Janice M. Bogstad

title.none: Damico and Zavadil, eds., Medieval Scholarship (Bogstad)

identifier.other: baj9928.9711.002 97.11.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Janice M. Bogstad, Library & Information Services, McIntyre Library; University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Damico, Helen and Joseph B. Zavadil, eds. Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline: Vol. 1, History. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1350. New York: Garland Publishing, 1995. $60.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-824-06894-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.11.02

Damico, Helen and Joseph B. Zavadil, eds. Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline: Vol. 1, History. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1350. New York: Garland Publishing, 1995. $60.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-824-06894-7.

Reviewed by:

Janice M. Bogstad
Library & Information Services, McIntyre Library; University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

One does not always stop to reflect on the historical and political (in the larger sense) contexts which constitute a discipline within which one is immersed. This is perhaps more true in the earlier stages of study but may persist as scholars develop and focus on their areas of specialization. For medieval history, textbooks have included single-author views of the entirety of medieval history, like Cantor's Medieval History,(New York 1963) which attempt to present both a chronology and a theory of how the Middle Ages was constituted as a field of study. These become part of the periodization and methodology arguments that shift over time, but do not necessarily examine why certain scholars pursue those arguments. Other textual works are either collections of essays by a number of historians, useful as supplements to upper level undergraduate and lower-level graduate studies or anthologies of essays by medieval historians in their areas of expertise. Finally, in the same genre are the reference works which one goes to for background information on a historical figure. They have developed from the encyclopedic tradition and are usually arranged alphabetically by the name of the person being considered rather than chronologically.

In recent years, we have seen other kinds of works (my knowledge of them dates from the 80s) that present a medieval history as constituted by medieval historians, a kind of politicized 'meta-history' of medieval studies. Of such a type is Cantor's Inventing the Middle Ages, which deals solely with 20th-century historians (New York 1991), and Dahmus' Seven Medieval Historians (Chicago 1982), which goes to the other extreme, dating the first medieval historian in the 6th century (Procopius, born about the year A.D. 500).

Medieval Scholarship, which is already in the collections of almost 200 academic libraries (according to the OCLC shared cataloging database), falls somewhere within several of the above categories, historical periodization and theoretical scope of works on medieval studies and may well be the beginnings of a new type of work or a more methodical acknowledgement of the politics of historical studies in general and medieval studies in particular. Certainly, by the choice of scholars among the many possibilities, by the stylistic similarities in the essays which imply significance within the body of each author's works, by the sparse, but present links made between scholars within and outside of the scope of the study, and those scholars' involvement in major historical studies (hagiography, laws and contracts, social history, to name a few), this work is more than a reference book, more than a set of disconnected essays by different authors, but neither is it a thematic history of medieval studies.

A mix of biographical dictionary and textbook formats, the first of the three volumes described above could serve a number of uses, if framed properly. While it will not serve the user as an exhaustive biographical source, even in the history of historical studies, nor a textbook because of the multiplicity of focus in the articles, this first book serves the knowledgeable user. It introduces a broad picture of medieval studies allowing one to fill in those areas which were not a focus of ones studies and enters into a number of arguments being pursued in medieval studies, arguments on periodization, of the origins of scholarship, of the significance of particular scholars and their works.

In the Introduction, Giles Constable describes the selection methodology for the twenty-three individuals featured (listed below), discussing the desire to be both representative of the field of medieval historical scholarship and to be international in scope. He explains some remarkable exclusions because the individuals will be found in either volume 2 or volume 3. Others he explains because a choice was made between two or three representative figures. He does not bother to indicate that the work is chronological rather than alphabetic - this is obvious but has some bearing on the intended use to which one can expect to put this book. As mentioned above, by beginning with the "John Bolland and the Early Bollandists (1596-1665), the work implies the origins of medieval history in hagiography and in the 16th century.

