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Grammar as Teacher - Lecture

Introduction

A young woman gestures to a class of nineteen attentive boys in the earliest known picture of Grammar personified as a teacher. More than a thousand years old, she abides in the ink lines of a drawing dated to the beginning of the tenth century. Later depictions of Grammar, from the eleventh to the eighteenth century, express different visions of this member of the curriculum.

Grammar tough, Grammar tender; she may threaten, she may strike; she may foster learning through the gentlest of pedagogies. A variety of symbolic devices are hers. Grammar's habitat is not limited to classrooms or interior spaces, although she is usually found not far from architecture, when her environment can be discerned at all. But if Grammar is revealed in no single persona or setting, how diverse are her configurations?

Here we see Grammatica; there, a male Grammaticus. Given that gender is a basic fact of Latin grammar as well as of its teachers or exponents, what part has it to play in visualizations of the subject? Still more generally, what bearing have these questions on the history of curriculum and instruction? The answers that follow will be seen to comprise an essay gathering Grammar imagery across nine centuries, delineating a typology, and exploring the significance of the iconic forms that Grammar has assumed.

I. Grammar as Classroom Teacher

The maiden Grammar in her tenth century classroom, sketched soon after 900 A.D., appears on a page in The Marriage of Philology and Mercury, Martianus Capella's lengthy allegory of the liberal arts (c. 450 A.D.). Seated on a chair set apart from her students, Grammar points in their direction with her left hand while holding in her right a staff of authority. Her long blond tresses hang loose, reaching below her shoulders. Her gown is embroidered at the neck, sleeves, and hem. She is an aristocratic young woman whose attire and uncovered hair are reminiscent of an ear lier era. The social status of her students is not indicated by their garments, nor is the age of the students determinate. Most of them are no more than a cluster of heads. Three students seated on a first row bench hold their tablets at chest height, probably to exhibit their written work; they gesture variously with their right hands. It appears that the illuminator attempted to represent a classroom scene in which Grammar has a verbal interchange with her students. Strictly speaking, the composition is not an illustration of Martianus' text because no such scene is described in it. Moreover, Martianus emphasizes Grammar's age; not a youthful maiden, she is an old art born in ancient Egypt, thence removed to Greece, and only recently come to Rome where she dresses as the Romans do, unlike the figure personifying Grammar in the tenth century manuscript.

A later illuminated manuscript of the Marriage, dating from the beginning of the twelfth century acknowledges a closer relationship to Martianus' text. This comes not in the delineation of Grammar herself. In fact, her age is indeterminate and her hair is covered; the latter is a practice that conformed to Carolingian preference. And, of course, the inscribed references to Donatus and Priscian are medieval interpolations. But Grammar does tilt up a tray bearing the components described by Martianus, namely, a scalpel, a medicine jar, and writing equipment. In her right hand, she holds an open book, a flagellum, and an object probably intended to represent the file prescribed in a painful metaphor indicating Grammar's role in polishing the teeth of intellect and the tongue. The lash, it should be noted, is not mentioned by Martianus.

Relative to the other figures in the composition, Grammar is gigantic. Assuming the difference in scale is the result of intention, not ineptitude, a visual message may be read: Grammar is grand; man is puny. Eight students, dwarfed by Grammar, are seated on a bench at the foot of the page, five of them with up-stretched arms, displaying their tablets to the teacher. Two students, one at each end of the bench, exhibit marks on their bared upper-bodies which may represent the after effects of Grammar's lash. A student at the center of the bench writes busily on his tablet: "Amara radix; dulcis fructus" [Bitter roots; sweet fruit.]. For all of this, the illuminator has drawn his imagery from sources other than Martianus' own account.

A statuesque Grammar is nimbed in a Martianus manuscript dating from the late twelfth or early thirteenth century. She could be mistaken for a saint. Her gown is plain; her hair is covered by her cloak; nothing about her suggests advanced age. A monumental figure, she looms hugely, if gracefully, over one small student. She sits on a chair, and so does he, but the illuminator has made him extend his toes to reach the floor. Presumably, the boy is not full grown. Grammar's scourge is more than half his size. Her index finger, pointed at him or his book, may express instruction or admonishment or both. The book held open by the boy is inscribed. When this illumination is viewed in its concentrated unity, it translates less readily as an illustration of Martianus' text or a schoolroom scene than as two personifications expressing the general theme of Grammar teaching Childhood.

