A One-Day Symposium at Harvard University

held at

Real Colegio Complutense (26 Trowbridge St.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Organizers: Nicholas Watson and Luis Girón-Negrón, with the assistance of Michelle De Groot

Sponsored by the Provostial Fund for the Humanities, the Medieval Studies Committee,

the Medieval English Colloquium, and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures

Panel Three: What Is Vernacular Bible Translation?

Ralph Hanna: "Preaching the Vernacular Bible"

I raise a variety of concerns, concerning a single sermon from CUL Gg.6.26, recorded in Latin but probably preached in English. Sermon usage, pretty obviously, situates the bible as fundamentally the subject of commentary; I offer a few general observations about such procedures and look at the protheme to my sermon to see them in action.

Ralph Hanna is professor of palaeography, emeritus in the University of Oxford and emeritus fellow of Keble College. Throughout his career, he has tended to hang out in manuscript libraries the ways kids do around playgrounds. He's written variously on what he's uncovered in the process, with special interest in language relations in England and the finest evocation of vernacular bible in Middle English, Piers Plowman.


Cristina Maria Cervone: “Lyric Subjectivity and Form: ‘In a valley of this restless mind’ ”

Often vernacular lyrics signal the “bringing across” of biblical translatio by incorporating brief Latin scriptural citations, frequently in the refrain. These set up a pattern of overlapping thought that prompts us to consider how that work becomes this work and how that time relates to this time, highlighting a core achievement of biblical lyric: the “I” of the poem can be simultaneously individuated (or localized in time and place) and collective (or generalized). The technique invites each reader and all readers to occupy the position of the lyrical “I” and is the more intriguing, perhaps, when the tag line comes from the Song of Songs, as in the lyric that begins, “In a valley of this restless mind” (IMEV 1463; in anthologies, this poem is sometimes entitled “Quia amore langueo”; it is frequently paired with the Marian poem that shares its refrain but begins “In a tabernacle of a tour,” IMEV 1460).

Cristina Maria Cervone is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. Her first book, Poetics of the Incarnation: Middle English Writing and the Leap of Love, will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in November 2012.  Her work has been supported by the Radcliffe Institute, the University of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute, the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, and the Huntington Library.


Ryan McDermott: "Miroir/Oeuvre: Arnoul Gréban’s Mystère de la Passion as Performed Bible?"
The prologue to the Third Day of Gréban’s passion (performed from 1455) presents the biblical play as a mirror in which the audience can recognize themselves “sensiblement par parsonnages.” This talk considers how the pervasive medieval image of the work-as-mirror informs the prologue’s thought about translation, not only from one language to another, but also from words to deeds and bodies to souls.

Ryan McDermott is an assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. He is working on a book about the moral sense of scripture and vernacular invention in late-medieval England. His essay, “‘Beatus qui verba vertit in opera’: Langland’s Ethical Invention and the Tropological Sense,” appears in volume 24 of The Yearbook of Langland Studies (2010).

Aden Kumler: "Painting the Sacred Page: Scripture beyond the Letter"

Long celebrated or denigrated as "bibles for the illiterate," images in the Middle Ages disseminated, vivified, and even refashioned holy writ. Given the authority of scripture in the Middle Ages, how are we to understand the liberties taken by medieval artists and their patrons with biblical wisdom and history? Attending to the freedom with which medieval artists painted sacra scriptura, this paper aims to frame productive questions, rather than definitive answers.

Aden Kumler is an Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago. She earned her LMS from the Pontifical Institute in Mediaeval Studies in 2012, her PhD from Harvard in 2007 and her MA from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto in 2000. She recently published her first book, Translating Truth: Ambitious Images and Religious Knowledge in Late Medieval France and England (Yale: 2011).