restricted access 3 The Visible Order of Student Lecture Notebooks
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115 Chapter 3 The Visible Order of Student Lecture Notebooks A ssessing the manuscript holdings of the BnF in 1874, the institution’s new general administrator Léopold Delisle (1826–­ 1910) described with disfavor the collection of manuscripts from the Grand Couvent des Cordeliers (recall that Meurisse taught at this monastery), which the library had inherited after the Revolution: The archival documents of the Cordeliers, composed of 151 manuscripts . . . conserve barely the trace of the rich collection of manuscripts that must have existed in this house between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. . . . Wretched notebooks of students make up most of the archival materials.1 Although Delisle was justified in mourning the loss of the Franciscan monastery’s medieval manuscripts, which would have been a significant addition to the BnF’s collection, modern readers should hesitate before following him in dismissing the student notebooks that remained in the library.2 These manuscripts, most of which date from the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, present extensive evidence of modes of teaching in early modern Paris.3 The notebooks contain hand-­ drawn illustrations, in addition to printed imagery inserted between pages, and thus provide an untapped resource for the development of a more thorough understanding of the use of visual materials in philosophy teaching of this period. Whereas chapters 1 and 2 focused on the uses of philosophical visual representations in printed documents, this chapter and the next turn to the functions of images integrated into manuscript sources. I present the first analysis of the visual representations in the Paris philosophy notebooks. I also address the drawings, prints, calligraphic lettering, and collages found both in the notebooks of philosophy students from the University of Leuven and (in chapter 4) in the alba amicorum produced by students traveling across the European continent.4 The present examination demonstrates how the study of printed visual representations and the activity of drawing became central components of philosophical training in the early modern period. For these students and their professors, detail of figure 92 116 chapter three visual representations served as critical tools in the organization and the exploration of difficult questions. As this chapter is the first to deal with drawn materials, I will begin with a brief excursus on theoretical uses of this practice in the Renaissance. The next section provides an important context to understanding the texts and images in the notebooks, describing the teaching of philosophy and the format of lectures in Paris and Leuven in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The chapter then presents an overview of the functions of the prints and drawings found in Paris and Leuven student notebooks. In this chapter, I focus less on the question of how images are organized (i.e., the rise and demise of the plural image) and more on the question of how images structured students’ engagement with philosophical lessons. In plural images text is typically embedded within visual representations; in lecture notebooks we find precisely the reverse: visual representations are embedded within written representation. Just as texts help to arrange plural images methodically, visual representations function to arrange manuscript texts in order. Much research has been done on textual modes of ordering information; in this chapter, I uncover visual strategies employed by students to manage information. Some of the images in lecture notebooks can be read as traces of the activities of students during lectures , whereas others must have been produced and integrated with written notes after the lectures were over. Like illustration in medieval illuminated manuscripts, images in these notebooks indicate where new topics start and also create vivid and concrete images that helped students commit ideas to memory. Philosophy lecture notebooks lie at the core of the educational enterprise of early modern students. As the text in these notebooks was for the most part written down from dictation, the place where we can discern a generative activity on the part of the student is in the making, gathering, and display of visual representations. In these documents a greater amount of liberty is afforded to students in the case of visual representation than in that of discursive representation, where students are expected to reproduce standard formulations of philosophy. We must see the limitations of the discursive knowledge in these manuscripts in order to appreciate the exciting features of their visual representations , which show students engaging with the philosophical materials in a freer and more imaginative fashion. On the Use of Drawing What were the functions of drawings? What can early modern art...


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