Masters and Paragons. Learning, Power and the Formation of a European Academic Culture c. 900-1230.

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

  • Mia Münster-Swendsen

This dissertation investigates the formative stages in the creation of a European res publica litterarum in the tenth- to early thirteenth centuries. The history of the intellectual world of medieval Europe is also the social history of the rise of a privileged elite who did not legitimise its authority through inheritance, economic wealth, military power or bloodties, but through acquired abilities and merits, personal relationships, intellectual affiliations, and not least through a wide-embracing transnational network established by the schools. It is contended that these schools became a central formative force in (re)creating early- and high-medieval society.

The study consists of three individual, yet interconnected sections, involving three perspectives through which we may assess the cultural history of medieval education in this period. The first section inscribes the medieval men-of-letters within a larger social and especially political frame, as authors of an ideology which came to have profound effects on social reality.  Concurrently, it draws a sketch of the development of the centres of learning from a transnational perspective. The second section analyses social relationships and educational practices within the school milieus, particularly in relation to the structures of power and authority. As part of this, it deals with strategies of identity-formation and the self-perceptions of the medieval schoolmen. The final, third section is devoted to the content of learned discourse as a coherent system of knowledge. It is not conceived as an exposition of the curricular details of scholastic disciplines, but as an analysis of their symbolic and discursive function in upholding a vision of a world order, which directly affected social ideals and practices. In all three sections, the deus ex machina remains the nexus of power and knowledge. And together, they represent an attempt at painting a multicoloured, synchronic portrait of the learned culture of early- and high-medieval Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKøbenhavn
PublisherMuseum Tusculanum
Number of pages537
Publication statusPublished - 2004

ID: 1244809