Our new unit on Medieval history is giving James a lot of opportunities to express things we didn’t know he felt so passionately about. Here is yesterday’s lesson with a very deep felt conversation. I think some of what he is expressing at the end is typical for many teens, not just ones with autism!
Monks and Illuminated Texts
Medieval monasteries were the refuges for book copying during the Middle Ages. The burning of the library at Alexandria in the 5th century had been a terrible blow to humanity. Countless scrolls containing scientific, philosophical, artistic and mathematical knowledge were destroyed out of ignorance. Surviving documents were rare, and were often brought to monasteries to be copied for future generations.
What event was a blow to the humanities? THE BURNING OF THE LIBRARY IN ALEXANDRIA
Can you think of another time in history when there was a great loss of books? HITLER’S BOOK BURNING
The Bible was certainly the most copied book of the Middle Ages. Not only was the Church interested in using these Bibles to spread its gospel throughout the land, these volumes were to be a veneration of beauty. Monks would often work in large rooms called a scriptorium, and only those working on texts would be allowed in this room.
What purpose other than the spread of Christianity did the Bibles of the Middle Ages serve? OBJECTS OF BEAUTY
Where did the monks copy the Bibles? SCRIPTORIUM
Monks became specialists. The antiquari were masters of calligraphy. Rubricatore illuminated the large initials at the beginning of a page while miniatore illustrated the margins. Monks called illuminators painted intricate designs and biblical scenes on pages, to supplement the text. One of the most famous of these, the Book of Kells was written around 800 a.d. and can still be seen in the library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
Name one specialty of the monks? ILLUMINATORS
Some monks made tremendous strides in changing the acceptance of non-biblical writing. Thomas Aquinas rattled the foundations of the Church when, instead of denouncing early Greek thinkers, he read ancient texts to reconcile their philosophies with Christianity. The illuminations also went against the convention of “never paint a picture of Christ.” These illustrated scenes became masterpieces, and aided in the peasants’ understanding of biblical stories.
What did Thomas Aquinas do? INCORPORATED ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY INTO CHRISTIANITY
What purpose, besides beauty, did biblical illustrations serve? MAKE BIBLE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO PEASANTS.
Let’s talk about access to literacy and literature. Throughout history, that has been something that has been variously controlled. Explain how.
OVER HISTORY, LEARNING TO READ HAS BEEN A PRIVILEGE EXTENDED TO VERY FEW. READING HAS BEEN USED TO SEPARATE PEOPLE BY GENDER, RACE, AND WEALTH. READING IS ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE AND THEREFORE ACCESS TO POWER. I DON’T THINK IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO DENY ANYONE THE ABILITY TO LEARN TO READ. IN MY OWN LIFE, I HAVE EXPERIENCED DENIAL OF INFORMATION WHICH PUT ME IN A METAPHORICAL PRISON. I HAVE A NEW FOUND FREEDOM NOW THAT I HAVE ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE THROUGH EDUCATION. I TREASURE THIS ABILITY TO LEARN.
What are your thoughts on book burning, banning and censorship?
I THINK BOOK BANNING IS CRIMINAL AND SHOULD BE MADE ILLEGAL. READING WHATEVER ONE WANTS SHOULD BE A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT. I WANT TO BE ABLE TO LISTEN TO WHATEVER BOOKS THAT I CHOOSE AND NOT TO BE RESTRICTED IN MY ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE. I DON’T THINK IT IS ACCEPTABLE FOR ANYONE TO DECIDE WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT READ. I HAVE SPENT MY LIFE HAVING PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS FOR ME. IT SUCKED. NOW I WANT TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DECISIONS IN MY LIFE.