About Me

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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Encounters with the Romantic abound

It would seem that my time here in Germany has been especially abundant in encounters with that peculiar sensibility which is associated with the poetry and art of the Romantic era (roughly the latter part of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century). For those not familiar with this aesthetic, it is perhaps best understood with reference to the music of Beethoven and Schubert; the poetry of Hölderlin, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff (in Germany), and Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Byron (in Britain); and in the realm of visual arts, the paintings especially of Caspar Friedrich David.

To illustrate my encounters with this sensibility in my time here in Germany, I will name just two examples. First, there was the boat cruise on the Rhine that I took last month while visiting the Abbey of St. Hildegard (for which see my blog post on the subject). Then, there was an experience today before lunch that has served as the actual impetus of this writing.

The weather has spent this morning turning stormy, with banks of dark grey clouds rolling in, threatening to burst their rain upon us at any moment, blowing with a chill wind--a setting to make any romantically-minded poet wax rhapsodic about the awesome and sublime power of nature, overwhelming man on the one hand and yet ennobling him in his experience of the its sublimity on the other (the concept of sublimity was very important to the Romantic aesthetic). And as I was walking along past the cathedral on my way from the library to my office, I was stopped in my tracks to behold a young man on the sidewalk playing the most pristine music on a beautiful, full-sized harp. The sublimity of the indifferent, even cruel, power of nature, and that of the delicate, inspired music: the juxtaposition was breathtaking.

As I've only got six weeks left here, the encounter has left me to realize how much I really am going to miss this place.

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