A Slow Medieval Course, with Christine de Pizan

Here’s a guest post on the medieval survey class from Scott Williams (UNC Asheville). Scott sent me an email with some of these thoughts, and I thought it was so interesting that I asked him to write it up in a form I could post.

I have been enjoying Bob’s series of posts on syllabi in Medieval Philosophy. When the call went out for these I was teaching a course called “Islamic Philosophy” and so I sent in that syllabus. I also teach a course called “Medieval Philosophy” that’s more general. I want to say two things about what I learned recently in teaching the Medieval Philosophy course.

First, in the past I taught this course by covering lots of authors from different times and traditions (Pagan Neo-Platonists, Christians, Jews, and Muslims). In Spring 2018 I tried an experiment – I slowed things way down. This decision was inspired in part by the book The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy that I had read with other faculty members in other departments. I developed a short list of authors, and students spent more time on those authors than they would have in a standard survey. When the course was over and I read the Course Evaluations, I found that students gave the course the highest scores that can be given in numerous categories. Students wrote that they really really appreciated the slow approach. They were tired of “whiplash” courses. In my judgement, these students came to understand the authors much more than past students had. They came to see how different parts of a philosopher’s texts fit together. It’s one thing for students to learn discrete facts about e.g., Al-Farabi on the moral virtues, it’s another thing for students to see how this moral theory fits into an overall model of the place of human beings in the cosmos and in political life. So, instead of having students read only Part 1 (as found in Philosophy in the Middle Ages) of Al-Farabi’s The Political Regime (also called The Principles of Existing Things), they read Part 1 and Part 2.

Here’s one way, among many ways, that slowing down the medieval philosophy course can look. There are many other authors/texts that can be used. (Note: I teach Maimonides in my Islamic Philosophy Course and in some semesters he’s in the general Medieval Phil. course.) This is but one suggestion:

Required Texts:

  1. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. Joel C. Relihan. Hackett, 2001.
  2. Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies and Other Writings. Trans. Ineke Hardy. Hackett, 2018.
  3. Al-Farabi, The Political Writings, Volume 2. Trans. Charles E. Butterworth. Cornell University Press, 2015.
  4. Thomas Aquinas, Treatise on Happiness, Treatise on Human Acts, Trans. Thomas Williams, commentary by Christina van Dyke and Thomas Williams. Hackett, 2016.
  5. John Marenbon, Medieval Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford Univ. Press, 2016
  6. Document on Moodle (includes Porphyry’s Isagoge. I am contemplating whether to have 2 weeks on Porphyry in the future; we’d likely read On Abstinence from Killing Animals. This contrasts nicely with Boethius’s Treatise Against Eutyches and Nestorius on the rationality condition for ‘persona’).

Schedule:

  • 1 1/2 weeks on Augustine, with 1 day on Porphyry
  • 2 1/2 weeks on Boethius (we read all of The Consolation of Philosophy, and, Treatise Against Eutyches and Nestorius (personhood is the main topic; in a forthcoming publication I argue that Boethius likely invents personhood as a distinct general category (it’s in Person: A History, ed. Antonia LoLordo (OUP))
  • 2 weeks on Christine de Pizan (read most of The Book of the City of Ladies, plus selections from other texts- see the powerpoint for references)
  • 3 weeks on Al-Farabi (we read all of The Political Regime, plus other texts)
  • 6 weeks on Aquinas (we read all of the Treatise on Happiness, Treatise on Human Acts with Commentary)

 

Second, in most standard surveys of Medieval Philosophy we find no women taught.  (I found no women in Bob’s earlier posted list of commonly taught authors, for example.) This is not good, and for several reasons. My attempt to address this was to spend a week on the early 15th c. philosopher Christine de Pizan. Many of my students loved reading her. And, her texts allowed me to address some of the social contexts of medieval (esp. scholastic) philosophers. The way I framed her The Book of the City of Ladies was that it is Christine’s “summa” in defense of the feminine sex against centuries and centuries of sexism. I had a very positive experience in teaching Christine and plan to continue to teach her in the future and more of her texts. (Hackett has recently published a new translation of Christine de Pizan; so we have a reasonably priced new text to assign.) (I gave a lecture to a general humanities course recently on Christine, and covered highlights of the sorts of things that I discussed in Medieval Philosophy. I’ve attached the powerpoint here.)

