- Laudatio in Honorem Jacobi Dalaruni
Could there be a more auspicious day than 14 July on which to honor a French scholar? Though the idyllic setting of the Saint Bonaventure campus is far from the bustling Place de la Bastille, the date could hardly be more fitting for the recipient of the 2016 Franciscan Institute Medal, given Jacques Dalarun's truly revolutionary contributions to Franciscan scholarship.
Born in 1952, on All Saints' Day, Jacques Dalarun worked his way up through the highly competitive French educational hierarchy, reaching the level of professeur certifié by 1974, agrégé d'histoire by 1975, doctor in medieval history by 1984, and habilité à diriger les recherches by 1994. During these years he taught first at the collège level from 1975 to 1984, and then, as his first books began to appear, at the Université de Franche-Comté and the École française de Rome, where he was named Directeur des études médiévales in 1990. He was appointed Directeur de recherche at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in 1997, and served from 1998 to 2004 as Director of the Institut de Recherche et d'Histoire des Textes. In 2013 his intellectual achievements were crowned with election to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, and thus to the Institut de France. This is the curriculum vitae of a French scholar who has reached the very pinnacle of his profession.
All of this success was founded on a string of brilliant studies, beginning in 1985 and 1986 with two ground-breaking volumes on Robert of Arbrissel, the twelfth-century founder of Fontevrault.1 In retrospect, the scholarly approach that has served Jacques so well ever since was already in evidence in these first books: Identify, edit, and translate important new texts; analyze them closely while bringing the reader along at every step; ask new questions, offer new arguments, and push forward the state of historical knowledge.
Thus, Jacques was already a rising star in the French scholarly firmament by 1986, but his interest had not yet been caught by specifically [End Page 527] Franciscan topics. His path toward Franciscan subjects was via a road decidedly less traveled. Rather than beginning with Francis or Clare, it was an interest in saints on the margins of society that led Jacques first to figures such as Micheline de Pesaro (d. 1356) and Claire de Rimini (d. 1326), relatively obscure but fascinating Italian holy women, in two studies published in 1992 and 1994.2 These books moved Jacques into Franciscan circles, but they also signaled another enduring element of his career—an attention to medieval women's religious experience, and to the ways in which women as well as men felt and shaped spiritual currents.
It seems fair to say, however, that Jacques Dalarun cemented his place as a major scholar of Franciscan history with the trio of studies on Francis of Assisi he published between 1994 and 1999, English versions of which have been published by the Franciscan Institute as Francis of Assisi and the Feminine, The Misadventure of Francis of Assisi, and Francis of Assisi and Power.3 Taken together, these works offered entirely fresh perspectives on Francis by way of modern scholarly approaches to gender and power. They also signaled Jacques's bold intervention in the contentious "Franciscan question"; that is, the long-running debate over how best to use the difficult and contradictory sources in assessing who Francis "really" was. A profound step forward in this debate was Jacques's brilliant 2007 volume Vers une resolution de la question franciscaine. La Légende ombrienne de Thomas de Celano, which pieced together fragmentary textual clues to argue that Thomas must have written a previously unknown life of Francis in the 1230s, between his Vita prima of 1229 and Vita secunda of c. 1247.4 This argument was well received, but for the moment remained a hypothesis awaiting definitive proof.
It was also at that point, by 2008, that Jacques took on his extraordinarily productive and important role as director of the collection "Sources franciscaines" for Éditions du Cerf and Éditions franciscaines (continuing now under the auspices of the...