The Medieval Review 16.07.10

Angotti, Claire, Monica Brînzei, and Mariken Teeuwen, eds. Portraits de maîtres offerts à Olga Weijers. Textes et Etudes du Moyen Âge. Louvain-la-Neuve: Fédération Internationale des Instituts d'Études Médiévales, 2012. pp. 521. €65.00 (hardback). ISBN: 978-2-503-54801-2 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Constant Jan Mews
Monash University

Olga Weijers has made an immense contribution to the study of medieval universities through her assiduous attention both to the terminology of scholastic culture and to a prosopographical approach to medieval masters, that gives as much attention to little known figures as to big names. With a scholar whose influence is so wide, it is only appropriate that a volume in her honour should do justice to her achievement in throwing light on otherwise little known figures who made the medieval university what it was, an institution of wide ranging and enduring influence. This particular volume is unusual in that the editors have decided that each contribution should present a portrait of a medieval master. It offers forty chapters in alphabetical rather than chronological sequence. While this may be useful for a work of reference, the fact that many of them are not widely known means that the volume provides a series of building blocks, without necessarily helping the reader to put them together into an organized whole. Nonetheless, the contributions are all based on primary research, often involving manuscript sources and providing newly edited texts that enrich our knowledge of the individuals under discussion.

The only paper on masters from the twelfth century, is by Anne Grondeux, who looks at hagiographic testimony to consider several masters who convert to the religious life: Gautier of Pontoise, Robert of Arbrissel, and Goswin of Anchin. The great bulk of masters presented in this volume were active between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. Because many of these masters are little known outside specialist circles, the only way of alerting readers to their significance is introduce them in chronological fashion. Most, but not all of them are connected to the Univerity of Paris. Because of the tendency in the volume to avoid famous names, the emphasis in many papers is to reconstruct careers of individuals whose work is being uncovered from unpublished materials.

Among the masters from the thirteenth century included in this collection, Irène Zavattero studies an anonymous commentator on the Ethics from 1230-1240 while Rega Wood and Jennifer Otman consider Richard Rufus and early commentaries on the De anima. English masters are not well represented in the collection, which makes one grateful for the study of Nathalie Gorochov on Richard de Mores (c. 1162-1242), prior of Dunstable and a jurist (not a discipline much studied in the volume). There are also studies by C. H. Kneepkens on Robert Kilwardby's commentary on Priscian Minor, and by Silvia Donati on Richard of Clive, a chancellor of Oxford University in the late thirteenth century, and a commentator on the Physics and Metaphysics. A figure who attracts two studies is John of Garlande, one on him as a music theorist by Pascale Duhamel, the other on John as a grammarian (with a strong interest in religious verse) by Louis Holtz. The fact that Duhamel argues that John the music theorist is much more likely to have flourished prior to 1272, supports the case that he is also a grammaticus and prolific writer of Latin verse. Two outsiders to Paris are Apuleius grammaticus, the name given to the author (possibly of the late twelfth century) of two grammatical treatises on the aspiration mark and diphthongs, studied by Laura Biondi, and Guillaume de Luna, a scientifically minded Arabist from thirteenth-century Naples, responsible for translating a commentary of Averroes on the logica vetus. While there is no essay on Thomas Aquinas, Dominique Poirel offers an original reflection on the Latin prose style of Albert the Great, often more prolix and less concerned for style than his brilliant and equally prolific student. Among the relatively few exegetes considered in the volume is Nicholas de Gorran (d. 1295), a prior of Saint-Jacques, whose commentary on Genesis 28:10-22 is studied and edited by Gilbert Dahan.

