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  • From Knowledge to Beatitude: St. Victor, Twelfth-Century Schools, and Beyond: Essays in Honor of Grover A. Zinn, Jr ed. by E. Ann Matter and Lesley Smith
  • John D. Cotts
From Knowledge to Beatitude: St. Victor, Twelfth-Century Schools, and Beyond: Essays in Honor of Grover A. Zinn, Jr. Edited by E. Ann Matter and Lesley Smith. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 2013. Pp. xxiii, 488. $75.00. ISBN 978-0-268-03528-0.)

As a versatile scholar, elegant translator, and masterful teacher, Grover A. Zinn Jr. spent five decades elucidating the school of St. Victor for fellow scholars; general readers; and students at his institution, Oberlin College, and elsewhere. The present volume honors his contributions to medieval studies with a set of essays devoted primarily to high-medieval thought and spirituality, although a few range far beyond the Victorines.

The first four contributors explore the art and architecture of St. Victor and its Parisian environs. Catherine Delano-Smith analyzes Richard of St. Victor’s drawings of the Temple of Jerusalem that accompanied his In Visionem Ezechiel and demonstrates the complex interactions between word and image in Victorine exegesis. Her emphasis on images is shared by Walter Cahn, who finds in an illustrated Parisian manuscript of Hugh of St. Victor’s writings an opportunity to consider the interpretive possibilities opened by the visualization of Victorine ideas. William W. Clark offers a useful survey of the evidence for the appearance of the twelfth-century church of St. Victor, whereas Thomas Waldman reflects on what a privilege of Pope Innocent II can tell us about Suger of St. Denis’s vision for church construction.

The next three essays delve into the Victorines’ approach to the written word and together provide a clear summary of the order’s intellectual project. Franklin Harkins demonstrates that for students at St. Victor reading led necessarily to a virtuous life and that reading and Christian action reinforced each other. Hugh Feiss turns to the classic Victorine model of teaching by word and example, with attention to vernacular as well as Latin preaching. Turning again to the problem of reading (and, by extension, glossing), Lesley Smith surveys a collection of biblical glosses by the Parisian master Robert Amiclas and presents it as an example of how books operated in the early Scholastic context.

Chapters 8 through 11 cover the high speculative thought of the Victorine world. Boyd Taylor Coolman neatly links theology to behavior and argues that Hugh of St. Victor’s conception of beauty had a moral dimension: “spiritual beauty consists in proper measure in desire, thought, and act” (p. 196). Dale M. Coulter and Marcia Colish turn to the reception of the classical inheritance in medieval thought, with Coulter considering the Victorines’ transmutation of Boethius’s idea of speculation and Colish presenting a most erudite account of the medieval peregrinations of Stoic views on conscience. Dominique Poirel rounds out the quartet with another piece on beauty that effectively captures Hugh’s thought at its most conceptually enthralling. A canon’s vocation, she notes, asks him to contemplate beauty and then “radiate it all around [himself] unto the limits of the universe” (p. 196).

The final five essays take the collection in very different directions. Barbara Newman looks at the affective spirituality surrounding the metaphor of “exchanging [End Page 618] hearts” from the mid-twelfth to late-thirteenth centuries and argues that women authors, especially the nuns at Helfta, treated the metaphor in their own fashion. In a piece that should become compulsory reading for Anglophone students of St. Hildegard of Bingen, Rachel Fulton imaginatively and persuasively argues that Hildegard’s mysticism is far more methodical and sophisticated than those who see it as primarily a subversion of male clerical authority have allowed. Raymond Clemens concludes the discussion of gender with a careful reception study of medieval female mystics, examining Jacques Lefèvre’s 1513 compilation Liber trium virorum et trium spiritualium virginum. Two contributions by Jeremy Adams and Frans van Liere look at other manifestations of high-medieval spiritual energy: attitudes toward returning crusaders and the reception of Jewish apocalypticism in the twelfth century.

In an original and touching final piece, E...


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