Rachel Fulton

Center for Renaissance Studies

The Newberry Library

 

Spring 2007

 

“Praying by the Book:

Devotional Manuscripts and Their Uses in the High and Later Middle Ages”

 

 


Books of prayer, particularly books of hours, are at once some of the most and least studied productions of late medieval manuscript art.  Justly famous for the sumptuousness of their illuminations and their appeal to the late medieval laity, only recently have these books begun to be studied in detail for the principal use for which their makers and owners intended them; namely, to pray.  The purpose of this seminar is to situate the production and use of these books within the history and experience of prayer as practiced by both clergy and laity from the Carolingian period to the turn of the sixteenth century.  Themes and problems to be addressed include the history of so-called private prayer and its relationship to the monastic use of the psalter; the development of alternatives to the psalter as a focus for prayer such as rosaries, rhymed psalters, and the Little Office of the Virgin; spiritual exercises and the development of the book of hours; the relationship between beauty and theology in the experience of prayer as expressed through the production of illuminated books of prayer; and the changes brought about in the practice of prayer towards the end of our period by the introduction of printed books of prayer.

 

In addition to providing students an opportunity to work closely with some of the most beautiful manuscripts in the Newberry Library collection, this seminar will likewise introduce them to the structures of the monastic liturgy and the practice of lectio divina underpinning the monks’ and nuns’ performance in the choir; to the debates about the propriety of using images as foci for devotion and the theories of the senses and memory supporting their use; and to the complex relationship between the monasteries as at once “powerhouses” of and models for the prayer of the Christian community as a whole. 

 

Students taking the course for credit will be asked to choose one appropriate manuscript from the Newberry Collection on which to write a 12-15 page research paper due at the end of the quarter.  A number of shorter assignments will be given over the course of the quarter in order to assist in the process of writing this paper.  Although the majority of the readings for discussion will be in English, students should be comfortable working in Latin for the purposes of their research.

 


Books available for purchase at the Newberry Library Bookstore

 

RB1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, ed. Timothy Fry, Liturgical Press [ISBN 0814612725]

Patrick D. Miller, Interpreting the Psalms, Fortress Press [ISBN 0-8006-1896-3]

Nancy Van Deusen, ed., The Place of the Psalms in the Intellectual Culture of the Middle Ages, State University of New York Press [ISBN 0-7914-4130-X]

Thomas H. Bestul, ed., A Durham Book of Devotions, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies [ISBN 0-88844-468-0]

The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion, trans. Benedicta Ward, Penguin Books [ISBN 0-14-044278-2]

Kathryn A. Smith, Art, Identity and Devotion in Fourteenth-Century England: Three Women and their Books of Hours, University of Toronto Press [ISBN 0-8020-8691-8]

Roger Wieck, Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life, Georges Braziller [ISBN 0-8076-1498-X]

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Harper Paperbacks [ISBN 0-0609-7625-X]

Michael L. Raposa, Boredom and the Religious Imagination, University Press of Virginia [ISBN 0-8139-1925-8]

Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, Oxford [ISBN 0-19-504996-9]

Adrienne von Speyr, The World of Prayer, trans. Graham Harrison, Ignatius Press [ISBN 0-89870-033-7]

 


Reading and Discussion Assignments

 

March 30 Regular prayer

RB1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, ed. Timothy Fry

Jonathan Black, “The Divine Office and Private Devotion in the Latin West,” in The Liturgy of the Medieval Church, eds. Thomas J. Heffernan and E. Ann Matter (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications, 2001), pp. 45-71

 

April 6 Praying the Psalms

Patrick D. Miller, Interpreting the Psalms

Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms, trans. Maria Boulding, 6 vols. (Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City Press, 2000-2004): vol. 1, pp. 67-75, 175-78, 221-45 (Psalms 1, 2, 13, 21 and 22); vol. 4, pp. 172-77, 303-314 (Psalms 81 and 89); vol. 6, pp. 83-97, 127-37, 256-82 (Psalms 126, 129 and 138)

James McKinnon, “The Book of Psalms, Monasticism, and the Western Liturgy,” in The Place of the Psalms, pp. 43-58

Joseph Dyer, “The Psalms in Monastic Prayer,” in The Place of the Psalms, pp. 59-89

 

April 13  Little books of prayer

The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion, trans. Benedicta Ward

A Durham Book of Devotions, ed. Thomas H. Bestul

 

April 20  Big books of prayer

[meet in manuscripts room]

Kathryn A. Smith, Art, Identity and Devotion in Fourteenth-Century England, pp. 1-56

Jeffrey Hamburger, “Before the Book of Hours: The Development of the Illustrated Prayer Book in Germany,” in The Visual and the Visionary: Art and Female Spirituality in Late Medieval Germany (New York: Zone Books, 1998), pp. 149-95, 510-522

Judith Oliver, “Worship of the Word: Some Gothic Nonnenbücher in their Devotional Context,” in Women and the Book: Assessing the Visual Evidence, eds. Jane H.M. Taylor and Lesley Smith (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), pp. 106-122.

 

April 27  Structuring prayers: time

Roger Wieck, Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life

Smith, Art, Identity and Devotion, pp. 57-151

 

May 4  Envisioning prayers: text and image

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Smith, Art, Identity and Devotion, pp. 152-296

 

May 11  Kalamazoo—no class meeting

 

May 18  Practicing prayer: boredom and process

Michael L. Raposa, Boredom and the Religious Imagination

 

May 25  Embodying prayer: pain, imagination and belief

Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, pp. 161-277

 

June 1  Theology in act

Adrienne von Speyr, The World of Prayer

 

June 8  Praying with the books in the Newberry collection

[meet in manuscripts room]

 

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