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Freedom of Teaching and Political Control: The Case of Thomas Aquinas’ Assimilation in William of Peter Godin’s Lectura Thomasina (14th C.)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TEACHPOL (Freedom of Teaching and Political Control:The Case of Thomas Aquinas’ Assimilation in William of Peter Godin’s Lectura Thomasina (14th C.))

Reporting period: 2015-05-15 to 2017-05-14

The proposed project “TEACHPOL - Freedom of Teaching and Political Control: The Case of Thomas Aquinas’ Assimilation in William of Peter Godin’s Lectura Thomasina (14th C.)” aimed at exploring the speculative, historical, religious, and political role played by William of Peter of Godin’s Commentary on the Sentences, the so-called Lectura Thomasina, in the interpretation, transmission, and teaching of Thomas Aquinas’ controversial doctrines after the series of condemnations, censures, and corrections, to which Aquinas’ writings were subjected a few years after his death. A comprehensive study of the work, still unpublished and preserved in fifteen manuscripts, but especially the critical edition of a significant section of the text (Book II, dist. 1-22), offered the great opportunity to add a fundamental piece to the mosaic of the reworking of Aquinas in late medieval teaching activity before the emergence of the historiographical notion of «Thomism». Moreover, an in-depth analysis of William’s text served as case-study for accessing a wider investigation on the contrast between freedom of teaching and educational policy – recurring in many other cases in European intellectual history –, by emphasizing the aspects which usually typify the process of transmission of pioneering and ground-breaking ideas in a hostile intellectual context.
TEACHPOL was primarily conceived in order to define the function assumed by William of Peter of Godin’s Lectura Thomasina in the diffusion of some Thomistic theses and then their teaching in the late medieval schools and universities, in the framework of a multifaceted process characterized by a dialectic tension between a desired freedom of teaching and monitoring processes. More specifically, four complementary identified objectives of the project has been totally accomplished as follows:

(a) After an intensive study on the available secondary literature and an accurate description of all manuscript witnesses, that preserve Lectura Thomasina in its entirety, a comprehensive analysis (the first in the history of medieval studies) on William of Peter of Godin and his Lectura was conducted;

(b) A significant number of distinctiones, in which Godin reworks Aquinas’ controversial doctrines in order to facilitate their adoption within the programs of study was entirety transcribed from Graz’s manuscript witness;

(c) On the basis of a comparative analysis of the manuscript witnesses that preserved entirety or partially Lectura Thomasina, Book II (distinctions 1-22) – as a part of the text in which a conspicuous number of allusions to Aquinas’ doctrines were attacked by the institutions –, a critical edition of the text was produced for the publication;

(d) By assuming the Lectura Thomasina as a gateway to access a wider investigation on the connections between the promulgation of innovative ideas and their assumption and teaching in the educational contexts, the research project has illuminated other cases in which a dialectic tension between a desired freedom of teaching and monitoring processes was palpable.
The innovative nature of the proposed project contributed to the development of standards for critical edition of the early 14th-century theological texts. The work on the Lectura Thomasina was complementary to other editing project of Parisian Commentaries on the Sentences. Most notably, it obtained benefit from dialogue with the team editing the Commentary on the Sentences of Durand of St. Pourçain, actively involved in the host institution. Then, the study of William of Peter of Godin’s text was an important contribution to:

(a) make available for the first time in the history of the medieval studies a large part of text of William of Peter of Godin’s Lectura Thomasina;

(b) draw the scientific community’s attention for the first time to a significant number of still unpublished distinctions which, more significantly, illustrate the assimilation of some Aquinas’ debated doctrines in the final years of the 13th century and in the first decades of the 14th century;

(c) include William’s Lectura Thomasina in the context of the process of condemnations and censures which animated the theological and political debate after Aquinas’ death;

(d) sketch the contours of the first reception of Aquinas’ thought by the French Dominican School, before Thomas’ canonization;

(e) explore and identify what might seem to be the contemporary sources and the polemical objectives of William’s text, in order to place it in its proper historical context and to discover its potential connections with the theological works of some other leading figures of the late medieval theological debate (e.g. Henry of Ghent, Giles of Rome, and Godfrey of Fontaines);

(f) challenge the traditional and conventional use of the historiographical category «Thomism» before Aquinas’ canonization.
Lectura Thomasina - Pisa's Manuscript