03 January, 2010

this is a good example of why I suck at college

Dear [Latin professor who is my advisor],

As you might remember (or maybe not; it was a while ago) you agreed to be my Winter Term sponsor. I'm going to read some Latin from late antiquity or preferably the middle ages. Since I've been abroad I didn't need to sign up for a project in the fall; I'm supposed to do it when I get back to Oberlin, which is the day after tomorrow. However I feel anxious because I haven't decided what I want to read yet. [Medieval Lit professor] was going to help me decide but I feel bad dragging two professors into my anxiety so I thought I would ask you first since unfortunately for you you are already involved.

if all else fails I might just read Augustine (or possibly Tertullian), but that's a bit early for me. I really would like to read something that's personal and religious, like someone's account of their visions/spiritual experiences, and things like that. I really love people like Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, but I think that because of the nature of that kind of writing it isn't very likely to be in Latin. Is there stuff like that in Latin?

apologies and happy holidays (and I totally understand if my query is too weird/nebulous to answer easily; I am looking for stuff on my own too, but figured it couldn't hurt to ask),


[Normally I freak out more about this kind of thing and try to go over it a lot trying to sound more normal and/or I just don't send it at all, but on this occasion I was just like whatever. I don't know. I was noodling around on Wikipedia and I found out about this guy Emanuel Swedenborg who wrote books in the 18th century in Latin about his visions and revelations about God and the afterlife. Apparently Yeats and lots of other people I love were into him. So I'm thinking I might ditch the medieval thing and read one of his books instead.]


  1. I love Swedenborg too, mainly because Helen Keller did, as a writer and as a religionist.

    Medieval time is probably 900-1400 or even 900-1600. Because if it was from the latter portion of history, you could well do Jean Bolland and the people influenced from/by him.

    Are you looking for a hagiography type writing? There are lots of Irish ones. For example: St Bridget. And Wikipedia mentions half a dozen relevant websites, with societies and newsletters and such.

    What about Hildegarde of Bingen? She was in the 12th century (1095?-1179), and she wrote about her experiences in Latin.

    Here is a Hildegarde work (or reference to same on Wikipedia):

    And Abelard and Heloise are really good. I think they are from about the same time. Probably, as well as the letters, there is Abelard's history of my calamities. (and about 15 other writings).

    I enjoyed reading a biography of them in June to August 2009.

    Yeah, personal experiences would be likely to be in the vernacular, whether it be: English, French, German, Italian...

    Jacobus de Varagine's stories are supposed to be easy to read. And Meister Eckhart. And the Catholic Encyclopaedia is often helpful for interesting people.

    We'll see what your advisor says.

  2. And I groaned and howled because if I were in your place I would do Montaigne, but he might be too late. He's considered Renaissance rather than Middle Ages/medievial.

    (There was also a renaissance of the 12th century).

    What Augustine were you thinking of doing originally? He has such a wide range of writings. (And he's the one who Christianised the education system, though before 1000 Europe was a relative backwater to Islam and China).

    fifth century = 400 and all that. As a student I did not really do much before 800, or 1200 if it comes to that. (And certainly not in Latin).

    Francis Assisi was a poet, and his followers too. The dissenters made a new style.

    Allegory was a big genre. I don't know that it has particular authors except for Dante (the Divine Comedy.