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Imagined Universities: Public Insult and the Terrae Filius in Early Modern Oxford

Haugen, Kristine Louise (2001) Imagined Universities: Public Insult and the Terrae Filius in Early Modern Oxford. In: History of Universities. Vol.16:1. Oxford University Press , New York, pp. 1-31. ISBN 9780199243389.

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[Introduction]. On a Saturday afternoon in July of 1669, a master of arts named Henry Gerard rose to address a crowd of academics and spectators in the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford. A public Act for granting degrees was in progress, and nominally, Gerard was one of several opponents who were to challenge the incepting master of arts William Watts in a ceremonial disputation on three philosophical topics: Is knowledge memory (An scientia sit reminiscentia)? Is all sensation touch (An omnis sensus sit tactus)? Are the planets habitable (An planetae sint habitabiles)? Watts was obliged to answer no, yes, and no respectively, so that Gerard, speaking to the second question, was expected to argue that all sensation was not touch. 1 No one would have been surprised, however, when Gerard ostentatiously ignored the stated question and announced his intention instead to 'touch' the doctors, their wives, and the Oxford townsmen-not, however, the townsmen's wives, who according to Gerard suffered from the disease called 'touch me not' .2 Gerard proceeded to insult various members of his audience in academic Latin for nearly an hour. According to him, the Vice-Chancellor John Fell shared one soul, one bed, and one wig with the Regius Professor of Divinity, Richard Allestree; Dr Smith of Christ Church invariably broke his oaths, except when he swore to beggars that he would not give them a penny; the Mayor of Oxford, John Lambe, was a tailor (sartor) and a cuckold who had delivered a simple-minded speech to the visiting Cosimo de Medici earlier that year; Dr John Lamphire, the Camden Professor of Ancient History, was a new Milo of Croton capable of carrying an ox, not on his shoulders, but in his belly. John Evelyn, who was present in the audience, described the speech to his diary as 'a tedious, abusive, sarcastical rhapsodie', and claimed he had advised the authorities that it ought to be 'suppress'd' .3 In fact, the authorities went further, expelling Gerard within two weeks. The diarist Anthony Wood noted with disgust that before Gerard departed, he 'went about to shew his speech', ensuring that many copies would survive in the notebooks of Oxford students and fellows .

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Additional Information:am extremely grateful to Anthony Grafton, Mordechai Feingold, Paul Needham, Felicity Henderson, and Richard Serjeantson for their incisive comments on earlier versions of this paper. I also received very generous help from the staffs of Duke Humfrey's Library and the Modern Manuscripts Division of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and at the Manuscripts Division of the library of Trinity College, Dublin.
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ID Code:55356
Deposited By: Kristine Haugen
Deposited On:02 Mar 2015 19:37
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 08:05

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