Thursday, August 4, 2011

Where the Medieval Isn't......

This is a post about where one would hope to find a medieval reference of some kind, but sadly didn't.

I happened to have the radio on this morning and was half listening to a MPR show called Midmorning hosted by Kerri Miller. She had a doctor on who was musing about her career choices. One of the things this doctor said was that in medicine it is a common thing to talk about "the time of the giants." The time in the not too distant past when doctors were doctors, gave preeminent care, diagnosed accurately with the merest of glances etc....I'm probably exagerating a couple smidges.

First, the immediate thing that jumped to mind was the Old English phrase "the work of giants," anything lasting and worthy was the work of giants, whether the remnants of a city, or a passing wondrous sword.

Second, and though not medieval draws on medieval and early Renaissance stories about such, is Newton's statement about seeing further because he has sat on the shoulders of giants. But that wasn't referenced in the discussion either.

Third, and last, I of course thought of the ubi sunt motif and the ideas of a golden age. Yes, some will be quick to point out that this isn't technically medieval either and predates the medieval some way. And you'd be quite right. But, I'd rejoin that the medieval period lifted the ubi sunt and ideas regarding a past golden age (separate ideas that often appear together) to an artform and refinement not see before.

Still, the point of this short post is that somewhere in the discussion on the "time of the giants" I'd have hoped for some sort of medieval reference, or even to Newton since the speaker was in the sciences, that the idea isn't a unique one to medicine and medical practioners. But alas, no. I was disappointed. And now you know that story.

5 comments:

Bellebonnesage said...

The doctor could have been thinking of the Bible: "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown." Genesis 6:4.

Matthew Gabriele said...

Could also be an unconscious reference to Bernard of Chartres & "dwarves standing on the shoulders of giants."

theswain said...

Well, I hope that when speaking of the "time of giants" as a golden age, the good doctor was not thinking of Genesis 6!!! Remember those giants led to the destruction of the earth!!

I also doubt that it is a reference to Bernard; if it isn't a reference to Newton, who is referring to Bernard among other things, it surely isn't a reference to Bernard. Perhaps I'm not giving them enough credit, but.....

Michael said...

At least the buggers didn't tollereate "the Unemployables" in their society!

fluidimaginings said...

It all reminded me very much of Jaeger's argument in 'The Envy of Angels' that twelfth century schoolmen saw themselves as but poor imitations of their predecessors (Bernard of Chartres included). Perhaps the 'time of giants' is one of the recurring tropes in intellectual history akin to the 'these scrolls/codices/printed books/paperbacks/kindles will make everyone stupid' or 'I don't know, youth these days' :)