Medieval Latin

Jan Ziolkowski

Jan Ziolkowski

Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin
Director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

Research Interests: Medieval Latin literature, especially narrative; education (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic), poetics, and literary criticism and theory in the Middle Ages; folktales and popular culture in medieval Latin sources; Latin-vernacular relations... Read more about Jan Ziolkowski

Boylston 216
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Fairy Tales From Before Fairy Tales: The Medieval Past of Wonderful Lies
Ziolkowski, Jan M. 2007. Fairy Tales From Before Fairy Tales: The Medieval Past of Wonderful Lies. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

When did fairy tales begin? What qualifies as a fairy tale? Is a true fairy tale oral or literary? Or is a fairy tale determined not by style but by content? To answer these and other questions, Jan M. Ziolkowski not only provides a comprehensive overview of the theoretical debates about fairy tale origins but includes an extensive discussion of the relationship of the fairy tale to both the written and oral sources. Ziolkowski offers interpretations of a sampling of the tales in order to sketch the complex connections that existed in the Middle Ages between oral folktales and their written equivalents, the variety of uses to which the writers applied the stories, and the diverse relationships between the medieval texts and the expressions of the same tales in the "classic" fairy tale collections of the nineteenth century. In so doing, Ziolkowski explores stories that survive in both versions associated with, on the one hand, such standards of the nineteenth-century fairy tale as the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Carlo Collodi and, on the other, medieval Latin, demonstrating that the literary fairy tale owes a great debt to the Latin literature of the medieval period.

Nota Bene: Reading Classics and Writing Melodies in the Early Middle Ages

Nota Bene explores a little-known juxtaposition of verbal text and musical notation in the Middle Ages. This particular intersection deserves attention from those interested in music, the reception of classical Latin literature, the history of education, and the development of punctuation.

Between the late tenth century and the late twelfth century, the musical notation known as neumes was provided in dozens of manuscripts for, among other texts, a number of Horace's Odes as well as for sections of epics by Lucan, Statius, and Vergil. These materials constitute a paradoxical corpus of "classical poems in plainchant" that complicates our views of both how students learned Latin and what was being sung in an era most often associated with Gregorian chant. The book wrestles first with the literary-historical puzzle of why certain passages and not others were "neumed" and later with the ethnomusicological riddles of how, where, when, and by whom the passages were sung.

Solomon and Marcolf
Ziolkowski, Jan M. 2008. Solomon and Marcolf. Cambridge, MA: Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 470. Publisher's Version Abstract

Solomon and Marcolf enjoyed an extraordinary heyday in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its first half constitutes a dialogue, mostly of one-liners, between King Solomon and a wily, earthy, and irreverent rustic named Marcolf, while its second recounts tricks that the peasant plays upon the ruler. Although less known than Till EulenspiegelSolomon and Marcolf was printed not only in Latin but also in German, English, Italian, and other European languages. Marcolf was associated closely with Aesop as well as with practical jokers and clowns in vogue in early modern literature. Today Solomon and Marcolf has notoriety from its mention in Gargantua and its analysis by Mikhail Bakhtin in Rabelais and His World.

Traditions about Solomon and Marcolf became widespread at the very latest by 1000, but perhaps centuries earlier. The Latin prose as it has been preserved is likely to have taken shape around 1200, but the earliest extant manuscript dates from 1410. Tantalizing bits of evidence point to connections between Marcolf and the Near East. Thus the contest with Marcolf was related to riddle competitions between King Solomon on the one hand and King Hiram of Tyre or the Queen of Sheba on the other.

Solomon and Marcolf, not put into English since 1492, is here presented with the Latin and a facing translation. In addition to a substantial introduction, the text comes with a detailed commentary that clarifies difficulties in language and identifies proverbial material and narrative motifs. The commentary is illustrated with reproductions of the woodcut illustrations from the 1514 printing of the Latin. The volume contains appendices with supplementary materials, especially sources, analogues, and testimonia; a bibliography; and indices.

Jan M. Ziolkowski is Director of Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington and Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin at Harvard University.

Jacket illustration: Frontispiece of Collationes quas dicuntur fecisse mutuo rex Salomon sapientissimus et Marcolphus …, printed by Johann Weissenburger in Landshut, Germany, on May 14, 1514 (Munich, Staatsbibliothek, L.eleg.m.250, 9)