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178 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 mann, Gregory's concept of heresy describes not an error of dogma such as Visigothic Arianism but rather a failure of societal order in Frankish Gaul itself (congratulations to Sandy Murray, the translator of this essay). Alexander Callender Murray offers arguments, bothbrilliant and entertaining , to the effect that no such thing as Germanic 'sacral kingship' ever existed. The opening essay in the collection, by Susan Reynolds, inquires into the meaning of 'nation' and related terms in late antiquity and subsequently . To conclude the volume, Elizabeth Brown explains how some sixteenth-century French historians replaced mythic theories about a Trojan origin of their nation by the more scholarly theory of origin from the Franks. Reader: tolle, lege. (SABINE MACCORMACK) David Townsend and Andrew Taylor, editors. The Tongue ofthe Fathers: Gender and IdeologtJ in Twelfth-Century Latin University of Pennsylvania Press. 214. us $37.50 This excellent, lively essay collection signals important changes in this generation's study of medieval Latin texts. Though no longer the mother tongue, by the twelfth-century Latin re-emerged as the authoritative vehicle ofWestern power - the very language, according to Hildegard von Bingen, in which God spoke to her. Scholars have long remarked the supple elegance and deep learning brought to this revitalized language by its (first clerical, then also secular) twelfth-century practitioners. These lucid essays should reassure those who resist 'getting medieval' with contemporary discourses a~out politicS and gender, since this carefully edited volume shows the crucial vitality of this project for the study of cultures rooted in this self-conscious literary language. These essays pack a big punch when read together, since - as the editors tell us in their richly interwoven, enjoyably pun-filled introduction - they mount a sustained attack on the masculinist violence of Latinity as the quintessential, monologic 'Tongue of the Father.' With persistence and vivacity, they also map the (mostly covert) ideological fissures in the patriarchicallandscape. Inevitably Abelard and HelOIse (subjects of three of seven essays) loom large here, as they do in other recent studies of gender and the medieval West's 'master narratives.' Andrew Taylor neatly exposes the highly eroticized violence paraded by the philosopher Abelard when he unsheathed his weapon of choice, his skilled Latin pen. In a powerful rebuttal to Barbara Newman's reigning theory, Marilynn Desmond argues that even after Abelard's castration, HelOIse is not sexually repressed: she remains remarkably sexually expressive, although she is locked in a sadomasochistic script 'that exposes not only the violence of the Latin literary tradition but also the rhetorical and linguistic basis of violence itself.' Alcuin Blamires thoughtfully considers a different aspect of Abelard, HUMANITIES 179 whose letter on monastic women is presented as a seriously pro-feminine work that establishes women's parity, priority, exclusivity, and even supremacy. What is God's gender? Claire Fanger uses Judith Butler's theory of performativity alongside Platonic and esoteric sources to explore issues of gender and language in Bernard Silvestris's Cosmographia. This illuminating , revisionist essay reminds us that gender - in divine realms as well as in nature - is less an issue of ontology than of epistemology. For Silvestris, language is a source of paradox and play; can it be that the prolific Hildegard von Bingen was indifferent to such Latin nuance? In her report on the habits of Hildegard's various scribes, Joan Ferrante argues that, for Hildegard, Latin- 'mere Latin' - was an empty instrument rather than (like music) a vehicle for intellection. The two final essays are paradigms for the pluri-disciplinary enterprise of theoretically grounded postmodern cultural studies. On the one hand, cultural fixations reveal themselves in local moments and are always subjectively situated, as evidenced by David Townsend's brilliant reading of one brief scene (8.1-48) from Walter of Chatillon's great Latin epic Alexandreis (a medieval piece of 'cultural tourism' available in full in Townsend's vivid and reliable translation) in which the Amazon queen Talestris negotiates for Alexander's sperm despite his 'meagre body' that 'ill fit his fame.' Though the learned intertextual references in Alexandreis 'often undermine its self-sufficiency/ the lines Townsend plumbs are clear enough: they query Alexander's 'normative virility' and establish...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 178-179
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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