Renaissance illuminations of Martianus' Marriage manuscripts hint at a different configuration of educational ideas. In one fifteenth century manuscript, Grammar holds her file aloft, but displays no whip or book. Her tray contains the equipment described by Martianus. She has only three students, boys of different ages, who work at a bench in the foreground. The smallest lad kneels at the bench, using it as a surface to support the paper on which he writes his lesson. The other boys are seated and hold books. Their manner of dress, although not ornate, is nonetheless of high social class. The largest boy (right) wears a long robe, implying his seniority.

In another manuscript version of the text from the same period, Grammar imagery is still more economical. Grammar holds open a book in her left hand and a tray in her right which includes only writing equipment; she has no body striker. Two students, each holding a book and a sheet of paper or parchment, frame her like heraldic devices. The pages they exhibit quote basic rules of grammar drawn from Donatus. Grammar's own book states a definition of the discipline. The boys are attired in garb befitting youthful courtiers.

The Grammar illustrations of the two fifteenth century manuscripts align better with a notion of exclusive palace schools than with the larger schools for clerics suggested in some of the antecedent works. Few students, tailored apparel, no clear evidence of tonsuring, no sign of student misconduct, the absence of body strikers - cumulatively these features point to the special education of a princely elite.

II. Grammar Tough, Grammar Tender

No medieval personification of Grammar is better known than the one that graces the south portal of Chartres Cathedral's West front. Along with the other liberal arts and their most famous human exponents from classical antiquity, carvings of Grammar and her two students were installed toward the middle of the twelfth century (c. 1140-45) when Thierry was both master of the Cathedral school and in charge of the fabric of the Cathedral. Placing the artes liberales on a church portal was an architectural innovation; it was also a visual statement: the trivium and the quadrivium collectively could now be seen to offer a way into sacred space.

Why is the Chartrain Grammar the only liberal art shown with students? Why is it true that Grammar was often accompanied by students while the other artes were more often depicted without them? And why was Grammar so frequently armed with a body striker? Two reasons stand out as probabilities. First, grammar was traditionally recognized as the foundational subject of the curriculum. It was foundational in two senses. Knowledge of Latin grammar was prerequisite to the study of rhetoric and logic. Grammar, wrote John of Salisbury, is the art which "prepares the mind to understand everything that can be taught in words." Therefore, it was the teacher of elementary grammar who met the youngest, least experienced students. He also saw the largest number of students. This placed a special burden of socialization on the teacher of grammar. His was the task of whipping raw recruits into shape. Habits of concentration, habits of subordinating impulses and appetites to study had to be fostered. Wandering attention had to be disciplined. Just so, Grammar's watchful eye must not ignore the errant hand of the little tyke at Chartres who pulls his colleague's hair.

A second plausible reason for arming Grammar with an instrument of control or punishment relates to the fact that grammar was the division of the curriculum to which moral instruction was assigned. Studies of medieval textbooks and curriculum descriptions have confirmed this point. "What is a scholar?" the beginning student is asked in a popular dialogue. "Somebody who earnestly and diligently applies himself to the virtues," is the correct response.

The amalgamation of instruction in grammar and ethics eventually produced a moralized version of Donatus' Ars Minor, a work probably intended for advanced students capable of understanding a metaphorical use of grammatical terms that would have been confusing to beginning students, e.g.: "What is a pronoun? Answer: just as man is your noun [or name], so sinner is your pronoun [i.e., the name that stands in place of the name 'man']" In this curricular context, a body striker might signal meaningful sanctions for departures from linguistic "rightness" as well as from rules of moral rightness, whether formulated in terms of "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" or in the maxims of Cato's Distichs.

Similarly, illuminations of devotional texts, such as books of hours, and other works on religion and virtue might adopt imagery hardly distinguishable from that employed for Grammar's classrooms. Instead of Grammar, the teacher may be Prudence or Temperance personified. Temperance, who is concerned with controlling appetite, is more likely to display a body striker than is Prudence, although she too may be armed. A grammar school scene may have a moral theme broader than a single virtue. In the Hours of Catherine of Cleves (c. 1440), for example, a schoolmaster and three students illustrate the admonition to "Embrace discipline," which is inscribed on a banderole above their heads. The teacher extends his birches and a book. Explicit linking of virtue and grammar teaching without personification of grammar is exemplified in Peter Bruegel's elaborate print devoted to "Temperan-tia." A small space in the right foreground is occupied by a portly schoolmaster and his several students. A palmer supplements the arsenals of both Bruegel's grammar master and the teacher depicted in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves.

