Clarke, Michael, and Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, “The ages of the world and the ages of man: Irish and European learning in the twelfth century”, Speculum 95:2 (2020): 467–500.

  • journal article
Citation details
“The ages of the world and the ages of man: Irish and European learning in the twelfth century”
Sections: Medieval Irish narrative: context and contacts; The six ages in theology and historiography; The Irish evidence: Sex aetates mundi; The Irish evidence: Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh; Intamlugud intliuchta: the figure of thought; The Irish evidence: summary; The Liber floridus of Lambert of Saint-Omer; The Hymns for the Paraclete of Abelard; The typological windows in Christ Church, Canterbury; The Isidorean Liber de numeris: a key intertext?; Irish and European images and intellectualism.
Abstract (cited)
In the grand narrative of renewal and creativity in the Europe of the "long twelfth century," it has been easy to assume that Ireland was marginal and backward-looking, with the energy of its thinkers and writers concentrated on preserving and continuing the cultural forms of the national past. In recent scholarship, however , it has become clear that Irish intellectual life in this period was much closer to the European mainstream than was once believed. Here we present a case study in this area, concerned with the schematization of historical time and the course of human life in parallel systems of six ages. Two examples of Irish text production from the early twelfth century-one an extended marginal gloss of some theological subtlety and the other a complex heroic image in a narrative eulogy-are compared with parallel manifestations in three sources from the heart of mainstream European creativity in the period: an encyclopedic compilation of history and theology, a sequence of newly composed hymns for the Divine Office, and the iconographic program of stained-glass windows in a newly rebuilt cathedral. The parallels we draw here point to the conclusion that, despite the obvious differences in outer form, the modes of learned creativity reflected in Irish manuscript culture were closely aligned with international trends across Europe in the same period. To set this material in context, we preface our discussion with some general remarks on medieval Irish writing , before proceeding to the details of the chosen examples.
Subjects and topics
early Irish literature 12th century
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
November 2020