- On Natural Philosophy and Medicine. Selections from Cause et Cure, and: Jutta and Hildegard: The Biographical Sources (review)
- Australian and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (Inc.)
- Volume 18, Number 2, January 2001
- pp. 169-171
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Reviews 169 recreated in various contemporary lights. The portrait of Boccaccio that Giusti gives is totally positive, and up-to-date. H e is credited with being an innovator, a feminist, ademocrat, having arelativist attitude towards reality, and being disposed to sympathy towards A I D S sufferers. To follow Giusti's reading ofBoccaccio, this is a description so extravagantly overdrawn that it could well be regarded as irony. Giusti will be of interest tofluentreaders of Italian already familiar with Boccaccio who are seeking further lines of interpretation. As a general guide to Boccaccio, Vittore Branca's Boccaccio: the man and his work remains the benchmark. Max Staples Charles Sturt University Hildegard of Bingen, On Natural Philosophy and Medicine. Selections from Cause et Cure (The Library of Medieval Women), trans. Margret Berger, Cambridge, D.S. Brewer, 1999; paper; pp. xvii, 173; R R P £12.95, US$19.95. Jutta and Hildegard: The Biographical Sources (Medieval W o m e n : Texts and Contexts 1), trans. Anna Silvas, Turnhout, Brepols, 1998; board; pp. xiii, 299; R R P not known. Anniversaries of famous figures, easily derided as commercial opportunities, have very positive consequences. A m o n g the feast ofnew publications provoked by the nine-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Hildegard of Bingen, two volumes of translated texts have appeared that distinguish themselves by combining serious scholarship with general accessibility. Both volumes demonstrate that judiciously introduced and annotated translations can make just as important a contribution to exploring the complexity ofHildegard's achievement as specialised editions of Latin texts. In the late 1980s and early 1990s w e have had a surfeit of quickly produced translations of Hildegardiana, too often based on derivative German translations of unreliable Latin texts, such of The Life of Holy Hildegard by Godfrey and Theoderich (1995), and Holistic Healing, a derivative translation ofthe Cause et Cure, both published by The Liturgical Press, ofCollegeville, Minnesota. Happily, a new generation of serious and genuinely informative translations of Hildegardiana is n o w becoming available. Hildegard's scientific writings still present particular problems, as Irmgard Muller and Laurence Moulinier have still to publish critical editions of the Latin 170 Reviews texts ofthe two major texts (perhaps originally part ofa single synthesis), the Cause et Cure and the Physica. Any translation still has to be based on texts which may or may not contain passages that have been added after Hildegard's lifetime. There is no doubt however that both surviving texts are substantially authored by Hildegard. Marget Berger presents a sober and highly accessible introduction to the Cause et Cure, drawing on the latest research of Muller and Moulinier, while offering her own useful commentary. Her translation of a complex text,richin technical terminology, provides an invaluable aid to its interpretation. This text provides a better guide to Hildegard's cosmology than the more detailed recipes that she offers in the companion work, recently translated by Priscilla Throop, Hildegard von Bingen s Physica (Rochester: Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 1998). Berger draws on her o w n study of the Copenhagen manuscript of the Cause et Cure to make her well-annotated translation a genuine contribution to scholarship. In an interpretative essay appended to the translation, she emphasises the extent of Hildegard's debt to existing scientific and medical traditions, questioning some of the more enthusiastic claims about her omniscience in everything feminine. Perhaps her analysis does not draw out sufficiently the extensive thematic connections with Hildegard's visionary writings, in particular The Book ofDivine Works. Nonetheless, her sober observation ofHildegard's literary sources provides a valuable corrective to lyrical claims about her originality that offer little substantive analysis. A similar scholarly rigour, coupled with perhaps greater historical and literary depth, characterises the introductions and translations offered by Anna Silvas of a range of historical documents that relate to both Jutta and Hildegard. Students of Hildegard m a y be familiar with The Life of Hildegard, or at least the famous autobiographical fragments included within its text by her biographers. Her translation succeeds in bringing out many subtleties not present in earlier versions, in particular by its respect for the spiritual and monastic terminology that Hildegard and...