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History of Theology.

HISTORY OF THEOLOGY. Vol. 2: THE MIDDLE AGES. By Giulio D'Onofrio. Translated from the Italian by Matthew J. O'Connell. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical, 2008. Pp. xiv + 540. $110.

D'Onofrio's book surveys medieval theology in seven long chapters, from its post-Augustinian "founders" (Boethius, Cassiodorus, Gregory the Great, etc.) and "Carolingian Unanimity" (chap. 1) to its late 14th-century "autumn" (chap. 7). Intervening chapters consider the "Transitional" tenth and eleventh centuries (chap. 2), the emergence of the twelfth-century "schools," both Scholastic and monastic (chap. 3), and the initial encounter with Greco-Arabic and Jewish philosophy (chap. 4), before delving deeply into the "Golden Age" of 13th-century Scholasticism, including Thomas Aquinas (chap. 5), and its subsequent trajectories and debates in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, up through John Duns Scotus (chap. 6). Attempting a "synthetic presentation" in a "popular form," devoid of "learned notes, bibliographies, and chronological tables," D. hopes to offer "an unbroken and organized reading of the history of medieval theological thought" (xiii) to nonspecialists.

The volume covers a vast amount of material in some depth, yet it neither goes beyond or revises older scholarship, nor engages more recent interpretations of the figures it treats. Despite the claim for synthesis, however, the mixing of metaphors in the chapter headings reflects the absence of an overarching narrative, except perhaps for the traditional notion of a gradual ascent toward a Thomistic high point, followed by an autumnal decline into late-medieval nominalism and its fateful cleavage of faith and reason. There are also unfortunate lacunae: little attention is paid to women theologians (Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Sienna are mentioned briefly; Julian of Norwich not at all); representatives of what has come to be called "monastic theology" (e.g., Bernard of Clairvaux or William of St. Thierry) are treated only sparingly. This reflects the rather narrow definition of theology presupposed throughout. In terms of Bernard McGinn's threefold distinction between "monastic," "scholastic," and "vernacular" or "mystical," D.'s focus is squarely on the second. That said, there is at present no single-volume treatment of medieval theology in English with as comprehensive a scope as offered here. D.'s clearly written introduction serviceably "covers the front" of especially Scholastic theology in the Middle Ages. It should prove useful as a goad to much-needed, in-depth studies of the many medieval theologians about whom we still know too little.


Boston College

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Title Annotation:SHORTER NOTICES
Author:Coolman, Boyd T.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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