The Code and Context of Monasteriales Indicia: A Semiotic Analysis of Late Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language

By Conde-Silvestre, Juan C. | Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies, Annual 2001 | Go to article overview

The Code and Context of Monasteriales Indicia: A Semiotic Analysis of Late Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language


Conde-Silvestre, Juan C., Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies


1. Introduction. The manuscript and Benedictine contexts of Monasteriales Indicia

Monasteriales Indicia is an Old English description of the sign language used by the Benedictine community at Christchurch, Canterbury, and possibly at other monastic establishments of late Anglo-Saxon England. The text is preserved in folios 97v-101v of the mid-eleventh century manuscript Cotton Tiberius A.iii, now at the British Library. The manuscript also contains a glossed copy of AElfric's Colloquy and Latin versions of the Regula Sancti Benedicti as well as some of its adaptations in the Carolingian and Anglo-Saxon worlds: the Memoriale Qualiter, the Collectic Capitularis and, especially, the late-tenth century native consuetudinary, the Regularis Concordia, with an Old English gloss. (1) The gathering together of key writings on the reformation of English monasticism, like the Rule of St. Benedict and the Regularis Concordia, and practical or educational texts, like AElfric's Colloquy and the Indicia, makes it possible that the manuscript was compiled with a didactic intention. It is well-known that n ovices were read the Rule several times during their first year at the cella novitiorum and throughout this preparatory period they may have also been taught Latin, by means of the Colloquy, and the signs prevalent at each monastery, with the help of Monasteriales Indicia (Porter 1994). As Banham suggests, this manuscript context may imply that the aim of Cotton Tiberius A.iii was to make the reform and its basic texts comprehensible to English speakers (1997). In fact, the similarity between the Anglo-Saxon list and contemporary continental codes written in Latin - like the one included in William of Hirsau's Constitutiones (late eleventh century) and the lists by Bernhard (1075) and Udalrich (1083) (Jarecki 1981) - may point to a common Latin source, which was possibly compiled at Cluny and extended geographically with the reform movement. Indeed, the fact that the Anglo-Saxon Indicia is the only list translated into the vernacular may also point to the didactic aim of the manuscript: the original Latin tex t may have been translated so that the novices who did not have an adequate command of Latin could learn the signs, possibly because this language was harder to acquire by the Anglo-Saxons than by their continental French contemporaries (Banham 1991: 11). (2)

Despite its obvious interest for comprehending the characteristics of reformed monastic life in England, not much attention has been given to this text. The exceptions are an early edition by Kluge (1885) and the textual notes by Logeman (1899) and Swaen (1920). A recent description and translation of the system by Sherlock (1989), the semiotic discussion by Barley (1974) and the latest edition by Banham (1991) have all contributed to revive scholarly interest in the sources and functions of this medieval system of non-verbal communication. In this paper I intend to explore some aspects of the Old English text which may be of interest for the interpretation of late Anglo-Saxon monastic culture. Firstly, a review of the contents of the Indicia and the comparison with contemporary Cluniac sign lists may provide evidence on everyday details of Anglo-Saxon monastic life. Secondly, the application of modem semiotics to this code of communication may allow us to observe the different procedures used for the construction of these signs, in order to reach conclusions on how the surrounding world was viewed and represented by the members of these religious communities.

2. The monastic context of Monasteriales Indicia

The Rule of St. Benedict supplies the immediate cultural context which induced the compilation of sign lists like Monasteriales Indicia. The Rule considered silence indispensable for divine contemplation - both as an instrumentum bonorum operum (4: 51-54) and a means of achieving humilitatis gradum (8: 56-58) - as well as necessary for the regulation of religious life. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Code and Context of Monasteriales Indicia: A Semiotic Analysis of Late Anglo-Saxon Monastic Sign Language
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.