An offence against language

It is one of history’s gravest ironies that in a medieval world sanctioned by the modern observer with illiteracy, ignorance and obscurantism, the 10th-century grammar teacher Gunzo of Novara should be censured by his contemporaries for a Latin mistake he inadvertently made. To be sure, criticising a 19th-century scholar for bad philology or a 21st-centuryContinue reading “An offence against language”

Medieval cultural influencers

No one mentions notaries, secretaries and other such public functionaries and thinks of power and influence. It’s true, in countries subject to civil law, a notary is required to authenticate a power of attorney, write up a will or transfer property. But apart from that, notaries are not seen as agents of cultural innovation, butContinue reading “Medieval cultural influencers”

Teaching Latin meter through medieval invective

Here’s an idea for making Latin prosody more popular. Instead of scanning (working out the metrical pattern of a line of Latin verse) dull or hackneyed Latin verses, why not practice marking out long and short vowels on invectives and offensive verses. One example from the 10th century suggests near-contemporary Latin texts may have been moreContinue reading “Teaching Latin meter through medieval invective”

Giovanni de Serravalle’s Latin translation of the Divine Comedy

The reversal of Dante’s popularity at the end of the medieval period starts with an apparently popular move: translating the Divine Comedy into Latin. Meant to boost interest in the poet’s magnum opus, it signed its decline for at least 200 years. Humanism was about Latin, not the vernacular, about antiquity, not medieval science andContinue reading “Giovanni de Serravalle’s Latin translation of the Divine Comedy”

Knocking on medieval Latin’s door

Where’s your Donatus? Medieval learners of Latin would react to this question by scrambling for their Latin textbooks. By the end of the Middle Ages, the name ‘Donatus’ was used for different kinds of elementary Latin grammar, all related to the works of the 4th century Roman grammarian Aelius Donatus. Every medieval library was likely to hold aContinue reading “Knocking on medieval Latin’s door”

Drink or be scolded therefor, only do it in Latin

I good friend of mine forwarded this to me from today’s Times. Of course, berating a drunkard in perfect Latin is always advisable, except when the inebriating wine has been an Opimian, or the hungover man is too crapulentus, or intoxicated, which gave the English word ‘crapulous’. Incidentally, books are inebriating, too, and one comment about Richard de Bury (1287-1345),Continue reading “Drink or be scolded therefor, only do it in Latin”

Latin in Medieval Britain

The conference is set to begin this afternoon. I will try to cover David Howlett’s lecture on Making the Dictionary and tomorrow’s sessions. I am particularly looking forward to Neil Wright’s talk on The twelfth-century renaissance in Anglo-Norman England: William of Malmesbury and Joseph of Exeter, Charles Burnett’s Arabic in medieval British Latin scientific writings and Paul Brand’s The Latin of theContinue reading “Latin in Medieval Britain”

Notker Balbulus, a brief introduction

These are the notes for a brief presentation I recently did for the medieval Latin course. The topic was medieval poetry and we looked at Notker’s sequence ‘Laus tibi, Christe’. Notker Balbulus (the Stammerer) – born 840 of distinguished parents, died 912 – monk of St Gall, monastery in present-day Switzerland, founded in 613 byContinue reading “Notker Balbulus, a brief introduction”