leaders. It seems he has only read selective sections of the book: the circulating forces of authority and power in grammatical culture are discussed in nearly every chapter. Wieland's avoidance of the main argument in my book, starting with the introduction, indicates he has nothing to say about what my book is about—the broad cultural significance of grammatica in the early middle ages.

Wieland questions the second part of my assertion that "early medieval monastic and cathedral centers became the dominant textual communities, the growth, power, and authority of which was sustained by grammatica" (p.162). Again, it seems he has only half-read my book. He states that an economic base alone sustains the growth, power, and authority of the communities, not grammatica. This is far too simplistic a model: grammatica, I argue, functioned at the level of ideology, and while I agree that an economic base is a necessary precondition for a textual community, the growth and authority of the textual community as a *textual* community was indeed sustained by grammatica. The participants in grammatical culture were part of a circuit of power: the textual and linguistic competencies provided only by grammatica allowed participation in an elite culture empowered both from within the discipline and from without in the institutions it served. Grammatical culture was endorsed, promoted, and co-opted by many political leaders—for example, Cassiodorus and the Ostrogothic kings, the Carolingians, and King Alfred—for ideological ends. The cultural work performed by grammatica was institutionalized in the widest possible array of medieval cultural practices—schools, libraries, scriptoria, law, theology, biblical exegesis. To suggest otherwise is to ignore or willfully misrepresent the evidence.

By erroneously pointing to what he calls "large gaps" in the book, Wieland also disregards what I say in the Introduction: "this study therefore does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather locates representative texts and writers within various historical moments. Rather than attempting to write a history of grammatical culture through a complete account of the sources—a history that could never be written—I have made an inquiry into the conditions that made this culture reproducible in each new generation of litterati" (p.16). How can there be "gaps" in a book that does not attempt exhaustive coverage but rather seeks to build out from representative cultural moments?

Wieland also misrepresents my work on the manuscript sources that I discuss in the book. Much of my argument is based on a detailed study of over 600 relevant manuscripts which I undertook over a period of eight years of research. What he selects out for comment shows that he reads selectively and fails to place my statements within the developing argument of the whole book. He rather densely suggests that MS Vatican Pal. lat. 1746 (a compilation of grammatical texts), treated on pp.348-9 and elsewhere, can't represent an Insular corpus because it contains non-Insular works. My argument is that the compilation of the works in this MS, including the continental ones, was transmitted in Insular scriptoria and that the collection as a whole is indeed distinctively Insular. I discus the cultural context of this MS very thoroughly on pp. 279-87, which Wieland seems not to have read.

He also questions my description of compilations of artes and auctores as a "synthesis of knowledge and authority" (p.346) because some MSS seem to have duplicate texts. I fail to see what prompted this comment. Wieland knows that MS volumes often contain several stages of compilation and binding. An earlier rationale for a collection may be superseded by another or totally ignored in a later rebinding of gatherings and booklets. But these facts of manuscript transmission do not obscure the underlying patterns of compilation observable both in later copies of a compiled group of texts and in distinguishable sets of gatherings and booklets in rebound volumes. If Wieland read my account of the origins and making of compilations fully, he would see that my argument is based on a recovery of patterns of compilation that cut across hundreds of manuscripts. It was my hope that the Handlist of compiled manuscripts on pp.395-404 would allow readers to see these patterns for themselves.

The misrepresentation continues. Wieland refuses to describe what I treat in my discussion of manuscript layout, script, and glosses and points out only what he thinks are exceptions or inconsistencies. There are 22 plates of manuscript pages which illustrate my argument, and the number could easily have been increased five times if it were possible for the publisher. A response to Wieland's criticisms would entail a longer discussion than is appropriate here; readers can judge for themselves by studying the plates in the book. But there is one important matter I must set straight. I make the case for the first time that grammatical methodology influenced manuscript page layout for interlinear and marginal glosses. Grammatical lectio is represented in interlinear glosses and enarratio in marginal glosses. The earliest glossed manuscripts of artes and auctores follow this division of labor consistently, and most ninth- through eleventh-century manuscripts continue this page layout for artes and auctores. The layout was also adapted for the Bible and the Glossa Ordinaria. That there was some variation in scribal practice as this page design was adapted and modified is neither surprising nor an instance of counter-evidence. My argument is simply that the wide practice of the interlinear and marginal gloss page layout—what I term "the text and gloss format"—is an important cultural effect of grammatical methodology, rooted in the practices of lectio and enarratio. Variations and modifications of the form serve only to reinforce the fact that there was a form to vary.

Now let's turn to the more contemptible features of Wieland's review. After a one-paragraph general description of my book, Wieland launches a disingenuous attack against what he calls my "violations against both English and Latin orthography." What does this amount to? A list of obvious typographical errors and various slips that were missed in copy-editing and proofreading. This is an incredibly cheap rhetorical gimmick. Wieland knows that orthography is rule-governed and follows conventions of usage in practice when a text was written. He also knows that typos and slips are random, not orthographical, and try as we may, will regrettably occur in our work. Misrepresenting the obvious errata that slipped through the copy-editing and proofing net as violations of orthography is preposterous beyond belief. Only the reviewer, not the author, is degraded by cheap shots like this.

Wieland also points out a few slips in translation and disingenuously suggests that they are representative. While any author regrets even a few remaining slips, Wieland gives no indication of the large amount of Latin translated in my book, much of it for the first time. Nor does he indicate the level of difficulty in some of the commentaries and glosses that I translated. Many of these texts contain extensive (and sometimes inconsistent) technical vocabulary, difficult syntax, and partial quotations or allusions to lost texts—a translator's worst nightmare. I recall several occasions in which I consulted colleagues and friends on various thorny passages (for example, those on pp.115-16), and though we could come up with an English rendering of the Latin text, there were some sentences that wouldn't add up (probably from faulty transmission of the Latin). If Wieland had proceeded in good faith, he would have acknowledged both the quantity and quality of Latin in my book rather than refusing to review and only proof-read.

There used to be a reviewing convention of citing a book's errata at the end of a review so that the author could correct them for a second printing. Instead of simply practicing this collegial convention, Wieland choose the intellectually dishonest route of foregrounding a few errata in a failed attempt to call the argument of the book into question. Returning to collegial convention, I thank Wieland for indicating these errata so that I can make the appropriate corrections for a second printing and a forthcoming paperback edition of my book.

Wieland's review is retrograde, dishonest, trivializing, and groundlessly contentious. The posturing, rhetorical gimmicks, and positivistic anti-intellectual attitude in the review represent some of the worst features of the profession of medieval studies and of Anglo-Saxon and Latin studies. If Wieland had attempted to engage in a discussion of my book at the level of argument and content, then the use of these all-too-ordinary devices of scholarly petty rivalry could be ignored for what they are.

What makes the review all the more retrograde for me is the fact that it is published in BMMR, which has been an early and strong contributor to the new global electronic scholarly community. I've enjoyed participating in this new community for about four years now, and it has changed the way I and many of my colleagues think about our work. The Net and Web environment, at its best, has brought a new kind of community into being. The Net has facilitated a new openness to collaboration, debate, discussion, criticism, correction, and revision. New information is exchanged among colleagues every day, and recent scholarly work bears the marks of exchange and collaboration on the Net. Petty rivalries and competition will always be with us, but the attitude driving Wieland's review—which assumes the isolation of the independent scholar with self-centered authority—seems totally out of place in the community served by BMMR.