Notes: weeks 1-2


A standard of cruelty to which one must never aspire

Welcome to the first set of notes for this class. Notes will generally consist of:

  • a synopsis of what was covered: synopsis, key terms and concepts
  • a list of references, as far as possible with links: either to the things themselves (manuscripts, images of objects, art-works) or to something about them (often Wikipedia)

NB: you are NOT expected to read all of the extra references: neither straight after class, nor at any point during the course. And I will never ask you if you have done so!
They may be helpful to you for remembering what we did in class, or as a supplement to your own notes.
They might also be helpful as resources for your liberal art’s week’s work, or for the midterm commentary or your final project.
I am not that cruel…
That is all!



  • Introduction



  • Whistle-stop tour of a brief history of time (5th-14th centuries), viewed through the lens of the manuscript tradition of Martianus Capella’s De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii

Links from lecture & bonus extra links
(NB: FOR INFORMATION ONLY: you are NOT expected to read all of these! Neither this week nor any other.):

(Footnote: 12th-c. cathedrals will return (Chartres, Paris, etc.); Chartres and its cathedral school is the principal intellectual centre of France (and one of the main nodes in a whole European and international network) before the foundation and flourishing of the university of Paris. See also: Bernard of Chartres & Alain de Lille (12th c.), Chartrean Neoplatonism)

Exercise in reading:

  • Notre-Dame (Cathedral of Our Lady), Paris.
  • See also: Google image search, official website
  • (footnote for future reference: websites are beautiful examples for reading-exercises, and for seeing the harmonious conjunction—or not—of the seven liberal arts, combined with practical arts such as architecture)


Fieldwork-day on “your” liberal art:

  • come to class, at the usual time and in the usual place
  • using the attached list [on email sent to students by the FSC] of people and their groups, locate the other people in your group (there should be around 5 people per group). This would also be an opportunity to move around groups: I don’t mind, provided that no group has fewer than 3 people and provided that all concerned are agreeable to the moves
  • for the next parts, you may choose to stay in the classroom to work, or go elsewhere:
    —find at least one medieval representation of your liberal art: for example via the Schoenberg manuscript database:
    —locate your liberal art in The Marriage of Philology and Mercury (at your Connect site)
    —and, as individual or group reading work, find what strike you (for whatever reason) as key or salient points. This could effectively be a summary or a commentary; working separately or together. It can of course be short.
  • final part:
    —go to the library (mostly Koerner, the music group may find the Music library useful)
    —locate as many areas as you can (thinking laterally is encouraged) where you would find further information about your liberal art. Prove you have physically been there (for example, take a group photo posing with a relevant work in the relevant area of the library).
  • When we reconvene on Tuesday, we will spend the first half of the class less formally, on your findings. The end result will be that the whole class will have done a preliminary reading, together, of almost all of The Marriage of Philology and Mercury without breaking a heavy sweat. I will provide further images too.

Images above: via Karl Catteeuw, University of Leuven  – Centre for the History of Education, 2003; on Donatus’s Grammar: quiz (in Dutch) on the liberal arts