Professor celebrates 25th year since founding international society studying influential medieval woman

Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

July 3, 2008

Twenty-five years after founding the International Society of Hildegard von Bingen Studies, Bruce Hozeski, a Ball State professor of English, has reason to celebrate.

Since 1983, Hozeski's organization has grown to about 400 members from 30 countries. Hozeski and 75 to 100 society members from countries as far away as Argentina, Australia, Germany and Japan attended a 25th anniversary celebration for the society May 29 to June 1 at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. 

Hozeski was a graduate student at Michigan State University in 1967 when he discovered von Bingen, a German nun who was also an artist, author and physician. She wrote the earliest discovered morality play in the 12th century, while most were written in the 14th century, Hozeski said. He decided to learn more from there.

"She is a wealth of information concerning the Middle Ages - religion, music, medicine, art and politics," he said. "I knew back in 1967 that there were lifetimes of research and careers for hundreds of scholars that needed to be done."

Von Bingen was perhaps the first major female writer of the Middle Ages. She painted and wrote poetry, treated illnesses and even created her own language, which linguists are deciphering, Hozeski said.

As the society's founder, Hozeski gave the keynote address at the celebration. Members attended sessions about von Bingen's music, mysticism and art. Artists, influenced by von Bingen, displayed their work. In addition to musical performances, a showcase of the same gems and stones von Bingen used in her healings was on display. Attendees also ate food she once prepared to treat illnesses. 

Hozeski began presenting information about von Bingen at national and international conferences during his graduate studies research. More people became interested and researched her themselves. Hozeski lost track of all the people worldwide conducting research on von Bingen, so he founded the society, he said.  

As founder, Hozeski has written seven books about von Bingen and is completing his eighth title about the 12th century magistra. His first book, "Hildegard of Bingen's Scivias," sold more than 50,000 copies, when such a book would typically sell 750 copies, he said.

"Hildegard now shows up as a major influence from the Middle Ages on our modern times in all music history texts and most literature of the Western World texts," Hozeski said.

By Elaina Gemelas

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