In class, February 6, 2017 in between the hours of 1400-1700 in the afternoon, we began class like any normally excellent day by going over today’s agenda, which our Professor was ever so kind in to read the agenda like he did last week, through memory, and oral dictation, not through writing it on the board, even though this time, we had markers for the board. Will he continue this streak of oral dictation? Or will he revert back to the ways of writing, we don’t know yet. I myself remain in suspense.
He continued to review last week, and reminded us that it is more than necessary since we only meet on one day of the week, and that is on Mondays. And this all happened before going onto the next lesson, which was writing as a tool. Many people love writing, others deplore it, and he used the words for these two distinct perceptions of writing as: Fetishizing, and distrust. The distrust of writing came from the idea that stories and poems should be passed on through oral tradition. There was also a fear among people through the forces of oppression, whereas if the elite could read, and write, whereas the general population could not, they could be easily perceived, especially through religious doctrine.
Then we switched gears to talk more about the medieval era which ranged from 500 all the way to 1500, or 1450 if one wants to associated technology with the change of ages. Then he went with a fascinating list of dates which I myself found interesting, can’t speak for the rest of my class though.
The first date was 476, which was the fall of the Roman empire and the arrival of the codex, and the transition from scrolls to bindings. The second date if memory serves was the introduction to monasticism, with the date that St. Benedict lived, 480-547. Then he spoke about the rise of Christianity, and their primary language was Latin, which is considered the sacred language, and then missionaries are sent to places like England which resulted in the rise of the vernacular languages The 7th century was the rise of Islam, and the rise of the Arabic culture in Spain. Between 1000-1300 was the rise of urbanization, population, trade, and sophistication.
The first universities as he mentioned were Oxford, Bologna, and Paris at 1180. The roles of these universities was commentary on authoritative texts, and the medieval law books.
Then class turned another direction and the professor showed us an astounding collection of books, and their respective texts through the slideshow, which was fascinating while he spoke on what the books were made out of. Papyrus and Parchment for rolls, and the parchment and papers were used for the Codex. To exclude our journey on the book, we watched a six minute video on the making of medieval books, which was fascinating with all of the different moving parts associated it with the skin, scraping off the fat, and the processes that went into making it ready to be written upon.
After the video, he spoke about the book of Exeter, the book of riddles and one of those riddles described the making of the book. And to keep in context with ancient books, and how they were made, our professor made the statement that there are books in Houghton library which are made or bound in human flesh. Does this make anyone excited or is it just me?
Finally, we transitioned into the workshop, to illuminate a poem, which was a process that had us pick a poem, and draw illustrations on the poem we picked. The whole class did so, and as we finished our illumining of the poem we passed our work to others who would make connections, suggestions, and edits to our own work before. We concluded with discussing the reading of Philobiblon.