This volume contains case studies that examine how medieval
cultures (western European, Arab/Islamic and Jewish) adopted ideas
from the past and from each other in fields such as philosophy,
literature, religion, and medicine.
In this volume the McGill University Research Group on Transmission, Translation, and Transformation in Medieval Cultures and their collaborators initiate a new reflection on the dynamics involved in receiving texts and ideas from antiquity or from other contemporary cultures. For all their historic specificity, the western European, Arab/Islamic and Jewish civilizations of the Middle Ages were nonetheless co-participants in a complex web of cultural transmission that operated via translation and inevitably involved the transformation of what had been received. This three-fold process is what defines medieval intellectual history. Every act of transmission presumes the existence of some ‘efficient cause’ – a translation, a commentary, a book, a library, etc. Such vehicles of transmission, however, are not passive containers in which cultural products are transported. On the contrary: the vehicles themselves select, shape, and transform the material transmitted, making ancient or alien cultural products usable and attractive in another milieu. The case studies contained in this volume attempt to bring these larger processes into the foreground. They lay the groundwork for a new intellectual history of medieval civilizations in all their variety, based on the core premise that these shared not only a cultural heritage from antiquity but, more importantly, a broadly comparable ‘operating system’ for engaging with that heritage. Each was a culture of transmission, claiming ownership over the prestigious knowledge inherited from the past. Each depended on translation. Finally, each transformed what it appropriated.
List of Illustrations
Introduction. Vehicles of Transmission, Translation, and Transformation in Medieval Textual Culture
ROBERT WISNOVSKY, FAITH WALLIS, JAMIE C. FUMO, AND CARLOS FRAENKEL
Integrating Greek Philosophy into Jewish and Christian Contexts in Antiquity: The Alexandrian Project
Theophrastus, Alexander, and Themistius on Aristotle’s De anima III. 4–5
The Universal Chronicle in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages
The Heritage of Jewish Apocalypticism in Late Antique and Early Medieval Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
GERBERN S. OEGEMA
Prolegomena as Historical Evidence: On Saadia’s Introductions to his Commentaries on the Bible
Towards a Natural-History Model of Philosophical Change: Greek into Arabic, Arabic into Latin, and Arabic into Arabic
Abbreviation in Medieval Latin Translations from Arabic
DAG NIKOLAUS HASSE
Why Was the Aphorisms of Hippocrates Retranslated in the Eleventh Century?
Arabic into Greek: The Rise of an International Lexicon of Medicine in the Medieval Eastern Mediterranean?
The Introductions of Thirteenth-Century Arabic-to-Hebrew Translators of Philosophic and Scientific Texts
Secondary Forms of Philosophy: On the Teaching and Transmission of Philosophy in Non-Philosophical Literary Genres
JAMES T. ROBINSON
Hasdai Crescas’s Aristotle: Transmission, Translation, Transformation
WARREN ZEV HARVEY
Avicenna’s ‘Vague Individual’ and its Impact on Medieval Latin Philosophy
DEBORAH L. BLACK
William of Thiegiis and Latin Commentary on the Metamorphoses in Late Medieval France
FRANK T. COULSON
Ovid’s New Clothes: Text and Image in Caxton’s ‘Booke of Ouyde’ (1480) and Contemporary Prose Moralizations of the Metamorphoses
JAMIE C. FUMO
Monastic Manuscripts and the Transmission of the Classics in Late Medieval England
JAMES G. CLARK
Greek Roots, Arab Authoring, Latin Overlay: Reflections on the Sources for Avicenna’s Canon