Spring Break for Medievalists

Author: Joe Lyphout


As part of their seminar on education in the Middle Ages, ten graduate students spent their spring break in Germany studying medieval manuscripts at the world-renowned Herzog August Bibliothek. Professors W. Martin Bloomer and Daniel Sheerin, both of the Department of Classics and the Medieval Institute, wanted to introduce students to one of the great treasuries of manuscripts and early printed books. In addition to orientation meetings and a history and tours of the library, each student was asked to investigate a single manuscript—with the help of their professors and a very hospitable and expert library staff.

Bloomer explains: “Tremendous materials for the study of literature, theology, philosophy and history remain in their original handwritten documents. I want students to be able to use primary, archival materials. Part of that preparation we can do at Notre Dame. We can teach how to read and translate and date the original evidence, but there is no substitute for holding in your hand a letter or treatise written five hundred years ago. You will start to look at evidence with fresh eyes and to ask different questions.”

Students are now back at the more familiar task of writing up their researches on the history and uses of their manuscript. Bloomer and Sheerin plan to make similar guided research visits a regular opportunity for Notre Dame graduate students. Students from the Medieval Institute, English, the Ph. D. in Literature Program, and the Early Christian Studies Program participated this year.