Session401
TitleAnnual Early Medieval Europe Lecture: Seeing Others in Hell in the Early Middle Ages (Language: English)
Date/TimeMonday 4 July 2022: 19.00-20.00
 
SponsorEarly Medieval Europe
 
SpeakerDanuta Shanzer, Institut für Klassische Philologie, Mittel- und Neulatein, Universität Wien
 
IntroductionRoy Flechner, School of History, University College Dublin
Francesca Tinti, Departamento de Filología e Historia, Universidad del País Vasco - Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Vitoria-Gasteiz
 
AbstractSpeaker: Danuta Shanzer, Institut für Klassische Philologie, Mittel- und Neulatein, Universität Wien
Introduction: Roy Flechner, School of History, University College Dublin and Francesca Tinti, Departamento de Filología e Historia, Universidad del País Vasco - Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Vitoria-Gasteiz

For dark times, a dark talk. Some ancient ritual texts, Totenpässe, functioned like maps accompanying the soul for its journey to the afterlife. Subsequently, visions of afterlives, especially of evil places, however delivered, prove rich sources for the imaginaire(s) of individuals, groups, and periods. They teach, preach, warn, threaten, and entertain. Some have reasonable chances of being authentic, while others are literary constructs. Some are meditative, while others exult in shameless Schadenfreude. But whatever their origins and character, all are text and grist for the hermeneutic mill. The landscapes of afterlives shift, likewise what is depicted, how, and who. The late 6th century saw a ruler in hell, namely Theoderic the Ostrogoth. This would open the floodgates to the political visions studied by Levison (1921) and Dutton (1994).

Even plausibly authentic visions have models, both psychological archetypes and written sources. Literary visions parade explicit intertextuality and also contrast-imitation (e.g. Vergil using Homer). Between the great literary models of antiquity and Dante's Commedia (the sublime Supertext for all time) came the early Middle Ages with a wide range of shorter visions in many different forms and genres (e.g. theological tracts, historiography, hagiography, letters, various types of poetry). These were clearly extracted and collected and read next to, and against, one another. Such collections are attested in manuscripts: certain texts travelled together, and centres for visions came into being.

Sometimes the great models of antiquity were self-consciously invoked, as when the wounded Pope Leo appeared to Charlemagne (Karolus Magnus et Leo Papa). But for other visions a different and fuzzier sort of intertextuality must be put to work to help interpret the message, namely appeal to a cultural koine (something a bit like a meme). I propose to (re)-read several short early medieval visions, familiar and less familiar, using philological techniques to tease out neglected themes and messages in the narratives, and in some cases to raise historical questions. Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat!

The journal Early Medieval Europe provides an indispensable source of information and debate on the history of Europe from the later Roman Empire to the 11th century. The journal is a thoroughly interdisciplinary forum, encouraging the discussion of all aspects of the early Middle Ages with a strong focus on Europe. It covers the entire continent, including insular Europe, Scandinavia, Iceland, and the Mediterranean World, as well as interactions between Europe and places beyond it. Early Medieval Europe is unique in its chronological, methodological, and geographical scope, and is essential reading for students and scholars of the early medieval world. Further information is available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14680254.

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis as there will be no tickets. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.