The individual essays are written by a number of scholars, in encyclopedic fashion. All are reputable in their subfield of medieval studies, as can be verified by checking conference listings, library catalog-databases, journals indexes or Books in Print. Most of the contributors have published at least one book, if not more, and so their narratives have the value of proven authority, a not inconsiderable one in the age of electronic research where the mediation of editors, referees, publishers is difficult to distinguish among the many sources of World-Wide Web documents. The essays include, in order of appearance: "Jean Bolland (1596-1665) and the Early Bollandists," by Donald Sullivan, "Jean Mabillon (1632-1707)," by Rutherford Aris, "Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750)," by Susan Nicassio,"Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)," by Patricia Craddock, "Georg Waitz (1825-1901)," by James Campbell, "Henry Charles Lea (1825- 1909)," by Edward Peters, "Leopold Delisle (1826-1910)," by David Bates, "Henry Adams (1838-1918)," by Karen F. Morrison, "Frederic William Maitland (1850-1906)," by Robert Brentano, "Henri Pirenne (1862-1935)," by Bryce Lyon, "Charles Homer Haskins (1870-1937)," by Sally Vaughn, "Lynn Thorndike (1882- 1965)," by Michael H. Shank, "Marc Bloch (1886-1940)," by Carole Fink, "Ellen Power (1889-1940)," by Ellen Jacobs, "Claudio Sanchez-Albornoz y Menduina (1893-1984)," by James F. Powers, "Percy Ernst Schramm (1894-1970)," by Janos Bak, "Ernst H. Kantorowicz (1895-1963)," by Robert E. Lerner, "Salo Wittmayer Baron (1895-1989)," by Norman Roth, "Dorothy Whitelock (1901-1982)," by Henry Lyon, "George Ostrogorsky (1902-1976)," by Barisa Krekic, "Beryl Smalley (1905-1984)," by Henrietta Leyser, and "Gustave E. von Grunebaum (1909- 1972)," by Franz Rosenthal. While written by a number of authors, the essays are similar in that they seem to be written to a rough formula: beginning with birth-date and place, roughly half scholarly biography and half analysis of a few central works in the scholar's canon, ending with a short conclusion composed of a critical paragraph, a laudatory paragraph and a selected bibliography. While this formula is not described in either Introduction or Preface, it is easily verifiable. For my own amusement, I charted the points at which several essays move from "critical biography" to "critique of the scholar's most significant work(s)." They are usually easy to find. Thus one knows what to expect, and more importantly, what not to expect in each essay. And, having written many such formulaic reference- book entries myself, (though not in medieval studies), I am familiar with the value and the constraints accruing to such an approach to biographical studies.

The formula for each entry creates a muting effect on the writing style of the essayists, which can be determined by comparing their entries to other works they have written, with other "anthologies" or with histories of medieval studies. This feature raises more questions about the intended audience for the book. While it has an index, and is encyclopedic rather than comparative and analytical in the approach taken to each figure in the history of medieval studies, it is not really a reference book. While it is biographical and critical, it is not really a textbook, but some other kind of supplement to one's studies. The entries are too short to provide a useful representation of the scholar or her or his work, but could serve as a starting point. Yet I can see this, and the subsequent volumes as part of a medieval scholar's reference shelf, within the medieval collections academic libraries (where it is classified with the works mentioned in my first paragraphs), but not specifically in the reference collection of an academic library.

One cannot help but compare it to Cantor's Inventing the Middle Ages, which took a singularly different approach to very similar questions, with a unitary thesis (some entries had to be stretched to fit the thesis), focus on the 20th century and even more pronounced focus on the thesis than the individuals chosen to prove it. Cantor's book was more anecdotal and stylistically interesting as a result, but less inclusive and more overtly politicized. It was framed as a series of arguments, while one can argue that the present volume is framed as historical fact. The value of these different approaches can be endlessly (and often delightfully) debated. Only three scholars appear in both books, and two essayists in Medieval Scholarship actually mention Cantor's work, with reference to Ernst Schramm and Ernst H. Kantorowicz. Cantor calls them "The Nazi Twins," and Bak comments, "The absurdity that his activities should qualify him to be a 'war criminal' has been put forth, unjustly and inaccurately, only by Norman Cantor. An official chronicler of military operations however highly placed can hardly be compared to masters of slave laborers or commanders of troops committing atrocities" (p. 249).

One cannot help but have favorite essays even though much effort has been obviously made to ensure a uniform quality in the essays. While I read the book from cover to cover, I was especially drawn to the essay by Donald Sullivan on Jean Bolland because it presented the origins of the project in hagiography which still continues. Sally Vaughn's essay on Charles Homer Haskins caught my attention, because I now suspect him to have been what was "reacted to" by my own undergraduate professors of medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and so did the essay on Marc Bloch by Carole Fink. There were scholars I had never heard of or whose influence I had not known, such as Henry Adams, noted for his influence rather than his scholarship, and Muratori and Menduina, simply because I had not heard of them before and the style of the publication made it possible to compare their achievements to those with whom I was familiar. Because of its potential to link together a number of approaches to medieval studies, without emphasizing any of them, the major impact of this work and the subsequent volumes, will be felt more in the educational process than in the post-doctoral scholarly community. I would like to see such a work linking additional regional traditions that we are beginning to see with comparative studies of Arab-Islamic and Asian-Southeast Asian history during the "medieval" period. While we need specialists, we also need synthesists who make connections across specializations, an effort facilitated by this volume and to be expected for volumes 2 and 3, as yet awaiting publication.