Seminar: “Following the Steps of Our Father: Reading Master Jordan of Saxony's Libellus de initio ordinis as Religious Pedagogy”
Steven Watts (Mellon Fellow, PIMS)
The Libellus de initio ordinis by Jordan of Saxony (d. 1237), Master General of the Order of Preachers (1222-37), is a text of fundamental importance to the study of early Dominican history. Much of what is known about the origins, growth, and development of the order depends upon this text. And yet, it remains an enigmatic source. Appearing in the wake of an unforeseen surge in devotion to Dominic's cult, it is sparing in its use of hagiographical tropes. Moreover, while Jordan explains that the Libellus (1233) had been written to satisfy recent requests for information about the order's early years, its chronological and geographical limitations suggest that it was initially a series of notes set down over a decade earlier. Add to this its strange concoction of literary forms, it is then no wonder that the Libellus has been a cause of puzzlement for several generations of scholarship. This seminar presentation will not attempt to resolve these tensions. It will argue, however, that there is a more constructive way to read the text––that is, as a pedagogical tool. From this vantage point, the Libellus appears less a confused mix of form and purpose, and more a remarkably consistent attempt on Jordan's part to teach his vision of the order's religious life to the friars under his authority and care.