The late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries attracts a significant number of contributions. Thus an important thinker in the volume is Henry of Ghent, whose attention to clarity in theological terminology is studied by Joke Spruyt. There is a paper by the late L. M. De Rijk on Harvey Nedellec (Hervaeus natalis), a devotee of Thomas, whose criticisms of Henry of Ghent on a range of topics (the unity of form, cognition, intentionality, and the relationship between will and intellect, was shaped by the polemical style of the late thirteenth century. By contrast, the less well-known Walter of Bruges is studied by Stephen F. Brown for his opening lecture on the Sentences, delivered in Paris soon after 1266 and presented here in a critical edition. Luca Bianchi writes about John of Malines (Johannes de Malignes), an Arts master who wrote a querulous letter to Martin IV in around 1284, that reveals a professional commitment to the ideal of philosophy. Claude Lafleur offers an overview of the curriculum, both the trivium and quadrivium, prepared in the late thirteenth century by Pierre of Limoges. A discussion outside Paris is offered by a paper of Mariken Teeuwen on Riccoldo da Monte di Cruce, a Dominican from Florence, who recorded his debates with Nestorians and Muslims. Philippe Bobichon writes about Ramón Martí, a Dominican much more advanced in the study of Arabic and Hebrew (also Aramaic). There is only one paper on an Islamic figure, by Anne-Marie Eddé on Sitt al-Kataba, a fascinating and influential learned woman in Damascus in the thirteenth century.

Among masters of the fourteenth century, the volume includes studies of some who are little known, such as Guiral Ot, a Franciscan commentator on the Ethics and theorist of friendship, active in Toulouse (perhaps c. 1324-1329), studied by Bénédicte Sère. Sophie Delmas writes about Bernard de la Tour, a Franciscan master who would be active in arguing against spiritual Franciscans, and would become a cardinal in 1323. Chris Schabel writes about William of Brienne, a Franciscan Scotist active in the 1330s. W. J Courtenay contributes a paper on the little known Oliverius Salahadin (c. 1295-1354). Monica Brînzei reconstructs the Sentence commentary of Gilles (Aegidius) de Champs, delivered in Paris c. 1378, finding clear affinities with English Franciscan teaching. Jacques Verger summarizes the career as chancellor at Paris of Grimier Boniface (c. 1315-1370), who had to counter several dissident voices, including Denis Foulechat, translator of John of Salisbury. Steven Livesey introduces us to Pierre d'Allouagne, a Benedictine monk whose scholastic writings were preserved in the well-endowed library of Saint-Bertin. Jean Celeyrette considers a commentary of John Buridan on the Physica, critical of both Thomas Aquinas and Giles of Rome.

Fewer masters are identified from the fifteenth century, but those mentioned include Blaise Pelacani de Parme (d. 1416), an astrologer attached to the court of dukes of Milan, and interested in astral influences, studied by Graziella Federici Vescovini. Dragos Calma and Iulia Szekely discuss a disputation on the Liber de causis by Henri de Gheysmaria, active in Erfurt in the early fifteenth century. Cedric Giraud presents and edits a sermon on the immaculate conception by Bernardus de Rosergio, a master of Toulouse in the late fifteenth century. Colette Sirat offers a fascinating account of Elie de Medigo, a friend of Pico della Mirandola, who translated Averroes on metaphysics into Hebrew and was also critical of Hebrew Kaballists. This paper connects to that of Jean-Pierre Rothschild on Johannes Versoris (Jean Le Tourneur), a Latin master whose writings on Aristotle and parts of Thomas Aquinas were translated into Hebrew by a Castilian Jew, Eli Habilo active 1465-1477, a monument to philosophical dialogue tragically cut short in Spain by the end of the century. Manlio Bello considers Gugliemo Perno, a Sicilian jurist of the early fifteenth century, who established an important legal school at Palermo, modelled on Bologna.

The volume inevitably has the character of a dictionary of biography rather than of connected studies of a social and intellectual milieu. It is designed more as a work of reference than to be read cover to cover. Nonetheless, it offers a worthy tribute to Olga Weijers, who has made such a contribution to prosopographical study of academic life in the later middle ages.

Copyright (c) 2016 Constant J. Mews

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