‘Turning many to righteousness’ : Religious didacticism in the ›Speculum humanae salvationis‹ and the similitude of the oak tree
Nigel F. Palmer
- In this contribution I shall be interested, among other things, in finding a place for the European phenomenon of the ›Speculum humanae salvationis‹ within German literary history, which will inescapably involve revisiting the unfashionable discussion of date and origins. I also intend to ask about the place of this text in the ‘didactic’ literature of the Middle Ages. Is a religious text structured according to sacred history didactic? Much didactic poetry is in the vernacular: What does it mean that the ›Speculum‹ was composed in Latin? And what place should be accorded to its vernacular reception? The ›Speculum‹ is inscribed within a set of oppositions that would appear to be recurrent in the didactic literature of the later Middle Ages: Latin and vernacular, verse and prose, words and pictures, religious and profane, moral
teaching and devotion, clerical and lay. In view of its exceptionally broad transmission in the German lands, both in Latin and in vernacular reworkings, is it possible to describe this text so that it takes a place within a larger picture? In some respects it may stand at a threshold in the history of European didacticism.