Mediaeval Latin

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D.
for Scholars Online
2023-24: Tuesdays 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM ET

Overview    Materials    Schedule

General course overview and outline of expectations

This course is designed to introduce the students to the linguistic and literary variety of Mediaeval Latin. As such it can only be extremely selective, but the present textbook provides a variety of writings covering liturgy, history, poetry, philosophy, biography, and theology, and we will sample each of these genres.

We will rely on Sidwell’s solid Reading Medieval Latin as the base text for our readings and the relevant notes; we will supplement these with English-language readings on the nature, background, and bibliography of mediaeval latinity and literature drawn from Mantello and Rigg, Medieval Latin. I will expect real mastery of the Latin passages from Sidwell; the readings from Mantello and Rigg offer supplementary material and background on the many parts of the discipline — and hence are less to be mastered than flagged for future recall in the overall process of building an awareness of an impossibly large field of study.

The course presupposes:

  1. a substantial and solid preparation in Latin,
  2. a grasp of at least an outline of mediaeval history, and
  3. a willingness to stretch one’s grasp of the language and the literature.

Each week’s reading will be between thirty and just over a hundred lines: while this is in fact less than the amount required for some other courses, don’t be deceived. In particular, don’t put assignments off until the last minute. There are problems in the latinity of these authors unlike anything you have encountered in Vergil or Horace. It will take work and practice to become accustomed to reading them. Work them over early in the week; if you have questions, post them to the conference center, and try to work them out with your fellow students. We’ll try to settle up any outstanding problems during class on Friday.

I think I can promise you that if you work through this course conscientiously, it will materially change the way you look at Latin, at language in general, at the history of the world and our culture in it, and it will be a lot of fun into the bargain. This is unusual territory, far from the beaten path — even the fairly rarefied path of classical education. Very few colleges and no high schools I know of offer a course in this material.

The course is taught at a college level; in general it should not be undertaken by a student who has not completed at least one year of college-level Latin (Latin IV or Latin V will fill the bill); more would be better. Enrollment is by instructor permission only.

Last Updated on 7/25/19 by Bruce A. McMenomy
© Copyright 2019, Bruce A. McMenomy