FIDEM Bâle 2018. The Arborescent Conservation and the Growth of Knowledge, Art, and Culture: Studying the Medieval Tree Structures in a Contemporary Way

Organisation : José Higuera Rubio, Naïs Virenque, Antoine Paris et Sergi Sancho Fibla

The tree structures are almost omnipresent in the Middle Ages. The origin of the world, and the first contact with goodness and evil, is attached to the tree conception of wisdom. The image of an abundant forest, plenty of the first vegetal species, is the original mark of the Sacred Scripture. In addition, in the ancient time -Greek and Latin- wondering under the trees serves as a way of philosophy teaching. The stoics -sometimes the epicureans- were labeled, by Cicero, as lazy people who never left their vegetal shelter. The vegetal images appeared with the division of the liberal arts in the Liber floridus, and it was a remarkable itinerary in the Hortus deliciarum. Thus, the tree image was the original repository of knowledge and the classificatory instrument of disciplines. Tree structures overlapped the categorical line of predication; in this way, the praedicabiles et praedicamentacould show its intimate division from general conceptions to particulars. The logic tree is a generative instrument that represents the relations between genus and individuals, in the same way as the genealogical tree represents the relations between the father and his descendants. The abstractive process in the Medieval psychology, in some sense, is supported by the anima vegetativa, which points out how the perception and abstraction processes are nurture activities similar to roots in the earth pushing the rhizome to its exuberant growing. 

The goal of this session is the introduction of functional features of the tree structures in the Medieval disciplines, arts, and sciences, in order to highlight the aspects that have reached our conception of conservation and development of knowledge. This Special Session will be focused in the following aspects: i.) The tree as a repository of knowledge’s origin and its evolutionary way along time: cosmos, genealogy, and soul; ii.) The Division and classification of sciences and its principles placed as generative aspects of knowledge; iii.) The tree as a classificatory source for greats amounts of information in Medieval curricula, encyclopedia, history, ethics, and law; iv.) The cultural and artistic emergence of vegetal structures to express complex relations and original descriptions of human nature and the world; v.) The transversal reading of the tree structures as a way of knowledge dissemination. 

This session, organized by the researching network Trames Arborescentes in cooperation with Instituto de Filosofia-Gabinete de Filosofia Medieval (Universidade do Porto), gathers three contributions.

Résumés des interventions

The Epistemological Accomplishments of Tree Representations: Middle Ages and Beyond

José Higuera Rubio, Instituto de Filosofia – Gabinete de Filosofia Medieval, Universidade do Porto

The reproduction of arborescent schemes during the Middle Ages took place not only for representing the general division of sciences, but also to represent the specific contents of disciplines as logic, ethics, law, or genealogic. In the case of logic, tree representations were used approximately from the 8th to the 13th centuries, and they handled the classification of general terms and their relation with singular terms. The interpretation of the philosophical contents behind the tree representation can offer a new perspective about the subjects, methodologies, and progression of diverse disciplines; for instance, tree representations launched a model of opposition between virtues and vices in moral discourses, and in law they pointed out the classification of civil misconducts. The differences among those relations increased along the history of philosophy until the modern models of tree representations disclosed by Alsted or Kircher.

Trees as organizational structures in mystical literature from the 13th and 14th centuries

Sergi Sancho Fibla, CRH, EHESS

This paper seeks to study different usages of the arboreal imagery in religious literature from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Indeed, trees are a constant in spiritual and visionary literature from the Middle Ages. Traditionally seen as allegorical echoes of Biblical trees, scholars have tried to link them to iconographical sources. Despite being appropriate in several cases, these approaches neglect the manifold aspects of the Medieval Image that recent research has shown. For this paper I will focus on the tree imagery within the female mystical context. In this case arboreal imagery has been traditionally linked whether to the Edenic trees, or to the Good and Evil vegetals from the parables (Psalm 92: 13; Matthew 7: 17, etc.). These allegorical associations have left aside many aspects of the arboreal figures, for example, its diagrammatic backbone, its mnemonic aptness, or its combining layout. These attributes can be seen in the tree imagery present in female spiritual witnesses from the Middle Ages, such as Hadewijch of Antwerp, Marguerite of Oingt, Chiara da Montefalco, Constance of Rabastens, Catherine of Sienne, among others, where the tree may be linked to divine lineage, binary specular schemes, or arborescent meditative guidelines.

Studying Medieval Arboreal Frameworks Today: Terminology, Iconology and Networks

Antoine Paris, Sorbonne-Université et Université de Montréal
Naïs Virenque, Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université de Tours

Les structures arborescentes et la maîtrise de l’art de la mémoire, cette technique issue de l’Antiquité qui consiste à localiser des souvenirs dans des lieux distincts sous la forme de texte ou d’image et à les parcourir mentalement dans l’ordre pour restituer le souvenir d’un discours, y sont fondamentales et occupent de plus en plus les manuels scolaires. Nous nous demanderons s’il existe une spécificité de l’efficacité mnémotechniques des structures arborescentes médiévales. En quoi consiste cette efficacité ? Est-elle la même d’un domaine ou d’un art libéral à un autre, d’une aire géographique à une autre, d’une école à une autre, d’un maître à un autre ? Ces structures arborescentes connaissent-elles des variations formelles et figuratives autres que la croissante végétalisation qui s’empare d’elles à partir du XIIe siècle ? Nous réfléchirons d’abord sur la constitution d’un imaginaire arborescent mnémotechnique dans l’enseignement pré-universitaire, puis nous étudierons l’efficacité des structures arborescentes dans la pédagogie universitaire et, enfin, nous nous concentrerons sur une forme de stemma fréquente dans les manuscrits à partir du XIIIe siècle, la délinéation graphique, afin de voir en quoi elle occupe les mêmes fonctions mnémotechniques qu’une structure arborescente diagrammatique.