Cassiodore's Variae, a letter-writing collection to the test of time : study of the diffusion, reception and use of the work (XIIe-XVe centuries)

Project: ResearchResearch, Dissertation project


Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus appears as one of the most important
authors of the first ages of the Middle Ages. Among his many works, the
letter-writing collection known under the designation of Variæ stands out as
one of the founding texts of medieval epistolography. Our thesis intends to
study the diffusion and reception of Cassiodore’s work in the last centuries
of medieval period (XIIe-XVe centuries), moment of rediscovery of the
Variæ which saw the production of the first Variæ’s manuscripts reached up
to us. Indeed, it is precisely at the end of the XIe century that appears a new
stylistic and litterary gender, the ars dictaminis. This art of redaction,
intrinsically linked to letter-writing composition, spreaded quickly in notary
circles, in chancery and even in the university environment. By their nature
of letter-writing collection, the Variæ found themself inevitably linked with
this major cultural movement. Thus, this study will seek to identify the
connections between the Variæ and the prolific current of the ars dictaminis.
In general, the aim of this study will be to better understand the diffusion
and the impact of Cassiodore’s work on the medieval culture of that time.
Through the study of the manuscript tradition, rich of more than one
hundred codices, we will try to follow the history of the text, to identify the
environments in which this work was in the spotlight, to grasp the issues
linked to its dissemination, and to concretely discern the cultural and social
practices to which it was associated with). Beyond the specific case of
Cassiodore’s Variæ, our thesis will provide a better understanding of the
transmission mechanisms of a text in the long term. In seeking to grasp the
life of a text from its practical use by a readership of the XIIe-XVe centuries,
our research will focus on the question of the status of the text during the
last centuries of Middle Ages.
Short titleLes Variae de Cassiodore (XIIe-XVe s.)
Effective start/end date1/10/1830/09/19