Western Classics 3

Johannes Scottus Eriugena and Gothic Architecture An essay by Michael J. Clarke WHERE DOES IRELAND BELONG in the cultural history of the West? Are we central, marginal, or simply part of a story in which national identities are never more than tokens of self-assertion and self-invention? Those questions nag at any attempt to construct a new grand narrative of the past. However weary we are of the attitude that treats Gaelic Ireland as a kind of archaic wonderland, cut off from mainstream
more » ... , or that lumps together the so-called 'Celtic realms' in a single token chapter at the back of the survey-book, it is worse to hear the bombastic claim that sees the Irish as saviours of civilisation, in the early period or any other. Yet there remains something strange about the Irish peregrini. Their sudden appearance in the courts and schools of the Carolingian era is unsettling above all because of the astonishing sophistication of the Latin and even Greek learning that many of them practised. None of their stories is more puzzling that that of John Scottus Eriugena. He has the strongest claim to escape the shadow of Irish marginality and to occupy a position of unshakable centrality in the transmission of Western thought. While academic philosophy places Eriugena's writings in the golden chain of Neoplatonism, speculation per-
doi:10.13025/n6gz-h631 fatcat:okmxwa5zpngr3aqeigfcyye7mu