Imagery and symbolism in Duns Scotus' Oxford

Several images stand out, though it is probably the diction more than the imagery that makes an impact on us:

  • the ‘base and brickish skirt', a deliberately awkward phrase, seems to demean the old city. It ‘sours' nature, as opposed to Duns Scotus who ‘sways', a graceful movement
  • ‘the rarest-veinèd unraveller' takes a little unravelling! Philosophers tie themselves up in knots, we say, so they need unravelling. But why ‘rarest-veinèd'? Maybe it is a reference to an intellectual aristocracy: we talk of ‘blue blood' for a good breeding. Or, more likely, it is a reference to the fineness of human veins. Duns was known as ‘the subtle doctor', that is, he was able to make very fine distinctions in his arguments, a very rare achievement.
Investigating Duns Scotus' Oxford
  • What images strike you most?
    • Are they visual, aural or intellectual?
  • Can you relate any of the images in the octave to those of the sestet?
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