Leslie Lockett (Ph.D. '04) Gives Illuminating Lecture: "Early Medieval Readers in Dialogue with Augustine’s Soliloquia"

Author: Lucy Grinnan

2021 Leslie Lockett

On Thursday, September 2nd, 2021, Leslie Lockett (Ph.D. '04, NDIAS Fellow '16-17), Associate Professor of English and Associate Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at The Ohio State University, returned to campus to discuss her current research on early medieval readers of Augustine of Hippo's dialogue Soliloquia.

Dr. Lockett was the first speaker in the 75th Anniversary Medieval Institute Alumni Lecture Series. Her lively and interesting talk was attended by more than 30 people in person and more than 10 on Youtube Live, and the full lecture is now available on Youtube.

This under-studied work, which recent scholars have considered "esoteric" and "peripheral," was closely read by a variety of 8th-11th century readers, from elementary Latin students to scholars of Plato and Aristotle. Lockett first became encountered an Old English adaptation of the text during her doctoral research on medieval concepts of mind and body. This encounter led to her interest in differences between the Latin and Old English versions of the Soliloquia, and then to her curiosity about the text's reception over time.

Augustine wrote the Soliloquia in Cassiacum shortly before his baptism, and the text is structured as a dialogue in his mind, occurring between himself and a figure called Ratio (Reason). Medieval manuscripts of the text include many annotations which offer etymologies, summarize material, define words, express confusion, and display an emotional response to the text.

Based on the marginalia and interpolations she noticed in these manuscripts, Lockett argued convincingly that the text was not used only for philosophical study, but also for grammatical and pastoral purposes. It was not not only read as a philosophical treatise but also as a practice text for students of Latin and a self-help book for medieval people seeking consolation.

Read more about Leslie Lockett in her Fall 2018 Alumni Spotlight. We have also written about her interest in medieval cheesemaking, and her Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship.

The Thursday lecture was followed by a workshop for graduate students on Friday morning.