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Cassiodorus on the Role of Language and Culture in Divine and Secular Learning

  • Thorsten Fögen
Thursday 18 February 2016
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden

Cassiodorus on the role of language and culture in divine and secular learning
Late antiquity, roughly defined as the time from the third until the sixth century A.D., is extremely rich in documents that exhibit an impressive array of reflexions on language and culture. The best known and perhaps most influential figures within this period are Jerome (c. 347-419), Augustine (354-430), Boethius (c. 480-524), Cassiodorus (c. 485-c. 580), and Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636).

This paper concentrates on the statesman and scholar Cassiodorus and his ideas on language and culture in divine and secular learning, as expressed in his Institutiones, a work probably completed and published around 562. After a very succinct overview of Cassiodorus' life, the more general character of his Institutiones will be discussed, including the agenda and target audience of this work. Special attention will be dedicated to the programmatic prefaces to each book. It will then be examined what Books 1 and 2 have to say on aspects of language and culture in the context of divine and secular learning.

Thorsten Fögen is Reader (Associate Professor) at Durham University (UK). He studied Classics and General Linguistics at the Universities of Freiburg (Germany), Oxford (UK) and Heidelberg (Germany). Ph.D. in 2000 (University of Heidelberg), "Habilitation" during Winter Term 2008/09 (Humboldt University of Berlin).

For the academic year of 2015/16, he has been awarded a Senior Research Fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS), part of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW). He is the author of "Patrii sermonis egestas": Einstellungen lateinischer Autoren zu ihrer Muttersprache (Munich & Leipzig 2000) and of Wissen, Kommunikation und Selbstdarstellung: Zur Struktur und Charakteristik römischer Fachtexte der frühen Kaiserzeit (Munich 2009). He is currently editing a book on Interactions between Animals and Humans in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (to appear in 2016 or 2017).

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