Book Series Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, vol. 21

Understanding Monastic Practices of Oral Communication (Western Europe, tenth-thirteenth centuries)

Steven Vanderputten (ed)

  • Pages: xii + 390 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:7 b/w, 3 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, French, German
  • Publication Year:2011

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53482-4
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54028-3
  • E-book
  • Available

This collection of papers delves into the fascinating methods with which monastic groups of the central Middle Ages practised modes of oral communication.


"Mit dem Herausgeber ist zu wünschen, dass dieser erste, vor allem durch die enge Textarbeit an den Quellen interessante Versuch das Thema in den Griff zu bekommen, nicht der letzte sein wird." (Heike Johanna Mierau, in: sehepunkte, vol. 12 (12), 2012, URL: ;)

"The book covers a wide panorama of topics, methodologies, and concepts of its core theme. Its very diversity is one of its interesting features and strenghts." (Sébastien Barret, in The Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies, Vol. 1 (2012), p. 144-145)

"A volume such as this one repays close attention. More themes are raised than are settled, as any good study will do, but when placed on the horizon of recent scholarship, the volume also points to innovative new ways of thinking about monastic life and practice." (Alex J. Novikoff, in: The Medieval Review, 12.05.19)

"Especially gratifying in these essays is the contributors' direct engagement with the codicology of the manuscript sources." (Charles F. Briggs, in: The Catholic Historical Review, 101.2, spring 2015, p. 354-355)


Although traditionally defined as a literate environment, Western monastic culture depended on a range of communicative practices which was just as large, and in some ways more sophisticated in its diversity, than that of other groups of society. Monks and nuns exchanged considerable amounts of information for which no written media were deemed necessary or which did not make a complete or immediate transition into written sources. Grouped in five thematic chapters, the papers in this volume aim to provide inroads into a useable interpretation of the various contexts in which monks and nuns in the central Middle Ages considered the spoken word as a vital complementary medium to other forms of communication.


Steven Vanderputten is head lecturer in the history of the Early and Central Middle Ages at the Department of History, Ghent University.






Understanding Monastic Practices of Oral Communication - STEVEN VANDERPUTTEN

Part I: The Politics of Non-Written Communication

Communication at the Abbey of St. Gall - GERD ALTHOFF

Verba volant, scripta manent: Limits of Speech, Power of Silence and Logic of Practice in Some Monastic Conflicts of the High Middle Ages - WOJTEK JEZIERSKI

Monachos hujus ecclesie ad se venire fecit: Attitudes laïques comme reflets des stratégies monastiques orales et rituelles dans les transferts patrimoniaux - STEVEN VANDERPUTTEN

Part II: Traces of Orality in Liturgy, Customs and Material Culture

Oral Transmission of Liturgical Practice in the Eleventh-Century of Cluny - SUSAN BOYNTON

Education, Liturgy and Practice in Early Cîteaux - DIANE J. REILLY

Celebrating with Dignity: The Purpose of Benedictine Matins Readings - TJAMKE SNIJDERS

Part III: Traces of Orality in the Transmission of Memory

Traces d’oralité dans les receuils d’exempla - MARIE-ANNE POLO DE BEAULIEU

What Charles the Simple Told the Canons of Compiègne: Oral and Written Transmissions of Memory in the Genealogia Dictata a Karolo Rege - GEOFFREY KOZIOL

L’oralité monastique et la fabrication des légendes hagiographiques - EDINA BOZÓKY

Part IV: Talking Shop: Educating the Monastic Mind

“Ins Gespräch gebracht”: Der Dialog als Prinzip monastischer Unterweisung - MIRKO BREITENSTEIN

Performance, Orality, and Communication in Medieval Women Convents in the Light of the Plays of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim - ALBRECHT CLASSEN

Bericht, Verschriftlichung und Reoralisierung visionärer Erlebnisse im Mönchtum des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts -PETER DINZELBACHER

Part V: Talking Shop: Voicing the Monastic Mind

Conversations amongst Monks and Nuns, 1000-1200 - ELISABETH VAN HOUTS

Did Medieval Monks Actually Speak Latin? - JULIE BARRAU

Oleum de saxo durissimo: Bernard of Clairvaux’s Poetics of Silence - WIM VERBAAL

Wandering Eyes, Muttering, and Frowns: Bernard of Clairvaux and the Communicative Implications of Gesture - METTE BRUUN


Orality, Non-Written Communication and Monastic Studies - MARCO MOSTERT

Index of Manuscripts