The twelfth-century renaissance

(Convenors: Dr Matthew Kempshall and Dr Gervase Rosser)

The Twelfth-Century Renaissance is an interdisciplinary paper in intellectual history designed to give students a broad overview of the content and applications of learning in the twelfth century.  It therefore covers a wide range of different curricular subjects from the perspective both of their sources (the classical textual tradition of ninth-century learning; the impact of newly translated texts; the consequences of personal contact with Muslim and Jewish scholars in Sicily and the Iberian peninsula; the influence of empirical discovery) and of their application through cathedral schools and royal courts to society at large.  The course comprises eight classes, organised around the seven liberal arts (the trivium and the quadrivium) and the three higher faculties of the medieval schools. 

1. An introduction to modern historiography on the subject, from C.H.Haskins through to Richard Southern, Beryl Smalley and Stephen Jaeger. 

2. The trivium part I (an introduction to Aristotle and Cicero on the subjects of dialectic and rhetoric; the controversy over their relationship as highlighted by John of Salisbury’s Metalogicon). 

3. The trivium part II (an introduction to grammar and, in particular, to the forms of poetry and historiography through which it was studied; the controversy over the relationship between history, ‘fiction’ and fable which developed as a result of the emergence of vernacular romance). 

4. The quadrivium (an introduction to the subjects of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, concentrating in particular on Platonism and the ‘school’ of Chartres as exemplified by William of Conches’ Dragmaticon). 

5. Theology (the impact of the liberal arts on the systematic study of theology, starting with Anselm and Abelard and continuing through Peter Lombard to the school of Saint Victor). 

6. Law (the systematisation of canon and Roman law and its impact, via Gratian and Bologna, on the exercise of both ecclesiastical and temporal authority). 

7. Medicine (the influence of Galen at the ‘school’ of Salerno and its relationship both to astrology and to medical practice). 

8. The ‘mechanical’ arts, focussing in particular on architecture and navigation and their respective relationship to cathedral-building and the use of the astrolabe.