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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 231: Modelling Ethical Reform in Medieval Literature, II

Monday 6 July 2015, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Justin Stover, All Souls College, University of Oxford
Paper 231-aNoble Abductions and Adulteries: Baudri of Bourgueil and the Ecclesiastical Reform of Marriage
(Language: English)
Bianca Facchini, Department of Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Index terms: Canon Law, Language and Literature - Latin, Mentalities, Social History
Paper 231-bTradition and Innovation in Matthew of Vendôme's Tale of Pyramus and Thisbe
(Language: English)
Sabina Tuzzo, Dipartimento di Beni Culturali, Università del Salento
Index terms: Language and Literature - Latin, Learning (The Classical Inheritance)
Paper 231-cTradition and Renewal in the Educational and Philosophical View of Michael Psellos
(Language: English)
Claudiu Huian, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Bucharest
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Education, Philosophy

Paper -a:
Poems 7 and 8 by Baudri of Bourgueil (1046-1130) form a pair of fictive letters exchanged (on the model of Ovid's Heroides 16 and 17) by literary characters: Paris and Helen. I argue that these works lend themselves to be read in the context of the late 11th-century debate on legitimate marriage promoted by clerical reformers like Ivo of Chartres, who forcefully challenged the lay, aristocratic paradigm of marriage that tolerated such scandalous practices as abduction and adultery. The paper aims to show how Baudri's sophisticated Ovidianism allows him to approach this fiercely contested topic from a safe ironic distance.

Paper -b:
Beginning from the Late Antiquity and especially during the first medieval centuries, poets and writers felt an urgent need to make use of the Classic auctoritates, their quotations of whom served to legitimize, ensure or confirm the truth of their own medieval views and opinions. Although this approach to classical literature remained stable for a very long time, from the early 12th century writers began to think in terms of their thought and culture finding an autonomous mode of progress owing to the rich cultural heritage of the Classics. In this sense, then, medieval authors evinced a deep interest in the classical tradition while at the same time seeking to further, and indeed break away from, it by means of their own additions and enhancements thereof.

Considered in this light, the love story of Pyramus and Thisbe, written by Matthew of Vendôme in the first half of the 13th century, appears emblematic. The story originally formed part of Ovid's Metamorphoses (4,55-166) but was subsequently retold by numerous authors of the medieval period.

My analysis will attempt to shed light on the means by which Matthew of Vendôme obviously draws inspiration from the Ovidian myth while at the same time incorporating numerous new and meaningful elements to the Ovidian original. I refer, for instance, to the youth of two lovers, a particular aspect of the tale on which Matthew of Vendôme insists, an aspect destined to arouse compassion in readers unable to remain indifferent to the tragic inexperience and naivety of the two. Moreover, Matthew of Vendôme connects the theme of 'one soul in bodies twain' with the sentimental aspect of the dramatic event, emphasizing the paradoxical condition of young lovers, who would like to be joined as one. This wish, evidently unattainable during their earthly life, leads the two lovers to a desperate suicide fueled by the Christian hope in union after death.

Paper -c:
The prolific Byzantine thinker Michael Psellos (1018-1096) proposes a reformation in the educational programme of the University of Constantinople, and takes critical distance from the 4th Book of Plato's Republic. As a Christian philosopher, he uses freely Neoplatonic terms even in mystic theology, and rehabilitates the rational fundaments of knowledge, condemning the occultism. His works illustrate a new relationship to the philosophical tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, the Stoics), in the light of his great respect for the tradition of the Church Fathers. A detailed analysis will be devoted to his new conception of the soul compared to Aristotle's De anima.