CFP: What is Boethian? Problems in Interpreting the Prisoner’s Philosophy

Conference: The Symposium of Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Location: Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO
When: June 19-21, 2017

As any student of its history can tell you, The Consolation of Philosophy is an astoundingly influential text, but its influence is not one of simple authority or slavish imitation. As can be seen in its complicated commentary tradition alone, interpreting the Consolation is a deceptively difficult task. From Boethius scholars such as Joel Relihan and John Marenbon who see the text in light of the Menippean satire, to those such as Claudio Moreschini and Antonio Donato, how subversive or straightforward, smooth or jagged, serious or satirical, the text should be read is a matter of fascinating debate.

The reception history of the text has been equally fascinating for readers of The Consolation. Should the text be translated in its prosimetric form, or into all prose as did Chaucer, or all poetry as some authors decided to do? Incorporation of Boethian philosophy into narrative results in further complications, for authors from the twelfth century to Ricardian England and beyond bring dynamic strategies for responding to The Consolation of Philosophy in storytelling. What makes a narrative Boethian, beyond mere inclusion of an allusion? What implications are there for interpretation of Boethius’s philosophy in a given narrative’s approach to incorporating The Consolation into its telling? When can a philosophy or theology which appeals to Boethius be deemed Boethian, and what degree of weight should we give to interpretations provided of Boethius by later thinkers, such as Aquinas in the Summa theologica?

The new Brian S. Donaghey Center for Boethian Studies was recently established at Lubbock Christian University in Lubbock, Texas. Indeed, critics using Boethius will often give this appellation, “Boethian,” to describe their subject matter. But given this wide variety of things which fit into discourse about Boethius (the liberal arts, theology, philosophy, narrative, and beyond), what is it for such a topic to be Boethian?

Papers from scholars working in literature, philosophy, history, art history, theology, music and beyond are all welcome. Abstracts should be 300 to 350 words and sent to Anthony G. Cirilla,, no later than December 10th, 2016.

Boethius in Kalamazoo 2016
51st International Congress on Medieval Studies
May 12-15, 2016

The International Boethius Society (IBS) will host the following two events on Saturday, May 14, 2016, at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo:

I. Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy through the Ages (Session 490, Bernhard 213, 3:30 PM)
Sponsor: International Boethius Society
Organizer: Philip Edward Phillips, Middle Tennessee State Univ. 
Presider: Philip Edward Phillips 

Boethius as Anti-Boethius: A Re-evaluation of the Role of Boethius in Maximianus’s Third Elegy 
Sean Tandy, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington 

“If chance will have me king”: The Alfredian and Boethian Context of Macbeth’s Weird Sisters 
Brian McFadden, Texas Tech Univ. 

Teaching “the Holesome Doctryne of Philosophye”: Comfort and Instruction in George Colvile’s 1556 Translation 
Kenneth C. Hawley, Lubbock Christian Univ. 

Respondent: Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr., Troy Univ. 

II. International Boethius Society—Business Meeting and Reception with open bar (Evening Event, Bernhard 213, 5:10 PM)

We look forward to seeing you there!

Fourth Annual Symposium of Medieval and Renaissance Studies

CFP: Ages of Boethius: A Diachronic Investigation
Event: Fourth Annual Symposium of Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Location: Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO
Time: June 20-22, 2016
Sponsor: The International Boethius Society

Antonio Donato has recently shown in Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy as a Product of  Late Antiquity the importance of understanding historically significant figures from Late Antiquity such as Boethius according to the interpretive principles of their time, not only according to medieval and modern reception. Nonetheless, a long tradition of scholarly investigation has shown the pervasive influence of Boethian thought in the Middle Ages, as well as the adaptation of his thought into systems of interpretation. Individual studies, such as those  by Elizabeth Elliott, Eleonore Johnson, and John Marenbon, as well as anthologized collections such as Brill’s Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages and the forthcoming Vernacular Traditions of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, have amply demonstrated the centrality of Boethius as a thinker to multiple fields of inquiry in the time period. However, the Renaissance also had its share of Neo-Boethian influence – Shakespeare and Spenser serve as two prime examples. Critics such as Lodi Nauta, Michael Sherberg, Kenneth Hawley, and others continue to demonstrate the remarkable influence of The Consolation of Philosophy well into the Renaissance and beyond. 

Despite advances in these three periods of Boethian reception, fresh perspectives are needed to investigate, understand, and articulate the diachronic status of the “last of the Romans” in respect to the Consolation and Boethius’s general influence. This Call for Papers seeks scholarship for a  panel (or series of panels) on Boethius as a figure of Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance, from any relevant discipline, including literature, history, art history, musicology, theology, and philosophy. Abstracts of 250-350 words should be sent to Anthony Cirilla at no later than December 1, 2015.