Peter Adamson has two podcasts on CdP, here and here.

I’m writing all this because Bob has been talking to/with those of us who teach Medieval Philosophy, and I thought I should say that we need to teach philosophers who happen to be women too. Not just because they are women, but because they have interesting and important things to say and that we need to learn. My students got more interested in medieval philosophy by reading e.g., Christine de Pizan. By keeping it a male-only affair, I believe we signal to our students that we professors are either ignorant of women philosophers or that we don’t believe they are important enough to teach.

Hopefully in a few years time we will find the most popular medieval philosophy textbook that is assigned in our survey courses to include philosophers like Christine de Pizan. It’s a good idea, and for many good reasons.

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News of All Sorts

Here’s a bunch of news items I’ve been collecting for some time now, which means that some of these entries are rather old news:

  • As of this fall, Catarina Dutilh Novaes has left Groningen to take up a position at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam.
  • This past summer, Francis Feingold won the SMRP Founder’s Award (best paper by a younger scholar) for “Aquinas’s Discussion of Aristotle’s Claim That Knowing Does Not Alter the Knower.” Honorable mention went to Fedor Benevich, Joseph Stenberg, and Nicolas Faucher.
  • Also over the summer, the Vatican announced the opening of the digital Vatican Library, with 15,000 some manuscripts currently available (out of a total collection, in case you were wondering, of 80,000 codices).
  • Scott Williams has compiled an online bibliography for Henry of Ghent. It runs to 156 pages. (Actually, although the bibliography is what Scott asked me to advertise, it’s just one among many very useful things pertaining to Henry of Ghent that are assembled on this web page.)
  • Scott also said: just like Tobias Hoffmann’s online bibliography for John Duns Scotus. So check that out too. It runs to 396 pages.
  • While I’m on the subject of bibliographies, Thérèse Bonin continues to keep her Aquinas in English bibliography up to date, though it now has a new URL.
  • Someone else who’s been doing amazing work online is Jeffrey Witt (Loyola Univ. Maryland). A good place to start is with his Scholastic Commentaries and Texts Archive. But that’s really just the start. He’s working toward a comprehensive initiative that would enable cooperative open access publishing ventures aimed at scholastic texts.
  • For a very different sort of online presence, check out — if you haven’t already — Martin Lenz’s blog. He’s been steadily posting, for the last five months, on all sorts of topics, but especially on the history of philosophy.
  • I mentioned this a few years ago, but since it continues to grow, let me mention again that Dag Hasse and colleagues continue to build an online Arabic and Latin Glossary, aimed to offer a comprehensive guide to the vocabulary used in medieval Latin translations of Arabic texts (philosophical, medical, scientific).
  • Finally, in honor of Thanksgiving in this part of the world, our friends at the Franciscan Institute are offering 40% off all of their publications this weekend: Nov. 23 – Nov. 26. Use the code THANKS18. It’s a great opportunity to acquire some essential volumes in any medieval philosophical library.

