Alain De Lille
Alain De Lille
also known as Alanus de Insulis
(b. Lille, France, first half of the twelfth century; d. Cîteaux, France, 1203)
Although he was popular and enjoyed a reputation for wide learning during subsequent centuries, the birthdate of Alain de Lille is a matter of conjecture, the most reasonable surmise being 1128. He taught theology at Paris and Montpellier, and subsequently became a member of the Cistercian order. He is the author of numerous theological works and was among the first to write against the Albigensians (in his Contra haereticos). Influenced by the Quomodo substantiae (better known as the De hebdomadibus) of Boethius, he attempted to construct a deductive theology derived from axioms in the manner of mathematics (in his Regulae caelestis iuris). His theological treatises reveal Neoplatonic influences ; in addition to Boethius, these works employ such Neoplatonic materials as the Liber de causis and the pseudo-Hermetic Liber XXI V philosophorum.
Alain’s reputation rests largely on two literary works, the De planctu naturae, possible composed between 1160 and 1170, and the very famous Anticlaudianus, written around 1182–1184. The De planctu is extant in few early manuscripts, and was apparently not the subject of commentary. The work is an exposition of Neoplatonic Christian naturalism. As an allegorical portrayal of Nature and attendant Virtues, it exerted extensive influence on the part of the Roman de la Rose written by Jean de Meun.
The popular Anticlaudianus survives in countless manuscripts and was a freuent subject of commentary. Consisting of a prose prologue followed by more than 4,000 lines of classic hexameter, the Anticlaudianus was intended as arefutation of the In Rufinum of Claudian. The Roman poet had portrayed Rufinus as a creation of evil Nature. Alain’s theme concerns Nature’s wish to atone for previous errors and to create a perfect man. She and the Virtues send Prudence on a celestial journey to the throne of God to seek the soul of the perfect man. Prudence travels in a chariot constructed by the seven liberal arts and drawn by the five senses. Guided by Reason, the chariot ascends through the heavens. As it approaches the throne of God, Reason falters, and Prudence is then guided through these exalted regions by Theology and Faith. Her petition is successful; God grants her request.
The Anticlaudianus is a mélange of Neoplatonisms. One can detect the influences of such Chartrain masters and disciples as Bernard and Thierry of Chartres, Bernard Silvester, and Gilbert de la Porrée. There are also traces of the pseudo-Dionysian corpus and its interpreter, John Scotus Erigena. Above all, Alain is indebted to Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy and to the De nuptiis philologiae et Mercurii of Martianus Capella. In his desfription of the personification of Astronomy, Alain alludes to the eccentric, and possibly to the equant, and mentions Ptolemy and Abū Maʿshar by name. His treatment of Arithmetic is limited to a few propositions taken possibly from either Boethius or Nicomachus; he mentions the latter by name. Geometry fares even more poorly.
Alain de Lille, although known in the middle ages as “doctor universalis,” was not an original thinker. However, he wove together successfully many of the Neplatonic traditions available to twelfth-century humanism.
I. Original Works. Thomas Wright, The Anglo-Latin Poets and Epigrammatists of the Twelfth Century, in Rerumbritannicarum medii aevi scriptores, 59 2 (London, 1875), 268–428, contains the texts of the De plactu naturae and the Anticlaudianus; R. Bossuat, Alain de Lille: Anticlaudianus (Paris, 1955); J. Huizinga, Über die Verknüpfung des Poetischen mit dem Theologischen bei Alanus de Insulis (Amsterdam, 1932), with an edition of the De virtutibus et vitiis in an appendix: English versions are D.M. Moffat, The Complaint of Nature by Alain de Lille (New York, 1908); W.H. Cornog, The Anticlaudian of Alain de Lille (Philadelphia, 1935); M.-T. d’Alverny, Alain de Lille, Textes inédits (Paris, 1965) contains two small works by Alain (pp. 185ff).
II. Secondary Literature. Étienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1955), lists many of Alain’s theological works and gives their Patrologia latina entries, p. 635; P. Duhem, Le système du monde, 10 vols, (Paris, 1954–1959), III, 223–230, discusses Alain’s scientific importance; R. de Lage, Alain de Lille, poète du XIIe siécle (Paris, 1951), has an extensive bibliography on pp. 169–173 and an appendix on pp. 175–186 listing the manuscripts of Alain’s works; see also bibliographical material in R. Bossuat, Anticlaudianus (see above), and on pp. 322–348 in M.-T. d’Alverny, Textes inédits (see above).