Why Not Read Petrus Alfonsi’s Disciplina clericalis in the British Literature Survey?
As part of the burgeoning recognition of the deficiencies of a monolingual British literature survey, Petrus Alfonsi’s Disciplina clericalis deserves a place in our syllabi, alongside more commonly taught Anglo–Latin works like Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain and Anglo–French works like Marie de France’s Lais. Several strands of evidence connect Petrus’s genre-bending Latin collection of Arabic moral tales and proverbs to medieval England. Although a native of Sepharad/al-Andalus, Petrus seems to have written Disciplina clericalis in the orbit of Henry I’s Norman court, and the work was well received in medieval England. Restoring Disciplina clericalis to its former place of prominence gives survey students a richer and more cosmopolitan perspective on early British literature.