IMC 2004: Sessions

Session 510: Biblical Exegesis and Mnemotechnics

Tuesday 13 July 2004, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Frans van Liere, Department of History, Calvin College, Michigan
Paper 510-aThe Circumstances of Memory: Mnemonics and Narrative in Petrus Comestor’s Historia Scholastica
(Language: English)
Erik Ekman, Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures, Oklahoma State University
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Rhetoric
Paper 510-bThe Birds and the Bees and Training Memories: The Role of Mnemonic Models in Scriptural Study According to Hugh of St Victor
(Language: English)
Franklin T. Harkins, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Theology
Paper 510-cBiblical Exegesis and Mnemotechnics in Codices from Vivarium (Verona Biblioteca Capitolare XXII)
(Language: English)
Luciana Cuppo, Societas Internationalis Pro Vivario
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Ecclesiastical History, Manuscripts and Palaeography, Theology

session grouped by Frans van Liere (10/11/03):
Abstract paper -a:
This shows that the mnemonic system of Hugh of Saint-Victor described in the Didascalicon serves a rhetorical function in the Historia Scholastica, a Latin universal history written in the 1170s in Paris. The HS takes its linear structure from Hugh’s mnemonics and Hugh’s insistence on the importance of person, action, place and time as essential information to biblical history are its basic ordering principle. It has been demonstrated that Mnemonic practices are adapted to the manuscript page in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. However, while they are techniques for organizing the layout of the text, mnemonic techniques extend to the narrative of the Historia Scholastica itself.
Abstract paper -b:
The centrality of the notion of history (historia) to the exegetical thought and work of the12th-century Parisian master Hugh of St. Victor has been widely recognized. For Hugh, history is not only the narrative of deeds done in time (which Scripture truthfully recounts), but also the primary signification of the words of the biblical text — the first interpretative foundation on which allegorical and tropological readings are to be built. Thus, in Hugh’s view, in order to read scripture correctly and benefit fully from such lectio (viz., by moving toward the restoration of the divine similitude in oneself through knowledge and imitation of the God revealed in Scripture), the student of the Bible must not only approach the text with a basic comprehension of salvation and secular history, but also (and more importantly) be able mentally to store, catalogue, and retrieve for use the things he reads. Hugonian scholarship has failed to look sufficiently closely at the importance the Victorine master places on memory training for scriptural reading and its telos of human restoration.
This paper, then, seeks to investigate the intersection of ars memorativa and studium sacrae paginae in the thought of Hugh of St. Victor. We will consider the ways in which Magister Hugo, in an effort to produce better biblical readers, adopted and adapted various ancient mnemonic metaphors and techniques, such as writing on a wax tablet or stamping a wax seal, putting birds in cages, bees collecting nectar in a honeycomb, and storing money in a treasure-chest or coin-purse. Particular attention will be given to the way in which memory training, history, and Scriptural reading converge in Hugh’s image of Noah’s Ark to promote the student’s moral formation and spiritual development.
Abstract paper -c:
This paper will discuss some aspects of mnemotechnics and exegesis in codices from Vivarium (sixth to early seventh century), and specifically in Verona Biblioteca Capitolare XXII (sixth century, partially annotated and corrected by Cassiodorus). As shown by Fabio Troncarelli (Vivarium: i libri, il destino, Turnhout 1998, especially p.67-78), Cassiodorus appropriated late antique mnemotechnic devices not only for secular learning (Institutiones Book 2) [handout], but as instruments of Christian exegesis: the cup, vessel of the word of God, and the grapes, symbol of Christ’s blood, appear in Vivarian manuscripts as marginalia inscribed with glosses to the text. The drawings are an aid to memory, the inscriptions therein elucidate the text. Mnemotechnics and exegesis converge.
The same mnemotechnical-exegesitical techniques continued at Vivarium after the death of Cassiodorus. The chronicle of Mellitus, a Vivarian edition of the chronicle of Isidore of Seville (A.D. 614), used marginalia to fix important points in the readers’ mind [slides from Vat. lat. 1348]. When such points were about Catholic tradition, Mellitus used the drawing of a cup, vessel of grace. To cite an auctoritas such as the first four ecumenical councils or St. Augustine [slides from Vat. lat. 4950 and 5730]) was a point of exegesis, because the auctoritas guaranteed the correct interpretation of the Bible. Again, mnemotechnics and exegesis converged.
The codex Verona Biblioteca Capitolare XXII was read and annotated, and perhaps written, at Vivarium. Copied after the death of Pope Vigilius in A.D. 555, it consists of two sections bound together. The first includes the ‘Laurentian Fragment’ of the Liber Pontificalis and De viris inlustribus of Jerome/Gennadius, the latter corrected and annotated by Cassiodorus. The second contains the ‘Records in the Matter of Acacius’, a collection of letters and decrees mainly from the time of Pope Gelasius A.D. 493-496). The Acacian records [slide from fol. 93v] have the cup motif, closely resembling those of Vat. lat. 5730, but the inscriptions are in cursive. Following the pattern established by Cassiodorus in De viris inlustribus, they begin with ‘hic dicit ..,(‘this deals with…’), but the points to be remembered no longer refer to dogmatic theology (nature of Christ), but to moral issues (sin and prayers for sinners, exegesis to the First Letter of John 1.5). Mnemotechnic techniques remain the same, but the focus of exegesis has shifted, perhaps a sign of the new theological climate to come with Pope Gregory I.