Classics, Italian Literature, Latin language and Literature, Manuscript Studies

Frank Coulson Lectures on a Fragment of an Ovid Translation by Giovanni de Virgilio in the Walsh Library

This past 27 April, Dr. Frank Coulson of Ohio State University gave a lecture on a manuscript he discovered in the Walsh Library.  Coulson believes that Walsh Library MS Item 14, a 15th century manuscript fragment listed by Digital Scriptorium as a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses with marginal commentary, is actually a 14th century copy of the Metamorphoses with a marginal translation written by Giovanni de Virgilio.  Giovanni de Virgilio was a 14th century Paduan scholar who was educated in Bologna and who was commissioned by the Studium of Bologna to lecture on Lucan, Statius, Ovid, and Virgil (for whom he had a particular love, as one can surmise from his chosen name.)  Only his Ovid lectures survive, along with a few of his other translations and commentaries.  We’ve some insight into Giovanni’s personal life, including his friendship and extended correspondence with Dante Alighieri.  Indeed, Giovanni even wrote an epitaph for Dante’s tomb.

The Walsh Ovid fragment, Coulson believes, is part of a lager Oivid commentary and translation Giovanni produced.  Coulson has been hunting down these fragments for the last few years, and has expanded our awareness of them exponentially.  Of the total number of fragments we are aware of, this is the 12th.  Prior to Coulson’s project, we were only aware of a single fragment of this commentary and translation.

What is so interesting about this particular fragment is how it breaks from the standard translation/commentarial methods of the time.  While most translations and commentaries in the 14th and 15th centuries were incorporated into the main text as one continuous block, with alternating segments of text and translation/commentary, this fragment has the translation and comments wrapping around the Latin text.  What’s more, this marginal translation does not even correspond to the text it wraps around: the marginal Italian text and the Latin text are from two different books of the Metamorphoses.  Also, the script of this fragment of this translation is in a textualis hand, meant to be easily read and understood for its formal, proper style.  This would be opposed to a cursive hand, which was more common for documents and university notes and textbook copies.  Coulson believes this is indicative of the intended patron of the translation, being someone who likely did not understand Latin well, if at all, and just wanted to be able to engage with Ovid through the vernacular.

The Center would like to thank Dr. Coulson for his sharing his invaluable expertise and insights with students and faculty alike.

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Events

Fordham’s First Latin Bootcamp: Fun for the Whole Community

On the evening of Friday November 13th, Fordham University kicked off its first annual Biduum Latinum Fordhamense, otherwise known as “Latin Bootcamp,” co-sponsored by the Classics department, the Center for Medieval Studies, GSAS Futures and the Fordham Graduate Students Association. Professor Matthew McGowan delivered the opening lecture, which emphasized how a knowledge of the Latin language provides special access to the nuances and layers of meaning in a range of texts from the classical, medieval, and renaissance eras.

The crowd didn’t seem to need much convincing on that account–the event drew a large, enthusiastic, and truly interdisciplinary audience. With students and faculty from the philosophy, history, theology, and classics departments, as well as the Center for Medieval Studies in attendance, the premiere of Fordham’s first Latin Bootcamp brought together members of the entire community, both within and outside of Fordham University. Several tri-state area secondary school teachers came for a lesson in pedagogy, as well as many instructors and alumni of the Paideia Institute. One area teacher even brought two of his own young students–his high school-aged children, who were accomplished in both Greek and Latin.

Philosophia et septem artes liberales as illustrated in the Hortus Deliciarum. This pictorial representation of the liberal arts served as springboard for our discussion of the relationship of the seven liberal arts to wisdom in the 12th century.

Philosophia et septem artes liberales as illustrated in the Hortus Deliciarum. This pictorial representation of the personified liberal arts served as springboard for our discussion of their relationship to wisdom in the 12th century. A font with seven streams flows out of Philsophia, which correspond to the trivium and the quadrivium encircling her. Below are four poets, reminiscent of the four evangelists. The composition as a whole recalls the form of a stained glass rose window composed of concentric roundels over four lancets.

The following Saturday participants translated selections from Seneca, Hugh of St. Victor, and Petrus Paulus Vergerius, giving special attention to each author’s treatment of the Liberal Arts and use of the Latin language to describe the nature of their role in personal edification. The teachers–including Professor McGowen, Charley McNamara (a PhD candidate at Columbia University), and Jim Hunt (PhD Classics, Fordham ’10)–made sure every single student got the chance to sight read a bit of Latin, and all emerged from the translation sessions surprised by their collective ability to master Latin literature of three distinct cultural periods.

Professor McGowan gave an impromptu tour of the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art at Walsh library before our group headed to Spellman Hall for Latin Mass lead by Father Christopher M. Cullen, one of the Jesuit priests residing in Fordham’s Jesuit community. After a beautiful service featuring readings from several of our participants, the group finished the day with a medieval banquet, complete with a few merry rounds of “Gaudeamus Igitur.”

The convivial atmosphere and collaboration between Fordham students, faculty, and guests was inspiring and fostered a productive scholarly discussion about Latin and the Liberal Arts through time and across disciplines.

By Alexa Amore

 

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