image of Hrabanus Maurus

Week 7: Hrabanus Maurus: De rerum naturis.

Background | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions | Resources | Extras
Vocabulary | Etymology | Grammar | Perseus Dictionary | Perseus Tool

Reading Overview | Reading Quiz: English
| Reading Quiz: Latin
Discussion Questions | Latin Composition | Weekly Checklist

Discussion Questions

Please choose 3 of the following questions to answer and send your response in an email to the instructor ( Each answer should be a solid paragraph (150-250 words for each English discussion question, 500-750 words for the overall assignment).

You should then post your answers to the class Discussion Board. You need to have sent the email and posted your answers by Friday midnight. At some point you will also be posting at least two replies to comments posted by the other students; you may do that at any time during the week, until Monday midnight.

1. Ambiguous interpretations. Give an example where Hrabnus interprets "terra" as something good, "in bonum.". Give an example where Hrabanus interprets "terra" as something bad, "in malum." Do the same for "lutum" - "lutum in bonum" and "lutum in malum." Do you feel comfortable with these two opposite styles of interpretation? Can the same thing be a symbol of something good and of something bad? Take dream interpretation for example: is there a reliable way to interpret symbols in a dream? If a symbol sometimes represents a good thing and sometimes represents a bad thing, how do you know which interpretation to follow?

2. The (diabolical) woman...? The interpretation Hrabanus gives of the story of the woman and the flour is "in bonum," it is a story about salvation. The woman and her rising dough is like the Church spreading the gospel throughout the world. Can you come up with an allegorical interpretation of the story that is "in malum," a story about the devil, sin, and punishment? What evil thing could the woman represent? Her three measures of flour? The yeast? The swelling?

3. Asia on top. Take a look at the various medieval maps that reflect the "trifarie" division of the world into Asia, Europe, and Africa. What are some of the details that you notice being emphasized in these maps? What would be the reason(s) for Asia consistently being oriented at the top of these maps, with Europe on the lower left and Africa lower right?

4. Popular Latin riddle about terra. The Latin word terra forms the basis of a great Latin rebus. So, explain what a rebus is (look it up in the dictionary if you are not sure!). Then explain (in English!) how this particular Latin rebus functions. Just to get you started, the first line is "terra" - why is that? Because: "ter" in Latin means "three times", and you have "ter - ra", three times "ra", or TERRA. Can you figure out the rest? You need to know that ter means "three times", bis means "two times", and super means "above."


[For Question #5, make sure you take a look at the images from De laudibus sanctae crucis, the image-poems that Hrabanus composed.]

5. Favorite image for the week. Was there one of the images for this week which made a big impression on you? Provide a link to the webpage where that image is found, and give a detailed description of the image. What attracted your attention to this image? What are the details that stick in your mind? Do you think that image fits in well with the words of the text? What makes this image stand out from the other images that we looked at this week?

6. Reflecting on the week. Take a look back at what you wrote as your "starting assumptions" for this week, and look at the starting assumptions of the other students in the class. Did anything you read or studied this week make a big change in your starting assumptions? Did the assignment turn out to be pretty much what you expected? More interesting? Less interesting? What surprised you the most? If you were going to continue with this topic, what kind of research and reading would you want to do? What questions are still left unanswered?

7. Grammar revelations. Did you have a Latin grammar crisis this week? Did you get through it? What did you learn? Is there something you grasped this week that was never really clear to you before? A grammar epiphany? Is there something you are still really struggling with? What do you do when you are having trouble understanding a passage in Latin? Where do you look for help? In general, was the reading this week easier or harder than expected? What are you going to concentrate on in your Latin work in the coming week?

8. Website critique. Pick one of the websites that you visited this week as part of your work for this class (it could be a website about this week's topic, or a website for learning Latin). Provide a link to the site, and a brief desription of its contents. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this website? Who would find this website useful? What did you use this website for? What did you find there? Do you think you will visit this website again?

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM