Robert J. Porwoll


What is liberal education and what is its aim? These and similar questions motivate my study of medieval pedagogies and practices. My dissertation, Parisian Pedagogies: The Educational Debates between Abelard, Hugh of St Victor, Peter Lombard, and John of Salisbury, examines the pedagogical experiments and debates of these four teachers and thinkers. As rival teachers in Paris in the 1120s and 1130s, Abelard and Hugh of St Victor influenced two great students, John of Salisbury and Peter Lombard, who followed up and partially synthesized their masters’ programs. These pre-university, proto-scholastic teachers articulated seminal pedagogical paths that exerted great influence on later thinkers, within and without the university. In this way, I expect that the present study will open a further window for a later project on the pedagogies latent in the University of Paris, whose university model was so often imitated throughout Europe. Negotiating questions of a curricular canon, the nature of the arts, the place of spiritual exercises in theological and philosophical education, and the roles of talent and technique, Abelard, Hugh, John, and Peter can also speak to contemporary debates on the nature and aim of the university and the humanities.

I am honored to participate as a Martin Marty Junior Fellow. Besides providing support in closing the circle on the dissertation project, the fellowship offers a valuable opportunity to interact with and learn from excellent peer scholars. I look forward to this collaborative effort to help me in articulating insights from my historical study for contemporary discussions surrounding education and pedagogy.