Rethinking the School of Chartres (Rethinking the Middle Ages)

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9781442600072: Rethinking the School of Chartres (Rethinking the Middle Ages)

In this brief essay, esteemed medieval historian Edouard Jeauneau examines a much-debated question in medieval intellectual history: did the famous School of Chartres actually exist? Gracefully acknowledging the suggestion by Sir Richard Southern in 1965 that the School was actually a myth, Jeauneau argues that the School did in fact exist but perhaps was not as important as previously thought.

Jeauneau provides a fascinating portrait of the School of Chartres during its heyday in the first half of the twelfth century, bringing to light the accomplishments of Fulbert of Chartres, Bernard of Chartres, Thierry of Chartres, Gilbert of Poitiers and William of Conches.

Deftly translated by Claude Paul Desmarais, Rethinking the School of Chartres provides a narrative that is critical, passionate, and witty. Sixteen black-and-white images are included.

This is the third title in a series called Rethinking the Middle Ages, which is committed to re-examining the Middle Ages, its themes, institutions, people, and events with short studies that will provoke discussion among students and medievalists, and invite them to think about the middle ages in new and unusual ways. The series editor, Paul Edward Dutton, invites suggestions and submissions.

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About the Author:

Edouard Jeauneau is directeur de recherches honoraire at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and a professor at Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto.

Claude Paul Desmarais is the Reichwald Professor in Germanic Studies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.


Six of the most distinguished and attractive scholars and writers in eleventh- and twelfth-century France are finely portrayed here. All were linked in one way or another to the cathedral of Chartres. With excellent photographs of the twelfth-century sculpted figures on the Royal Portal of Chartres cathedral, Édouard Jeauneau brilliantly links the decoration of the cathedral with their lives and thought.

(David Luscombe, Fellow of the British Academy and Emeritus Professor, University of Sheffield)

No one has done more to reveal the riches of twelfth-century Platonism than Father Édouard Jeauneau. It is a great pleasure to read this wonderful scholar's reflections on his long association and deep affinity with Chartres and its teachers.

(Winthrop Wetherbee III, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University)

Collectively as well as individually the masters whom Édouard Jeauneau has brought together in his portrait gallery, from Thierry of Chartres and William of Conches to John of Salisbury, embody the intellectual dynamism and cosmopolitan ideals of what is no doubt one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of European scholarship. By painstakingly pointing out their roots in classical literature and Platonic philosophy and highlighting their subtle, pre-scholastic blend of literary, scientific, exegetical, and theological questioning, Jeauneau moves beyond the problem of whether or not the Chartrians were innovative or passé in their own day and into the realm of what it is that we can truly learn from their unique medieval wisdom tradition.

(Willemien Otten, University of Chicago Divinity School)

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