Tough Grammars were not the only representatives of their art to be assigned places in the fabric of cathedrals. The Cathedral of Laon (northern France, 1210/30), for example, shows a Grammar of the tender kind. She holds no body striker. A supportive rather than a punitive role is suggested by the physical relations of the bodies. Grammar in this guise is consonant with the doctrine of Quintilian, whose Institutes of Oratory (1st c. A.D.) was known in numerous medieval centers of learning before the Italian Renaissance, although it was an aquaintance limited by the selectiveness of florilegia and imperfect manuscripts.

Yet, the Laon Cathedral also recognizes the tough tradition of grammar personifications. The great rosace window on the North, like the window frame carving on the West front, features the liberal arts. However, Grammar in the glass is shown with two students, one bare to the waist, bending under Grammar's outstretched hand which seems to brandish a body striker.

Whether the Grammars of the Cathedrals of Sens (12/13th c.) and Auxerre (13th c., 2d half) were of the tough or tender types is difficult to ascertain. The reliefs are so very much eroded. The Grammar of the Freiburg (i/B) Münster (1270/90) is iconographically distinguishable from that of Chartres, yet there are commonalities and a spiritual affinity. Grammar has two students, one hard at his book, the other somehow failing. Grammar pulls his ear. She could do much worse, given the implement at her disposal. Likewise, the Grammar painted on the ceiling of the Peterborough Cathedral (England, 12/13th c.) is prepared to deliver a powerful wallop with an instrument resembling a mace.

Both tough and tender Grammars are found in northern Italy. A formidable, threatening Grammar intimidates students on Giotto's campanile (1334-1387) beside the Cathedral of Florence. How different she is from the Grammars of the preceding century contributed by Nicola and Andrea Pisano to the pulpit bases of the Cathedrals of Siena (1266/68) and Pisa (13th c.), and to the Fontana Maggiore in Perugia (c. 1278). In these works, teaching and mothering are made cognate. Following their lead, Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted a gentle Grammar in his series of frescos (1338/39) for the Siena town hall, i.e., the Palazzo Publico.

Mother, tutor, classroom teacher. Reflection on tough and tender Grammars identified so far indicates that tender Grammars ordinarily have but one student, whereas tough, imposing Grammars may have one or several. Tutoring or mothering is suggested when only one student is taught; more than one student usually connotes a classroom, whether or not architectural forms are represented. Yet, there are intermediate types. Some classroom grammar teachers are shown benign, deprived of body strikers. In contrast, some mother-Grammars appear potentially violent enough to cause permanent indigestion in any child, as we shall see in due course.

III. Grammar Outside Classrooms

Of all Liberal Arts personifications, Grammar is the only one frequently shown in company with students. This is not to say that all visual expressions of Grammar are personifications. Grammar has been visualized, for example, as a structure of knowledge. A tower of Grammar (1548) by Valentin Boltz provides both a visual analogue to the divisions of Latin grammar and a confusion of personifications. The architectonic of the tower is a metaphor for structure. Architectural forms, it might be noted here, have been used since Greek and Roman antiquity as mnemonic devices in rhetorical education.

Nor is it true that personifications of Grammar all depict her in attitudes or acts associated with teaching. Often she appears without students while in the company of the other artes liberales. In the Hortus Deliciarum, Herrad of Landsberg's illuminated encyclopedia (c. 1170), Grammar displays her birches and book in a cycle of the artes surrounding a core which includes a personification of Philosophy whose benefits flow to Socrates and Plato. In addition, pagan poets inspired by evil black birds, write industriously in a limbo outside the perfect circle that defines the limits of true knowledge. No students are present. In other works, Grammar is often paired only with her exponent, a male figure sometimes labeled as Donatus or Priscian, those ancient authors whose grammar texts were used throughout the Middle Ages.

Extended metaphors. Some personifications of Grammar express extended metaphors along analogic lines. The acts of Grammar as teacher may be likened to those associated with another social role, mothering, for example. The substance administered by Grammar make be likened to good medicine or to a nourishing fluid.

Physician and medicine. Martianus Capella allegorized Grammar as a Roman physician. Surgically she trims and files away speech impediments, and then she applies pharmaceuticals as needed. Acts of teaching expressed in terms describing acts of medical doctors poses a difficult problem. Illustrators either avoided the challenge all together or else compromised the analogy by depicting the physician's equipment, but not the acts of doctoring.

