Sunday, May 12, 2019


Myra L. Uhlfelder, The 'Consolation of Philosophy' as Cosmic Image. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 474. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2016. Pp. xx, 99. ISBN 9780866985877. $52.00.

Reviewed by James J. O'Donnell, Arizona State University (

Version at BMCR home site

Also Seen

Myra Uhlfelder was a colleague of many BMCR editors at Bryn Mawr College from the 1960s to the 1990s and by our practice at the time, books of the senior editors and their immediate colleagues were not reviewed in BMCR. Our old "Also Seen" rubric allowed us to publish notice without formal evaluation and it is a pleasure to do so in this case.

Uhlfelder was a medievalist, doctoral student of Berthe Marti, Rome Prize, Guggenheim, and NEH fellow and a patient, self-effacing, exacting teacher and scholar. The Consolation was a central, but not the exclusive, focus of her scholarly career and "Myra's book on Boethius" had the legendary aura of the splendid book that might come to fruition for many years. Happily, it was finished and now appears; unhappily, it was left to her literary executor and former student, Margaret Jennings of Boston College, to see the finished volume through the press after Uhlfelder's death at age 88 in 2011. Though a travail de longue haleine, the time and effort were well used and the scholarly apparatus is current to at least 2009. Her career and publications are outlined at Rutgers' Database of Classical Scholars.

Uhlfelder's Boethius sets out to answer difficult existential questions with an elaborate and meticulously constructed text that repays the fundamentally literary investigation Uhlfelder presents here. By her account, the Consolatio depicts both the cosmos and the place of humans in the cosmos, its argument philosophically crafted and with what she calls a Christian substratum, but crafted literarily as well, as her discussion of its metrical strategies and techniques makes clear. The book's excellences will well serve the serious reader approaching Boethius for the first time, but deserve the attention of Boethian scholars as well. In preparing for publication, Jennings has also produced a short bibliographical essay that well places this book and the Consolation in context of contemporary scholarship.

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