32nd Annual Illinois Medieval Association
February 20-21, 2015 at Saint Louis University
Medieval Narratives

Panel: The Making of Boethian Narratives
Sponsor: The International Boethius Society
Chair: Seth Strickland, Saint Louis University

Amy Freeman, University of Dallas
"Narrating Boethius’s Backstory: The Wound and its Cure"
How has Boethius come to arrive at his miserable state in the beginning of the Consolation? At first, it seems that his main problem is the failure to be a Stoic; he has allowed himself to be excessively emotional, and these runaway emotions have clouded him from seeing the truth. As the narrative unfolds, however, Boethius the author slowly reveals a more complex backstory. Boethius’s sickness began when he ceased to meditate on eternal truth, and thus his cure will be in a return to contemplation. First, I will point out how the initial simplified-Stoic reading is indeed true, but only at the surface level. Second, I will show that the cause of the excessive pathos is forgetfulness of truth. Third, I will examine the implications of forgetfulness in the classical and early medieval understanding of memory. Finally, I will show how Lady Philosophy responds to Boethius’s deep-rooted problems by enkindling his desire for the divine and leading him back contemplation.

Anthony G. Cirilla, Saint Louis University
"Aetas Boethiana: Ethopoetic Imagination and Twelfth Century Personifications"
Scholars have sometimes referred to the twelfth century as the “aetas Boethiana,” the age of Boethius. Perhaps an overstatement, it is nonetheless difficult to avoid seeing some truth in the assertion. In addition to Boethius’s incredible influence on scholastic theology and the development of the medieval liberal arts, Boethius also left a legacy of using personification narratives to meditate on the relationship of the soul to society, the cosmos and to God. Although personification was of course popular in the High Middle Ages, there is a conspicuous return of personification fables in the twelfth century that one would be hard pressed to find in the Carolingian revival. Common to these personificationists, Alan of Lille, Adelard of Bath, and Bernardus Silvestris, is their great debt to The Consolation of Philosophy. Traditional hermeneutics regards these personifications as allegorical, veils which cover a deeper truth. Although there is certainly merit and justification, personifications also are performances of ethos, secondary personalities that produce persuasion in the literal level of their expression within each text. This paper gestures at the manner in which twelfth century writers employed the Boethian rhetoric of ethopoeia to depict the personal import of the life of the mind.

Sarah Sprouse, Texas Tech University
"In Sickness and In Health: The Boethian Narrative of the Two Geralds of Brecon"
In his largely unpolished, late work Speculum Duorum, Gerald of Wales scrutinizes the ecclesiastical and ethical treason of his nephew, Gerald fitzPhilip, and fitzPhilip’s tutor William de Capella. The events that predate this work of self-consolation began with Gerald’s campaigns for not only the bishopric of St. David’s, but also the archiepiscopal primacy of that see, and ended with his nephew succeeding to his former position as archdeacon of Brecon. fitzPhilip embezzled a sum of money from the archdeaconry, which resulted in a flurry of legal activity and ultimately Gerald’s removal to Lincoln. In his retirement, Gerald composed this text as a letter to his treacherous nephew as form of Boethian antidote to his moral and ethical illness. As Philosophy suggests, “Some who have achieved prosperity unworthily have been driven by it to well-deserved ruin.” (Green 74) An unusual contract, recorded and preserved in the Canterbury Chapter Archives (Reg. A, f. 73v), was made between Gerald and the Archbishop of Canterbury to allow his nephew to succeed to the archdeaconry of Brecon upon his retirement if Gerald agreed to never again raise the issue of the primacy of St. David’s. It would seem that Gerald later regretted this ill-gotten gain for his nephew and, in keeping with Philosophy’s discussion of divine judgment, he sought to remedy thewickedness of his nephew. This paper will argue that while not following a prescribed narrative structure, the Boethian analogy of wickedness as an illness as well as suggestions of consolation pervade Gerald’s late, dialogic text. Gerald was very familiar with The Consolation of Philosophy, and perhaps derived a parallel from that text in his own ultimate fate of wretchedness. That parallel, as well as the prescriptive morality of Gerald’s work, will be explored in this paper. The Speculum Duorum functions as a florilegium of epistles, all pertaining to the treason of Gerald’s nephew, as well as the didactic remedy for his moral and ethical improvement. Like Boethius’s Prisoner, Gerald seeks through his own writing some consolation as he accepts his fate.

Boethius in Kalamazoo 2015
50th International Congress on Medieval Studies
May 14-17, 2015

The International Boethius Society has received approval to sponsor a session, "Translations and Adaptations of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae,” at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, May 14-17, 2015.

Abstracts for fifteen- to twenty-minute papers on any aspect of the translation or adaptation of Boethius’s Consolatio into any vernacular language tradition, from late antiquity to the present, are invited. Visit the Congress website at for full details.

Please submit a paper abstract of 1-2 pages and a completed Participant Information Form to Dr. Philip Edward Phillips, Secretary, International Boethius Society, University Honors College, MTSU Box 267, Murfreesboro, TN 37132 ( no later than September 15, 2014 for consideration.

