May 9, 2019


Name Sigbjorn Olsen Sonnesyn Phone +44795963007 Email Category Conference / workshop



The Early Reception of Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy in England and France

DCAMP Panel at the 2019 International Medieval Congress

By the middle of the thirteenth century, Aristotelian natural philosophy had come to occupy a central role in intellectual culture of the Latin West. The libri naturales were central to the university curricula, and standardized glosses and commentaries on these difficult texts were widely distributed and read. This state of affairs, however, had not sprung into being fully formed; the introduction into Latin intellectual culture of translations of Aristotle’s works of natural philosophy caused deep controversy and suspicion, leading to the eventual prohibition of this material from the University of Paris in 1210. However, while Aristotelianism after 1250 has been widely studied, the preceding, foundational period has received comparatively little attention. This session seeks to bring the early reception of Aristotle’s libri naturales more sharply into focus.

To the extent that the first reception of the libri naturales has been studied, this has in the main been in connection with the textual transmission itself. Scholars such as Joanna Judycka, Jozef Brams, Charles Burnett, and James Otte have published significant studies of the manuscript transmission of translations of Aristotle’s works of natural philosophy. This scholarship has established that both translations of Aristotle and commentaries and glosses circulated in Northern Europe from the middle of the twelfth century onwards; however, the study of the extent to which these texts were read, let alone understood, has been highlighted as a desiderandum for future research. This session therefore seeks to study the use of Aristotelian natural philosophy by thinkers including but not limited to Robert Grosseteste, John Blund, Alfred of Sareshul, Daniel of Morley, and other figures associated with natural philosophy in the University milieus of England and Northern France in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

This session of three papers aims to contribute to a greater understanding of the process leading up to the dominance of Aristotelian natural philosophy in the Latin West. An analysis of how ideas from the Aristotelian corpus penetrated into the writings of scholars active on both sides of the English Channel in the period c. 1170-1230 may build on the pioneering work on manuscript dissemination and shed light on the extent to which the books were understood and read prior to the development of a standardized university curriculum.


Western Michigan University/KRPH, Kalamazoo, MI, USA