Friday, September 13, 2013

Hildegard of Bingen’s Lingua ignota: a basic bibliography

The fourth article I ever published -  “A New Gloss on Hildegard of Bingen’s Lingua ignota,” Viator 36 (2005): 217-32 - was actually the reason I became a medievalist. I had started grad school with the firm intention of becoming a historical linguist, which had been my chosen field since I was a college sophomore. Then in the third week of grad school in my survey of medieval literature, I stumbled upon a topic that was just right for my seminar paper and, eventually, for a master's thesis: Hildegard of Bingen's Lingua ignota, a list of words from an unknown language with Latin and German glosses. For the first time in my life, I was digging into centuries' worth of scholarly research, staring at manuscript facsimiles, and reclaiming new disciplinary knowledge from the unsleeping seas of ignorance and forgetfulness. At least that's what it felt like at the time. It was pretty intoxicating stuff, and I was hooked. I worked tirelessly on my thesis throughout 1997, defended it in December...and then sat on it. I didn't get around to thinking about publication until 2004, when I was in my first post-Ph.D. position and had a better idea how publishing fit into academic careers.

In some ways, the delay was unfortunate. In other ways, everyone is better off for it. When I picked up my thesis again, I had enough distance from the topic that I could pare away the wandering tangents, insignificant observations, and the parts that didn't even convince me anymore. The 160-page thesis turned into a 16-page article, and the slimming down by 90% still seems about right to me.

Those interested in the topic will find a great deal of material about the Lingua ignota, but in some cases enthusiasm outstripped understanding. A short bibliography of indispensable works might look like this:

  • Wiesbaden Hessische Landesbibliothek Hs 2, fols. 461v-464v. (online facsimile)
  • Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Ms. lat. quart. 674, fols. 58r-62r.
Scholarly editions
  • Higley, Sarah Lynn. Hildegard of Bingen’s Unknown Language: An Edition, Translation, and Discussion. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  • Roth, F. W. E. Die Geschichtsquellen des Niederrheingaus, Theil III: Sonstige Geschichtsquellen des Niederrheingaus. Wiesbaden, 1880. 457-65.
  • Steinmeyer, Elias, and Eduard Sievers. Die althochdeutschen Glossen. Berlin: Weidmann, 1895. 3:390-404.
    [Higley's edition is the most modern, but anyone thinking of digging into the topic should become familiar with the manuscripts and the older editions as well.]
Relevant sections in larger works on Hildegard
  • Embach, Michael. Die Schriften Hildegards von Bingen: Studien zu ihrer Überlieferung und Rezeption im Mittelalter und in der Frühen Neuzeit. Berlin: Akademie, 2003. 252-86.
    [Embach's book is a thorough updating of Schrader and Führkötter. I didn't become aware of it until my article was in print, unfortunately.]
  • Schrader, Marianna, and Adelgundis Führkötter. Die Echtheit des Schrifttums der Heiligen Hildegard von Bingen: Quellenkritische Untersuchungen. Cologne: Böhlau, 1956. 51-54.
    [This was a groundbreaking work for Hildegard studies, and secured the Lingua ignota as authentically Hildegard's.]

Recent scholarly literature
  • Green, Jonathan.  “A New Gloss on Hildegard of Bingen’s Lingua ignota.” Viator 36 (2005): 217–32.
    [Yes, I would actually list my own article as required reading on the topic, but I might be biased.]
  • Schnapp, Jeffrey T. “Virgin Words: Hildegard of Bingen’s Lingua ignota and the Development of Imaginary Languages Ancient to Modern,” Exemplaria 3.2 (1991) 268-98.
    [As one of the first modern scholarly treatments of the Lingua ignota, Schnapp's article has been very influential.]
Older scholarly literature
  • Reutercrona, Hans. “De fornhögtyska Hildegardglossorna och deras ‘Lingua ignota:’ Ett språkligt kuriosum,” Uppsala Universitets Årsskrift: Filosofi, Språkvetenskap och Historiska Vetenskaper 5 (1921): 93-110.
    [Reutercrona's article is often overlooked as it was written in Swedish, but it shouldn't be forgotten. It was one of the first scholarly articles that wasn't invested in the cultural politics of Hildegard's sainthood, and it's the most thorough attempt to date to analyze the Lingua ignota etymologically. Even if I think that method is a dead end, the idea of approaching it as a linguistic problem is still basically correct.]
  • Grimm, Wilhelm. “Wiesbader Glossen,” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum 6 (1848): 321-40.
    [Grimm, on the other hand, was invested in the cultural politics of Hildegard's sainthood, and it shows. Since Wilhelm Grimm is Wilhelm Grimm, and he was publishing in ZfdA, people still refer to him.]

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