THESIS project is a ERC-SG-SH6 - ERC Starting Grant - The study of the human past
Host Institution: IRHT-CNRS, Paris: October 2012-July 2018
State-of-the-art and objectives
The THESIS project proposes a pioneering study of a coherent corpus of medieval manuscripts consisting of all the commentaries on the Sentences composed in Paris and in the new universities from Central Europe between 1350-1450. A Sentences commentary is a core component of the medieval academic curriculum, a collection of theses that scholars had to defend in the universities in order to obtain the title of master or doctor of theology; it is actually the unique equivalent of our modern PhD thesis.
This investigation aims to provide new information concerning the intellectual atmosphere inside the European universities in an attempt to respond to various historical questions: How do the Sentences commentaries of this period lead to the formation of a European university identity? Who are the masters of the time? What is the importance of a Sentences commentary (the modern PhD) in the development of a individual intellectual career during the late Middle Ages? What are the relations and exchanges between the University of Paris and the new universities of Central Europe? Which are the commentaries acquired (by purchase and thus at the request of the readers) in the university libraries of this epoch and in this area of Europe? What are the cultural exchanges between secular masters, monks and friars? How do the religious orders constitute an important factor in the formation of a network for the transfer of knowledge in the universities?
Research in the archives (mainly little known ones from Eastern Europe), the study of the manuscripts, the digital edition of the texts and the development of new IT tools for our field will be key components of our project, contributing to a better understanding of a hidden part of European intellectual history. Our project is built upon a strategy promoting erudition (codicology, palaeography, textual criticism), an interdisciplinary scientific approach, and exchange and dialogue between scholars from Western and Eastern Europe.
As an initial step, the THESIS project’s goal is to produce a complete guide to the commentaries composed not only at Paris but also in the new universities of Central Europe, Cologne, Heidelberg, Leipzig, Krakow, Prague and Vienna, during a prolific period, starting around 1350 and going until 1450 (the so-called "late scholasticism"). The commentaries of ca. 90 authors form the corpus, and they are preserved in over 500 manuscripts.
An interesting scientific venture in this project will be to edit unpublished texts and to identify the sources of these texts in order to enhance the visibility of our corpus and its main thesis. A Sentences commentary can be hundreds of folios long, the equivalent of thousands of modern pages (cf. the online transcription of Peter of Candia's commentary from ca. 1380: http://www2.ucy.ac.cy/isa/Candia/texts.htm), however, and editing just one of these commentaries would take many years. The THESIS project will therefore focus on the Prologues, one of the most important parts of these writings. The Prologues of Sentences commentaries provide a key to the reading of the entire text, outlining the author’s theological and philosophical enterprise.