Third Series, Volume 8 (2011)

Table of Contents:

“The Extravagance of the Senses”: Epicureanism, Priestly Tyranny, and the Becket Problem in John of Salisbury’s Policraticus
Cary J. Nederman, Texas A&M University
Karen Bollermann, Arizona State University

A New Life of Isabelle of France from the Early Sixteenth Century
Sean L. Field, University of Vermont

Wives and Their Property in Chaucer’s London: Testimony of Husting Wills
Henry Ansgar Kelly, UCLA

Sicut in lapide: Avaritia and Aristotle’s libri naturales at Paris in the Early Thirteenth Century
Spencer E. Young, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies


Abstracts:

“The Extravagance of the Senses”: Epicureanism, Priestly Tyranny, and the Becket Problem in John of Salisbury’s Policraticus
Cary J. Nederman and Karen Bollermann

In Book 7 and Book 8 of his Policraticus, the twelfth-century churchman John of Salisbury discusses and harshly criticizes at length the Epicurean school of philosophy, emphasizing its erroneous equation of the immoderate enjoyment of sensual pleasures with the highest human good. John appraises the Epicurean school to examine what he regards to be a common tendency among ecclesiastical and secular leaders of his own day to indulge themselves, seeking self-aggrandizement at the expense of performing their official duties. John’s critique of Epicureanism is intimately interwoven with his analysis of the forms of tyranny that he finds on display, in particular, among his fellow clerics. We argue that these comments have specific application to Thomas Becket. In our view, both the criticism of Epicureanism and the condemnation of ecclesiastical tyranny may be read as a rebuke of Becket, about whose conduct John had previously evinced suspicion.


A New Life of Isabelle of France from the Early Sixteenth Century
Sean L. Field

This article contains the first edition and study of a French Life of Isabelle of France (1225–1270) written ca. 1520 and found in Princeton, Princeton University Library, MS. 188. The life was probably written by a sister of Longchamp in connection with a campaign for Isabelle’s beatification. It provides evidence of how the Franciscan sisters of Longchamp sought to reshape their founder’s legend to fit contemporary expectations of sanctity and provides the earliest extant record of a number of late-fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century miracles experienced at Isabelle’s tomb. The present study focuses on the creation of the life, the provenance of the unique extant manuscript, and the innovations produced by the author’s combining of contemporary testimony with earlier sources, such as the thirteenth-century writings of Agnes of Harcourt and the fifteenth-century epitaph that hung over Isabelle’s tomb.


Wives and Their Property in Chaucer’s London: Testimony of Husting Wills
Henry Ansgar Kelly

Looking at the 4000 wills proved at the Guildhall Court of Husting in London between 1250 and 1500, with emphasis on the 500 specimens filed between 1370 and 1410, we can see the kinds and quantities of property wives acquired at the end of marriage and what they brought to marriage and gained during marriage, especially with the aid of well-meaning or compliant husbands, and the extent to which they could and did control or use their property during marriage (sometimes supported by the threat of ecclesiastical sanctions against interference). Most husbands will all of their lands and goods to their wives, ignoring the stipulated portions meant to go to children and church. The earlier London prohibition against willing real estate to wives in perpetuity had become a dead letter by Chaucer’s time. Chaucer’s characters, especially the Wife of Bath, Criseide, and May, reflect these realities.


Sicut in lapide: Avaritia and Aristotle’s libri naturales at Paris in the Early Thirteenth Century
Spencer E. Young

The reception and assimilation of Aristotle’s natural philosophy in the thirteenth century is a leading theme in medieval intellectual history. Yet many of the theologians who used these texts while they were formally prohibited at Paris, and the range of applications they made of the so-called libri naturales, remain obscure. This article examines how two texts from this period (both of uncertain authorship, located, respectively, in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS. lat. 14726 and Douai, Bibliothèque Municipal, MS. 434) drew upon the theory of “natural place” found in Aristotle’s Physics to understand how the capital vice of avarice could provoke the soul both to acquire and to retain riches. The article thus enlarges our perspective on theological Aristotelianism during the 1220s and 1230s, demonstrating its eclectic nature and its pervasiveness in certain quarters of the Faculty of Theology at the nascent University of Paris.

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