Peter Adamson and Other Opportunities

  • It’s not quite too late, though only a few hours are left, to submit a paper to the SMRP’s Founder’s Award Prize. Graduate students and PhDs within the last five years are eligible. Deadline is today, May 1.
  • Congratulations to Peter Adamson, whose History of Philosophy without any gaps podcast has just made its way to the end of the Middle Ages, and posted its 300th episode, not counting the 62 episodes he’s completed on Indian philosophy, and a few more in the newly started series on African philosophy. Next up is Byzantium, which I suppose means he isn’t really done with the Middle Ages. And doubtless there’s still Renaissance scholasticism to look forward to. Lest you think this a quixotic project, you might like to know that the total number of podcast downloads stands at 21 million. What’s your citation index?
  • While I’m congratulating Peter, I might as well mention that he also recently won a large European Research Council grant for his project on animals in Islamic philosophy.
  • Also, check out Peter’s interview on the APA Blog, in which he talks about diversifying the canon.  (I myself recently weighed in on this topic, in an interview at 3am.)
  • The British Journal for the History of Philosophy is looking for a new associate editor who would oversee submissions in medieval philosophy. Application deadline is May 25, 2018. (Thanks to Caleb Cohoe for the pointer. I’m told Peter Adamson will NOT be applying for this job.)
  • I’ve discovered a remarkable web page devoted to medieval commentaries on the Bible at big.hypotheses.org/. It contains much information about the medieval Latin Bible, the common gloss, and various later medieval commentaries, including, among much else, a working electronic edition of Aquinas’s Catena aurea. For the electronic version of the Glossa ordinaria, see here.
  • The folks at the Aquinas Institute, who have been busily publishing big bilingual editions of Aquinas’s Opera, are now starting to make available ebooks, formatted to be read on your Kindle or other such device. For a small fee, you get a Latin-English text that is designed to be read on a portable reader, and that even lets you look up Latin vocabulary on your screen.

 

Post-Docs, Grants, Summer Schools, Etc.

  • I don’t usually post information about medieval jobs that are advertised at philjobs.org, but Jeff Brower asked me to call attention to the very attractive three-year postdoc that Purdue University is advertising, specifically in medieval philosophy! The application deadline is the end of December. Details here.
  • As the Daily Nous reported a few weeks back, a couple of medievalists have recently won grants of around $2M from the European Research Council.
    • Dragos Calma (Cambridge) won for his project: “Neoplatonism and Abrahamic Traditions. A Comparative Analysis of the Middle East, Byzantium and the Latin West (9th-16th Centuries).”
    • Catarina Dutilh Novaes (Groningen) won for her project: “The Social Epistemology of Argumentation.” (This is evidently not an historical project, however.)
  • Enrique Alarcón is directing a conference this spring: “Inteligencia y voluntad en Tomás de Aquino” (April 26-27, 2018, Pamplona).
  • The Maimonides Centre in Hamburg is organizing a summer school for graduate students on “Sceptical Strategies, Methods, and Approaches in the Middle Ages: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions” (July 29-Aug. 3, 2018, in Hamburg). Details here.
  • The Lumen Christi Institute is organizing a summer seminar for doctoral students on “St. Thomas Aquinas on Free Choice” (June 24-July 4, 2018, Chicago), and a second on “Truth and Authority in Augustine’s City of God” (July 21-28, 2018, Berkeley). Details here.
  • The Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec (near Cracow) is hosting a conference next fall: “Altiora te ne quaesieris (Sir. 3, 22): The medieval pursuit of wisdom” (September 2-7, 2018). Cfp deadline is March 31.
  • A useful Aquinas resource to know about is the Aquinas Institute‘s online version of their bilingual editions. Everything they’ve published is available free here, in an easy-to-use, searchable bilingual format. As of now, that consists in Sent. IV dd. 1-25, ST, In Job, In Matt., In Johan., and all of the Pauline commentaries. For scholars, the Corpus Thomisticum is still clearly much better, but for students this could come to be a very useful resource.

State of the Art: Rega Wood

Here’s another of my occasional series of guest posts from prominent folk in the field, describing what they’ve been up to of late. This post is from Rega Wood (Indiana University):

I’m currently in the final stages of editing Richard Rufus’ Sententia cum quaestiones in libros de anima Aristotelis, which will be about 650 pages in length. I say “I” despite the fact that my name appears second in the list of editors (Ottman, Wood, Lewis, & Martin), because mine is the last job, preparing camera-ready copy. Jennifer Ottman’s name appears first because she is responsible for most of the apparatus of notes which provides a wealth of information about the philosophers whose commentaries show an awareness of Rufus. Her work allows our edition to introduce not only Rufus but the early Latin commentary tradition on De anima. My name comes second because I’m also responsible for most of the 200-page introduction.

