Geoffrey Gaimar’s Estoire des Engleis

Estoire des Engleis (“History of the English”) is the oldest surviving work of historiography in the French vernacular, composed sometime after 1135 under the patronage of Constance FitzGilbert, the wife of a minor Lincolnshire nobleman. It describes the history of England starting from Cedric of Wessex’s landing on its shores in 495 and continuing all the way through the death of the Anglo-Norman king William II in 1100. Although Gaimar was a learned cleric, he composed his history in French verse, rather than in Latin prose, presumably for the better entertainment and edification of his aristocratic audience.

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Medieval Bestiaries

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Detail from Folio 5r, Aberdeen Bestiary (Univ. Lib. MS 24)

The Medieval Bestiary

Aberdeen Bestiary Project

Medieval bestiaries are essentially animal encyclopedias, ranging in subjects from the domestic cat, to the exotic elephant, to the fantastic phoenix or griffin. They were more theological than scientific in nature, focusing on the moral or allegorical dimensions of the natural world. Loads of fun to be had on these sites clicking through the indexes of animals or admiring the beautifully illuminated illustrations.

Escape to Scotland (8th Week, HT)

Right in the middle of the last week of term, I took a quick jaunt up to Scotland for a postgraduate visiting day at the University of St Andrews, about 50 miles north-east of Edinburgh on the Fife coast. Although the 5am departure was less than ideal, I very much enjoyed the train ride once I had gotten through London and left King’s Cross for the long ride north. Continue reading Escape to Scotland (8th Week, HT)

The Trouble with Words (7th Week, HT)

I have been panning in the river of Historiography this week. The experience has been intriguing, confusing, and entertaining, but I’ve yet to come up with nuggets of gold.

The immediate goal is to complete my historiography essay. I had more-or-less completed my first draft over Christmas Break, but the very thorough comments I received on my draft have sent me back the drawing board to deconstruct and attempt to build it up again. My primary difficulty is finding something useful of my own to contribute – at this point in my studies, I have a long way to progress along the spectrum of mimicry to originality. And the murkier the waters of historiographical theory, the easier it is to cling to the floats of previous critiques rather than push out on my own.

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A Medieval Student

In his work the Didascalicon  (c. 1125), one of the classic theological texts of the twelfth-century renaissance, Hugh of St. Victor lays out an integrated view of human knowledge, insisting upon the need for a scientific pursuit of the traditional arts in order to relieve life’s physical weaknesses and to restore humans’ union with the divine Wisdom. Unusually, as well discussing the traditional pedagogic categories of the trivium and quadrivium, he includes sections on the practical and mechanical arts (such as commerce and agriculture).

In his discussion of the process of study, Hugh also gives us an intriguing peek at his own school days:

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