The works of the seventh-century writer Virgilius Maro Grammaticus are among the most puzzling medieval texts to survive. Ostensibly a pair of grammars, they swarm with hymns, riddles, invented words, and imaginary writers. Conventionally interpreted either as a benighted barbarian's unfortunate attempt to write a 'proper' grammar, or as a parody of the pedantic excesses of the ancient grammatical tradition, these texts have long been in need of a new reading. Why should a grammarian attack the very notion of authority, thereby destabilising his own position? The search for an answer leads us via patristic exegesis and medieval wisdom literature to the tantalisingly ill-documented reaches of heterodox initiatory traditions. Vivien Law's book opens important new perspectives on the intellectual life of the early middle ages and on the decoding of medieval literature in general.
"Law opens this tantalizing study with some keen readings of this abstrusely self-deprecating author...Law's work is sure to attract controversial attention. More so perhaps, it will inspire renewed efforts to play out the puzzles in this fantastical wit. Highly recommended for those who are serious esotericists." Critical Notice "A highly erudite examination of the cultural significance of grammatica...Readers will find the work stimulating, challenging, and informative on virtually every page." --Religious Studies Review "A highly erudite examination of the cultural significance of grammatica, the fundamental discipline concerned with literacy, language, interpretation, and literature in antiquity and the medieval world." Religious Studies Review "There are important ideas in this book. Law's method rests on a sound philological basis but is also innovative... This is a book for those who seek to understand the intellectual climate of the seventh century..." Denis Brearley, Speculum