Neil Lewis’ philosophical astuteness and constant attention to argumentative structure as well his great knowledge of Rufus’ hero, Robert Grosseteste, make an enormous contribution.  The brilliant Christopher J. Martin not only reads over and comments on the whole work and offers great insight into Rufus’ text of Aristotle, but also provides me with the LaTeX tools I use in typesetting.  Finally the comments of Olga Weijers, Alan Code, and his student Santiago Melo Arias also improve the edition, especially when we grapple with problem passages.  We’ve also had help from Dorothea Frede, Michael Smith, and Max Etchemendy, whose remarkable recreation of Rufus’ outline of the work can be viewed online.

The introduction has five sections. I begin by introducing some of the exciting topics Richard Rufus discusses.  In the second section I establish the genre of the commentary, its date, and its influence (the last with lots of help from Jennifer).  Not surprisingly, the third section establishing the authenticity of the work is the longest.  Next, I provide an account of Rufus’ views on sensation with particular attention to his understanding of ‘spirituality’.  The introduction closes with a statement of the editorial method we follow.

A summary of the fourth section of the introduction will appear as an article entitled, “Spirituality and Perception in Medieval Aristotelian Natural Philosophy.”  Yes, I know the title is too long. But nonetheless, it will appear in good company in a volume edited by Elena Baltuta: Theories of Sense-Perception in the 13th and 14th Centuries.

Other contributors to the volume are Dominik Perler, Juhana Toivanen, Filipe Silva, Paolo Rubini, Daniel de Haan, Andrew LaZella, Lukas Licka, Andre Martin, Martin Klein, and Mattia Mantovani. Their papers cover not only Rufus, but also Thomas Aquinas, Peter Olivi, Duns Scotus, the Perspectivists, Robert Kilwardby, John Buridan and Jean of Jandun; its “themes range from the singularity of perception to accidental perception, immateriality and spirituality in perception and causation.”

Supposing I ever finish numbering variants that extend to more than one line and sundry other such exciting chores, I will make a push this summer to finish Richard Rufus of Cornwall: Metaphysics, Epistemology, & Natural Philosophy. I’ve long had drafts of the first two parts on his life, works, and manuscripts. I also have drafted the sections of part three on metaphysics, epistemology, and natural philosophy. But I’ve only just begun the sections on logic and theology, where I will lean heavily on Rufus’ development of the formal distinction.  Work on the book is my excuse for not giving a mini-seminar on medieval philosophy at Stanford this year, which I usually manage with help from Peter King.  Last summer Peter and I managed not only to introduce Ockham and his razor but also to check out jazz hot spots in San Francisco.

Of course, even skipping out on my Stanford gig, I probably won’t finish the book this summer. And whatever happens I will have to revise the whole thing.  So lots of work to do, but next year I will have some help from graduate students at Indiana University enrolled in “Richard Rufus and the Scholastic Tradition.” Last time I did this, the students had to agree that after reading Duns Scotus, Rufus looks like a model of clarity and simplicity.

Alas, quite often the Rufus book has had to take a back seat to my duties as Rufus’ general editor. And this year we were fortunate enough to receive another three-year NEH grant for this purpose, owing in part to Rufus’ program officer, Ann Meyer. With a little help from Lydia, Ann answers all my questions about budget and bureaucracy. The 2017-2020 grant will fund work on publishing the edition of Rufus’ 1000-page metaphysics commentary, Scriptum in Metaphysicam Aristotelis. Fortunately, since this work’s authenticity isn’t controversial, it won’t need such a long introduction. At the same time we will begin establishing the text of his Oxford theology lectures.  Medievalists interested in Richard Rufus are always welcome to request PDFs of our preliminary and provisional editions.