Wet nurse and her milk. Grammar as milk or as a personification of milk-giver is a theme expressed by ancient and medieval writers. A sculpted Grammar literally suckles her students in the Cathedral of Pisa. She was part of an elaborate sculptural program for the pulpit of the Pisa Cathedral in which the city of Pisa is personified as a mother who nourishes her citizens economically and politically and Ecclesia, i.e., Church, who is crowned, nourishes them spiritually. But Pisa and Grammar were without visual attributes to distinguish their identities. A sculpture of breast-feeding has little power to convey the idea of grammar teaching. Perhaps this is why it was thought necessary to chisel Grammar's name above her head. Having cut one name into the stone, symmetry would require that it be done for the other artes as well. This line of reasoning suggests that the artes of the Siena pulpit and Perugia Fountain were not labeled because Grammar and her companions in those sculptures were depicted within the boundaries of conventional expectations.

Nursing Grammars appear in a curious group of images illustrating several manuscripts. The imagery might be read as mixed metaphors. Grammar simultaneously suckles her student, who is no babe in arms, while menacing him with a body striker. The latter, in conjunction with the horn book held by the child, alludes to the notion of disciplinary tutoring, if not to classroom teaching. A taste of this metaphorical pattern survived in the seventeenth century catechism written by John Cotton, "Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes, Drawn out of the Breasts of both Testaments," which became part of the New England Primer. Milk was promised, but the first lines of the catechism required the child to confess: "I was conceived in sin and born in iniquity." A whip for the hungry.

Gardener and water. Cesare Ripa's emblem of Grammar represents her as a gardener. Using a pitcher of water or another vessel, Grammar nourishes her plants. Similarly, Cotton Mather spoke of his children as "ivy plants." Plants require cultivation, careful tending, just the right amount of watering. To stay with the metaphor means to recognize the irrelevancy of a punishment motif. It makes no sense to beat an ivy plant. More generally speaking, when the ruling metaphor is growth, not discipline, gentle imagery is more likely.

Grammar as gate keeper. Another mixture of metaphor may be seen in a woodcut in Gregor Reisch's encyclopedia, the Margarita Philosophica (1508). Grammar is personified as an usher or gate keeper who holds the key to the tower of education. Grammar and the student approach the tower. The hornbook held by the student indicates that he is learning or has learned his letters. That accomplished, the door to the tower is unlocked. The student is ready to begin his Donatus, and then progress to Priscian. Implied in this imagery, whether or not intended, is the idea that the child will learn the first elements before entering school. That would be consistent with the preference that children learn the rudiments of their vernacular language before entering the Latin grammar school. Valentin Boltz' woodcut, which was published forty years after the first edition of the Margarita Philosophica, also shows a personified Grammar with a key, but the tower is her own discipline, although its divisions are represented by male figures.

It should be noted that the Margarita Philosophica includes two more prints in which Grammar is shown among the artes liberales and other figures counted within the repertoire of education imagery. On the title page, Grammar holds a hornbook. In a print depicting the tree that grows from a personification of Knowledge, Grammar is one of the flowers on a limb. There, too, she holds a hornbook.

In contrast to the Margarita Philosophica print of the Tower of Knowledge, which sketches a town setting, a small Renaissance panel painting in Chantilly shows a hill of knowledge isolated in a landscape. It is a sort of mini-Mount Parnassus inhabited not by muses, but by six of the artes liberales and their exponents occupying space at succeeding levels. Donatus and Grammar abide on the flatland at the foot of the hill. To gain access to the path, one must first get past Donatus. Then Grammar, personified as a young woman, leads one to the masonry arch, a gateway to more advanced studies.

The metaphor associating grammar and gateway continued in the seventeenth century in textbook titles such as the Janua Linguarum ("Gateway of Language"), one of John Amos Comenius' famous schoolbooks. But in his most beloved text, the illustrated Orbis Sensualium Pictus (1658), the gateway metaphor is omitted. Grammar merely stands among the other arts of speech, which here atypically include Music. Under Grammar's right arm is a tablet inscribed with the alphabet; in her left hand, she holds a pen or fescue. According to the text, "Grammar is conversant about letters, of which she maketh words & teacheth how to utter, write, put together, and part them rightly." Some later seventeenth and eighteenth century continental editions of Orbis Pictus have Grammar seated, yet she has been rendered in a more instructional attitude, clearly displaying her tablet, pointing her plumed pen at a letter while turned to face Rhetoric as though to address her.

Grammar as insignia. Some personifications of Grammar allude to the teaching function in spare compositions which include no students. Grammar may display a hornbook or a book. Often she will hold both a book and a body striker of some kind. She may stand or be seated in a chair of authority. When Grammar faces frontally - which is to say, when she faces us - it is possible to imagine ourselves as directly addressed. We may be the students missing from the composition.

