Hermeneutic style

The hermeneutic style is a style of Latin in the later Roman and early Medieval periods. It is characterised by the extensive use of unusual and arcane words, especially derived from Greek. The style is first found in the work of Apuleius in the second century, and then in several late Roman writers. It was the house style of the English Benedictine Reform.

About Hermeneutic style in brief

Summary Hermeneutic styleThe hermeneutic style is a style of Latin in the later Roman and early Medieval periods. It is characterised by the extensive use of unusual and arcane words, especially derived from Greek. The style is first found in the work of Apuleius in the second century, and then in several late Roman writers. It was the house style of the English Benedictine Reform, the most important intellectual movement in later Anglo-Saxon England. It fell out of favour after the Norman Conquest, and the twelfth-century chronicler William of Malmesbury described it as disgusting and bombastic. Historians were equally dismissive until the late twentieth century, when scholars such as Michael Lapidge argued that it should be taken seriously as an important aspect of late Anglo- Saxon culture. In the early medieval period, some leading Continental scholars were exponents, including Johannes Scotus Eriugena and Odo of Cluny. In England, the seventh-century bishop Aldhelm was the most influential hermneutic writer. In Britain and Ireland, the style is found in authors on the threshold of the British period, including the monk Gildas, the Irish missionary Columbanus and the AngloSaxon missionary Capellanus. The AngloSaxons were the first people in Europe to learn Latin as a foreign language when they converted to Christianity, and Lapidge and others see it as a key part of their cultural heritage. The term implies that the vocabulary is based mainly on the Hermeneumata, a name for certain Greek-Latin glossaries.

In a 2005 study, J. N. Adams, Michael Lapidges and Tobias Reinhardt observe that the exhumation of Greek words from Greek- Latin glossaries for purposes of stylistic ornamentation was widespread throughout the Middle Ages. They think the style was formerly called “Hisperic”, but scholars now reject this term as wrongly suggesting that it is Irish, and think the language of the very obscure Hisperica Famina should be confined to the language in which it is written. The hermenesutic style was possibly first seen in the Metamorphoses of Apulesius in second century. It also is also found in works by Latin writers such as Amcellus Martianus MartianUS and Amcellinus Martianus. It became nearly universal in tenth-century England, and it was dominant in the two centuries after Aldhelm’s death. In later centuries, it became increasingly influential, and was used in works such as Hisperic Famina and the works of the Benedictine Reformers, such as Gildas and Aldhelm. It has been described as a style whose most striking feature is the ostentatious parade of unusual, often very very arcane and apparently learned vocabulary. The vocabulary is of three general sorts: archaisms, words which were not in use in classical but were exhumed from the grammarians from Terence and Plautus and plautus.