Exploring Boethian Renaissances

The Second Annual Symposium of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Saint Louis University
June 16-18, 2014

Conference Schedule
Conference Registration 

Sponsors: The International Boethius Society, The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University
Panel Organizer: Anthony G. Cirilla, Saint Louis University

Chair: Anthony G. Cirilla, Saint Louis University

Exploring Boethian Renaissances
Justinian, the Anicia Juliana Codex, and the Ravenna Mosaics (View Video)
     Ruth Dwyer, Independent Scholar
Chaucer, Boethius and Degrees of Fidelity
     Charles Wuest, Southern Methodist University
Boethius in Hamlet: A Shakespearean Source
     Amy Freeman, University of Dallas
C. S. Lewis as Reviver of the Boethian Project
     Chris Armstrong, Bethel University

Boethius in Kalamazoo
49th International Congress on Medieval Studies
May 8-11, 2014

The International Boethius Society sponsored a great session at the 2014 International Congress:

Boethius and the Liberal Arts
Sponsoring Organization: International Boethius Society
Organizer: Philip Edward Phillips, Middle Tennessee State University

Session Chair: Anthony Cirilla, Saint Louis University

1. "A 6th-Century Portrait of Boethius in Ravenna" (View Video)
Ruth Dwyer, Independent Scholar

2. "Imagining the University: Boethian translatio studii in De disciplina scolarium"
Brooke Hunter, Villanova University

3. "Boethius in the Medieval Classroom: Knowledge Transfer and Nominal Compounds in Notker's German Adaptations of Boethius's Writings"
Nicolaus Janos Raag, Uppsala University, Sweden

Respondent: Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr., Troy University

The IBS also sponsored an open bar business meeting/reception during the Congress. Photos are posted on our main page:

Revisiting the Legacy of Boethius in the Middle Ages
Harvard University, March 13-15, 2014

The legacy of Boethius in the Middle Ages has been enjoying a resurgence of interest in recent years, with new editions, translations, and studies that place his profound influence in a new light. The Alfredian Boethius project of Oxford University, to pick just one example, has produced a critical edition of the Old English Boethius (2009), and the spin-off database of the commentary tradition will almost certainly change our understanding of the broader reception of The Consolation of Philosophy across medieval Europe. Other recent work has revisited the legacy of Boethius in the fields of music, philosophy, poetry, and theology, and the Companion to Boethius in the Middle Ages (2012) will stimulate future scholarship and teaching.

This conference invites proposals on the early reception of Boethius and his influence on readers and writers in medieval England and continental Europe. Possible topics include vernacular translations and transformations; Neoplatonism and the philosophical tradition; adaptations of Boethian prosimetrum; Boethian afterlives in poetry, music, and the visual arts; and new findings from the Latin commentary tradition, among others.

The conference will be hosted by Harvard University’s English Department and the Standing Committee on Medieval Studies, with support from the Morton Bloomfield Fund and the International Boethius Society. We are pleased to announce that Ann Astell (University of Notre Dame), Susan Irvine (University College London), and Eleanor Johnson (Columbia University) will be giving the conference’s plenary addresses.

Presentations should be no longer than twenty minutes. Potential presenters should submit an abstract of approximately 250 words to Abstracts are due by October 1, 2013.

Boethius in Kalamazoo
48th International Congress on Medieval Studies
May 9-12, 2013

Session Presenters (Left to Right): 
Philip Phillips, Ruth Dwyer, Dario Brancato, Christina Heckman, Erica Weaver, and Harold Kaylor 

The International Boethius Society sponsored two sessions at the 2013 International Congress:

Session 26, Thursday, 10:00 AM, Schneider 1125
“Boethius and Order”
Chair: Philip Edward Phillips (Middle Tennessee State University)
The Order of the World: Boethius’s Translation of Aristotle’s Categoriae and the Old English Solomon and Saturn Dialogues, Christina M. Heckman (Augusta State University)
Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy in the Design of Hagia Sophia, Ruth Dwyer (Independent Scholar)
Respondent, Dario Brancato (Concordia University)

Session 124, Thursday, 3:30 PM, Schneider 1125
“Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy in the Vernacular”
Chair: Philip Edward Phillips (Middle Tennessee State University)
The Opus Geminatum and the Vernacular: Translating Boethius in Anglo-Saxon England, Erica Weaver (Harvard University)
Religious Translators of the Consolation of Philosophy in 16th- and 17th-Century Italy, Dario Brancato (Concordia University)
Respondent, Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr. (Troy University)

Boethius in Denver
45th Annual Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association Conference
April 11-13, 2013

International Boethius Society Members: 
Leslie A. Taylor (RMMRA Treasurer and Conference Organizer), Philip Edward Phillips 
(Keynote Speaker), and Jeffrey H. Taylor (RMMRA President and Conference Organizer)