IV. Grammar and Male Teachers

Whereas personifications of grammar and the other artes liberales were usually female, thereby corresponding to the gender of the Latin nouns that named them, as well as following the earlier tradition of visualizing the muses, several medieval manuscripts reveal alternatives in which only males are shown representing the artes. This occurs in non-allegorical texts, such as the encyclopedic Image du Monde by Gassouin de Metz or the Livre du Tresor by Brunetto Latini. Gassouin includes discussions of the artes, but the illustrations consist of nameless, mundane, male practitioners. Following the passage on grammar in Gassouin's text is a picture of a bearded, tonsured monk. He holds birches in one hand and gestures with the other as he presides over four tonsured youths who are stripped to the waist. Only one manuscript of the Image du Monde, dating from c. 1350, presents a female personification of Grammar. This may have been an illuminator's error, since all the other artes are illustrated with male figures.

Brunetto's text offers an illuminated page which serves as a table of contents. Twenty-one labels naming arts and crafts, including the artes liberales, are distributed symmetrically over the page, and in each of the labeled spaces are nameless, mundane male practitioners. In the space assigned to Grammatique, a tonsured monk confronts three students, one of whom crouches naked before him, holding a book and ready to receive stripes from the master's scourge.

In still another sort of text, the so-called "Rothschild Canticles," Grammatica is inscribed on a label attached to the school master who is winding up to deliver a terrific whack to a naked student crouched before him. So vigorous a thrasher is unusual. Except for that and the grammar label, the depiction of the classroom is conventional.

Another sort of conventional teaching scene illustrating a section on grammar is represented in Andreas Drutwyn's Etymachia (1438). Yet, there is no ambiguity here concerning personification. The master who teaches three boys in this text differs from the preceding examples not merely because he is deprived of a body striker, but because he is named as Priscian. Historical exemplum, not personification, is the function performed. Similarly, no issue of personification troubles interpretation of the schoolmaster in the initial illustrating an edition of Donatus' grammar. This woodcut is identifiable as a portrait - fictional, of course - of the author himself or of the author's exponent. When schoolmaster figures are identifiable as Donatus or Priscian, who had become culture heroes in the Middle Ages, they may not be equipped with body strikers.

Male personifications of the artes liberales are most fully suggested in the imagery of a woodcut illustrating the Spiegel des Menschlichen Lebens [Mirror of Human Life] (1479), Rodericus Zamorensis' popular little encyclopedia. Grammar and the other "freien Künste" stand about in their collectivity, clutching the symbols of the artes, while defying the gender rules of Latin and German alike. While some of the other woodcuts in the book represent teaching scenes, all of them composed of males, this one clearly stands for curriculum. A degree of differentiation between the faces of the figures support the contention that they were intended as author portraits. They might be interpreted as "conflations," i.e., exponents subsuming personifications. Whatever the interpretation, the all male cast resulted in a picture truer to the actualities of medieval and early modern European life than did the conventional imagery of the artes which intimated an unearthly collaboration of males and females within the precincts of the schools. The mirroring of the Spiegel entirely omits those ideal women, reflecting a sexually segregated education in schools which were in fact very largely the territory of male teachers of works written by males.

V. Iconographic Summary

Across the various media in which Grammar appears personified, a general pattern can be observed:

  1. Grammar may appear alone. When she does, she will display a book or a body striker or both. From the 16th century on, she may water plants from a pitcher or some other vessel. Or she may merely hold a jar.
  2. Grammar may teach one or more students. She may nurse a student; she may admonish as she nurses. The variety of the accouterments shown in teaching scenes, e.g., surgical tools, jars, pitchers, books, whips, writing equipment, varies with the function of the picture and the ruling idea of the imagery.
  3. When Grammar is accompanied by one of her exponents, Donatus or Priscian, she may (a) relate only to her exponent, or (b) she may teach one or more students, or (c) she may nurse a student.
  4. When Grammar teaches or nurses, the exponent will either write or display his text. He will not teach. An exception to this pattern is more likely when Grammar and her exponent are widely separated. This seems to occur on Giotto's Campanile, where Grammar and her students are found in one of the early medallions on the East side of the tower while on the Northside a schoolmaster usually identified as Priscian or Donatus (sans body striker) teaches two boys. Another exception occurs in the Margarita Philosophica wherein the woodcut of the tower of learning includes a personification which could be construed as Grammar opening the tower of learning for a student. Inside the tower, Donatus and Priscian are shown teaching. The circumstances are special because the personification is outside the tower; she is not in the presence of her exponents.
  5. When no female personification of Grammar is present, the exponent will probably teach one or more students. An extraordinary exception to this rule seems to occur in a woodcut in the Spiegel des Menschlichen Lebens where the seven liberal arts are represented by non-teaching males who may have been intended as author portraits. Another sort of exception occurs in choir stall carvings in the Cathedral of Ulm, where busts of several figures traditionally chosen as exponents of the liberal arts are unaccompanied by personifications or students. Neither Donatus nor Priscian is represented. Perhaps the figure identified as Quintilian was intended to serve instead.

