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INQUISITORIAL HERMENEUTICS AND THE MANUAL OF BERNARD GUI In the followingarticle, Iwill be discussingBernardGui's fourteenth -century Inquisitor's manual in relation to the modern institution of literary criticism. The manual contains many model interrogations . Each is presented as an interrogation of a witness, but they arepreservedforus andweredisseminatedtocontemporaries asinterrogations (and manipulations) of texts. My concern here is with the use in thatexegeticalprocessofstandard academic training and tools, in particular, the language of rhetoric. The advantages of using the Inquisition as a means of investigating critical language are several. The Inquisition has acontinuous reception in western history: it has proved provocative in a way that other medieval institutions such as chivalry (one that produced far more victims) has not. This reception itself is multi-levelled— popular, religious, and academic. The extensive details left by the Inquisition andrelatedinstitutions andprocessescontinue togenerate monographs on topics asvarious asTemplarrituals or the cosmology of peasants (e.g., Forey, Ginzburg, Greenblatt). Furthermore, in Southern France ofthe late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, the academic life expressed by the Inquisition and its officials is still recognizable and familiar. Etymologically, "criticism"isderivedfromGr. krino"todistinguish ." Some years ago, whatcriticism was meant todistinguish was good literature from bad; in other words, it was evaluative. Today, most literary scholars claim to distinguish something else—e.g., the hidden motives of authors from their stated motives, or one work of literature from another. As certain modes of criticism become popular, however, an obvious danger arises: the richer the critical language, the less it is able to distinguish. To a reader who does not accept the claims ofdeconstruction or is unfamiliar with its language (including of course the larger contexts in which the following examples appear) the following two quotations might well seem to 60JOSEPH A. DANE conflatethefabliau and Dante'sCommedia ratherthantodistinguish them: What I am suggesting, on the other hand, is another kind of inquiry, one thatallows the text to address the issue itraises over and over again. That is: given that the jongleur can never adequately name himself, how does he go about naming that impossibility? (Bloch 219) Butinsofaras Dante's poem is marginal with respect to its origin in the Book of memory, it names the incompleteness of what it supplements atthe same time as itdemonstrates its own inability to be complete. (Gellrich251) Overly rich critical language has potentially the same levelling effect on literature as does an impoverished critical language. I am not suggesting that this is peculiar to deconstructive criticism. American New Criticism, in which mostofus were trained, doesmuch the samething. Literature"worthy ofconsideration"must be self-contained, orderly, ambiguous, ironic. What you can say about Donneis what youcan say aboutanyotherpoem; what Cleanth Brooks did in fact say about Donne acts as a model forcritical speech about any poet. Criticism, once institutionalized in academia, becomes a means for distinguishing critics (one is more versatile, more influential, more deserving of promotion than another); and literary texts are merely a means for criticism to carry out this function. It is this paradigm and this apparently changing function of criticism that I wish to keep in consideration as I discuss the model interrogations contained in Bernard Gui's manual (Practica Inquisitionis heretice pravitatis).1 Bernard Gui was inquisitor ofToulouse from 1307-1323. He began his career in a Dominican convent ofLimoges, taking vows in 1280. He studied logic, then physics, then went on to study theology in Narbonne and Montpelier. He taught at Limoges and Albi and Inquisitorial Hermeneutics61 became prior at Albi in 1294, at Carcassonne in 1297, at Castres in 1301 and finally at Limoges in 1305-07. Following his years as an Inquisitor, he received several bishoprics, the most important being the Bishopric ofLodèvein Languedoc in 1324. Bernardneverlosthis academic ties, and was a prolific historian. Among his works are a Legend of Saint Thomas; Speculum sanctorale (lives of saints), a history ofthe Dominicans, and theFlores Chronicorum (a history of popes, emperors, and kings of France, eventually cut into three separate works; there are numerous redactions, and versions were translated into Occitan and twice into French; see Delisle 188-234; Thomas 155ff.). Bernard's works are in part compilations (in this he does not differ from his contemporary historians), and his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0146
Print ISSN
0890-3352
Pages
pp. 59-76
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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