Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

History

Major Professor

Thomas Burman

Committee Members

Maura Lafferty, Jay Rubenstein

Abstract

In this study, I have examined the use of the Latin translation of the Arabic Apology of al-Kindi,, regarded as the most influential source of information about Islam for Latin readers in the Middle Ages, by some of its readers from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. My work is divided into three parts, beginning with an analysis of the writings of the man who commissioned the translation, Peter the Venerable, and Peter of Poitiers, the secretary of the first Peter and a member of the translation team. I argue that, for Peter the Venerable, the Latin translation of the Apology was the most important of all the Arabic-to-Latin translations that he sponsored and that it represented the first step in a project that he hoped would culminate in the conversion of Muslims. Second, I discuss the adaptation of the Apology by Matthew Paris and Vincent of Beauvais, two historians who used it to create narratives of early Islam, an area in which other Latin texts failed them. The final section of the thesis is devoted to the annotators who clarified the many words and references in the text likely to confuse uninitiated readers and who conveyed their own thoughts on the text's author and his arguments. I found that these reader-writers were deeply invested in representing Islam accurately, a characterization not often associated with medieval Christian scholars' relationships to the non-Christian religions that they studied. Zeal for accuracy led readers to the Apology in the first place and motivated them to excavate the textual clues that justified its standing, as well as to sidestep or challenge what they deemed inaccurate.

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