VI Conclusion

To conclude this survey of the iconography of Grammar as teacher, Tenth to Eighteenth centuries, several observations are in order. First, there is the very fact of visualization. Grammar imagery, usually in cycles of the artes liberales, has been produced over the centuries. If these cycles are not so abundant as some other themes, e.g., Madonnas, saints, labors of the months, they are not scarce. And they sometimes appear prominently in important places.

Second, visualizations of Grammar as teacher reveal several patterns related to educational ideas, guiding metaphors, institutional allusions, physical setting, and pictorial function. The patterns are not perfect. An illuminator, for example, may fail to produce imagery distinctively illustrative of the text to be served. Or image makers may resort to using conventional designs intended for different purposes.

Third, one of the more dramatic divisions of Grammar imagery is differentiated by the presence or absence of body-strikers, a motif of violence. Collectively, the variety of Grammars, tough to tender, visually reflect competing ideas of child-rearing and educational psychology. The tradition of tough Grammars is more associated with the schools of monasteries and cathedrals; the gentle Grammars, more with palace schools; the tender mother-Grammars, like the gardener types, with metaphors of growth and nurturance; the whip-wielding, nursing-Grammars, with discipline and nurturance.

Fourth, gender is sometimes problematic in depictions of Grammar. The tradition based on the muses is modal. Female personification of Grammar also corresponds to her linguistic gender in Latin and Germanic languages. She is the scientia and the curriculum; sometimes she is instruction in the scientia as well as in the disciplina necessary to learning. Rarely do male figures personify the scientia, although they alone perform instructional and disciplinary roles of grammar imagery in some works produced after the middle of the thirteenth century. Less poetically imaginative, this imagery had a closer relationship to the actualities of life in medieval and early modern Europe.

Finally, we are left to wonder what medieval grammar masters thought of the imagery assigned to their discipline. No direct testimony has been discovered. One feature of the imagery to which contemporaries might have pointed is the discrepancy between the predominate imagery and the actual scope of grammatical studies. The imagery leaves the impression that grammar was studied only by children and youth. The fact is that grammatical studies were also conducted on advanced levels in the great cathedral schools and universities, less so in the palace schools. Moreover, like its sister disciplines, grammar offered to specialists the opportunity for a life-time of study. These facts were ignored by the iconographers of Grammar.

It is not difficult to see why image makers would have preferred to emphasize entry level grammar teaching. Their challenge, after all, was to create interesting pictures. By choosing elementary grammar teaching as their visual theme, they were justified in using child figures, thereby increasing compositional variety. Secondly, this choice also lent justification to depictions of chastisement or its threat, or to gentle, parental fostering. Such scenes would have been less convincing, were figuration limited to adults. Then, thirdly, there were the everyday facts of life that further validated the imagery, given that grammar teachers in their numbers were, most of them, mainly engaged in teaching children and youth. "I see towns and villages boiling with grammatical studies," wrote Guibert Nogent sometime before his death in 1124/25 A.D. "Boiling" may overstate the circumstances; Guibert may have exaggerated. Be that as it may, whatever bubbling of grammar teaching he may have observed in villages and towns, most of it would have been at elementary levels.

To refer Grammar imagery to daily realities is not to affirm that quotidian life controlled iconography. It is to admit that mundane facts might not be rejected - they might even be incorporated - when they contributed to the desired visual effect. Reigning over both the facts and imagery, however, was a theological commitment to didactic symbolism that pointed to transcendental truths. Those who contracted for ecclesiastical imagery and those who developed it worked within a tradition extraordinarily appreciative of symbolism and allegory. For them, it would have been a short step intellectually from pictures of Grammar and child figures to soul symbolism in which grammar study represents a stage at which the soul, still young, perhaps naked, comes to acquire the clothing of virtue and learning.


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