Deciphering and Encoding Knowledge in Carolingian Glosses on Martianus Capella

8 Aug 2012
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Sinéad O’Sullivan
Senior Lecturer, Queen's University Belfast

Carolingian scholars paid considerable attention to Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, a late antique Latin work full of obscurities in language and imagery. This talk, focusing on ninth-century glosses on De nuptiis, seeks to demonstrate that clarification and decipherment, at the heart of biblical and medieval hermeneutics, were not the only functions of glosses. I discuss the ways in which Carolingian glossators introduced complexity, embedded meaning in the text and even created a sense of mystery. I describe a case study of the Greek in the Carolingian reception of Martianus. It demonstrates that a range of material was available to ninth-century scholars to elucidate Martianus’s Greek and that Greek seems, at times, to have served as a means to obscure. I argue that this interest in obscurity reflects a widespread epistemology and strategy of concealment, hence their intellectual investment in Martianus. For ninth-century readers, then, the Greek in the glossed Martianus manuscripts, however decorative it may have been, also operated at the core of medieval hermeneutics.



Dr. Sinéad O’Sullivan joined Queen’s in 2005 as a lecturer in History. Her research focuses on the transmission of learning in the early Middle Ages. Her current work, Glosses in the Medieval West: Encoding and Deciphering Knowledge, is an intellectual history of glosses during the Carolingian Renaissance, focusing on the role of obscurity as a cognitive strategy. She is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a long-time member of the Scaliger Institute, Leiden.

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  Office for the History of Science and Technology

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