The Richard Rufus Project (RRP) website hosts the project’s critical editions of the works of Richard Rufus of Cornwall.  Though we are still hard at work on the project, much is already available either on our website or in print via the British Academy’s Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi series directed by John Marenbon. Our website hosts our edition of Rufus’ Memoriale in Metaphysicam Aristotelis as well as the Redactio brevior of the De anima commentary and much of the Scriptum in Metaph, mostly the Redactio brevior but also a snipet from the Redactio longior.

The site also provides aids such as a search engine of the editions on the site, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, a biography of Rufus, translations of selected works, and a list of the known manuscripts that contain Rufus’ works, along with the works’ incipits. RRP’s site also provides an overview of the process of creating a critical edition, including brief biographies of the editors.

Another highly useful resource is the list of works that RRP cites in its editions. For those works which previously existed only in manuscript form RRP provides transcriptions. Found there are complete transcriptions of Adam Buckfield’s influential De anima commentary and a transcription of Roger Bacon’s unedited, but almost certainly authentic commentary on Aristotle’s De generatione et corruptione.  Not to be forgotten is Robert Andrews’ indispensable compilation of sententiae attributed to Boethius, but not actually found in his works, Boethius dicit.

RRP’s outreach project, Bartholomew’s World, is an introduction to the world of scholasticism aimed at students of Latin in 6th through 12th grades. It offers a brief overview of some scholastic authors along with Latin lessons based on their works, divided into three sections – topics in Human Science, Divine Science, and Natural Science. Other useful resources include extensive indices relating to etymology, grammar, paleography, chronology, and medieval imagery.  Neither website would be possible without RRP’s webmaster, Eva St. Clair, for whose good sense, wit, and love of all things medieval I give thanks daily — or at least as often as unintelligible directives from computer authorities on high force me to call on her assistance.

Various Resources (Fall 2017)

Whenever I find something useful on the web, I tend to suppose that I’m the last person in the world (that is, our little world) to know about it. So apologies in advance if you’ve heard about these before.

  • If you’re reading this, then you’re most likely a regular user of the online Corpus Thomisticum. But did you know that if you’re using the full-text feature of the site (e.g., here), you can double-click on any word and it will take you to the Perseus entry for that word, giving you not just a dictionary definition but an exact account of the part of speech etc. of that particular inflection of the word? This makes reading Aquinas in this format a great resource for anyone working to improve their Latin.
  • Playing around with this feature led me to discover a great new(er) resource from the Perseus people: an online Latin/Greek search tool that ranges over various dictionaries. It’s called Logeion. This has a notably elegant and powerful user interface, and is a particularly useful tool for medievalists, because in addition to indexing Lewis and Short, it gives you Du Cange and also the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources. It’s worth taking a minute to read the About page, which explains some functionality that you would not discover on your own from the austere Start page.
  • There is also – of course! – a corresponding Logeion app for your phone. My quick impression is that it does not do everything the web-based version does, but it’s still pretty cool.
  • And speaking of apps, the Corpus Thomisticum itself now has an app, currently for Android only, that has the functions of the Index Thomisticus. (I have to report, though, that I couldn’t get it to work on my Android tablet.)
  • Finally, the Aquinas Institute continues to release bilingual volumes of Aquinas’s works, and they are starting to enter into territory that goes beyond looking nice on a shelf — they are producing new translations. Here is the announcement of the first volume of their translation of the Sentences commentary (Bk. IV dd. 1-13). Notice that they’ve kindly made it available for free on the web.

Concerns for a Distinguished Center for Medieval Philosophy

The Philosophy Department at the University of St. Thomas (Houston) seems to be at some risk of “reorganization and/or elimination.” See details at the Daily Nous. Would the school really have the nerve to eliminate the Philosophy Department and continue calling itself the University of Saint Thomas? Perhaps it might better, at that point, sell off the naming rights to the school to some more suitable benefactor.

Update as of May 19, 2017: The latest word is that the Department’s PhD program will be eliminated. This, which is of course bad enough in its own right, will have the further consequence of “allow[ing] the administration to change the terms of our contracts and increase course loads and remove tenure.” This from John Hittinger, department chair. See the detailed update at the Daily Nous.