Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Street of straw

I gave an example in this post from June 2010 of the odd little details of a man’s life that occasionally obtrude from otherwise serious and impersonal work. I just found another in Buridan’s Summulae de dialectica Book I c. 7. Gerardus est cum Buridano; ergo ipse est in vico Straminum. What is he on about? Well, the Vicus Straminis or street of straw – so-called from the straw-strewn floors of the schools, was in the area still known as the Latin Quarter, the centre of the Arts schools of Paris. Petrach calls it the strepidulus straminum vicus, the noisy street of straws, presumably because of the incessant noise of the disputation going on. This was where Buridan would have conducted his lectures in the 1330s, and presumably spent so much time there that if Gerard is with Buridan, then he is in the Vicus Straminis.

The street is now called the Rue du Fouarre – there’s a bit about it in the French Wikipedia, but seems to have retained little of its former scholastic glory. The article quotes Balzac, who says that it was once the most famous street in Paris in the thirteenth century. But now (that is, in Balzac’s day), it is the poorest one.

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