The Commentary Tradition in the Medieval West
Medieval thinkers wrote commentaries on nearly every imaginable genre of text, from law codes and Scripture to prophecies and contemporary fiction. Commentaries—explanations and interpretations of important texts—have drawn increasing attention from medievalists as sources for understanding the ways medieval people studied, taught, expressed complex and original ideas, and organized information. Yet many students of the Middle Ages rarely or never encounter this form of writing or think about it critically while in graduate school. This course was an interdisciplinary introduction to the wide range of commentary literature, and a survey of recent trends and approaches in utilizing commentaries in various fields. We addressed the secondary literature and tackle some commentaries directly. While most of the commentaries we looked at were written in Latin, a few are in vernaculars and we even investigated images as commentary. The aim is to introduce students to the wonderful potential of commentaries and the creative ways they can be used to better understand the Middle Ages.
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