A Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages ed. by Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr. and Philip Edward (review)
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A Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages. Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 30. Edited by Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr. and Philip Edward Phillips. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012. Pp. xxii + 661. $274.

Over the last decade, the work and legacy of Boethius has enjoyed a well-deserved renewal of critical attention, scholarship, and even controversy, developments that seem to have reached a kind of publishing fever pitch. The Brill volume under review here is one of two hefty companion collections recently published on Boethius, the other being The Cambridge Companion to Boethius, edited by John Marenbon (2009). Several new editions and translations of Boethius’s works have also emerged, the most recent standout being The Old English Boethius: With Verse Prologues and Epilogues Associated with King Alfred (2012), edited by Susan Irvine and Malcolm R. Godden. In 2012 and 2013 alone, a variety of monographs have been released or are forthcoming, including Ralph McInerny’s Boethius and Aquinas (2012), Elizabeth Elliott’s Remembering Boethius: Writing Aristocratic Identity in Late Medieval French and English Literatures (2013), and Antonio Donato’s Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy as a Production of Late Antiquity (2013). Substantial new treatments of Boethian themes in the Middle Ages can be found in other recent monographs as well: Boethian temporalities in Carolyn Dinshaw’s most recent book, How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (2012); Boethian notions of clothing and material things in my own book, Fashioning Change: The Trope of Clothing in High- and Late-Medieval England (2012), and the Boethian prosimetric form in Eleanor Johnson’s Practicing Literary Theory in the [End Page 134] Middle Ages: Ethics and the Mixed Form in Chaucer, Gower, Usk, and Hoccleve (2013). To these studies we must add the Oxford Boethius in Early Medieval Europe project and perhaps such related work as the new musical release of the boethian meter “Bella bis quinis” by the Ensemble Cantilena Antiqua (2012).

Readers of Boethius should celebrate the wealth of critical discussion on this subject at the moment, as well the apparent effort to take critical stock by leaders in the field. In this sense, Brill’s A Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages works well as a counterpart to Marenbon’s The Cambridge Companion, in that it deals almost entirely with the transmission, reception, and influence of Boethius’s work in the Middle Ages and beyond, whereas the Cambridge Companion deals mostly with Boethius’s work in its own right and in the context of late antiquity (with some exceptions: Chapters Seven, Eleven, and Twelve of that volume address the later transmission of Boethian ideas as well). In A Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages, Kaylor and Phillips have organized an impressively substantive and well-balanced collection. The twelve essays—plus the Preface, Introduction, Afterword, and Annotated Bibliography—address in depth the significance and legacy of Boethius’s widely varying scholarship: his De arithmetica, his De musica, his translations and commentaries on logic, his theological texts, and his De consolatione philosophiae. Each essay offers a close reading of the central importance of Boethius’s work to its field of research as well as a broader comprehensive survey of the impact those ideas had on specific areas and periods. While the consistent quality and thoroughness of these chapters is impressive, what repeatedly stands out is the combined effect in several chapters of, on the one hand, a broad, quantifying study of Boethian influence, and on the other, an incisive new argument about a particular aspect of Boethius’s work or reception.

For a reader such as myself, whose knowledge base rests in Boethius’s De consolatione with occasional dabbling in his works on logic and theology, this volume offers an invaluable means to a more well-rounded, panoptic understanding of Boethius’s thought and influence. Its interdisciplinary breadth and structure illustrates Boethius’s radical intellectual inclusiveness, his attempt not only to translate and transmit Greek knowledge to Latin audiences but also to accommodate and synthesize distinct areas of thought—tasks no less daunting than to reconcile Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, or to bring the...