I am reading Norman F Cantor : Civilization of the Middle Ages, first published in 1993 and itself a 'completely revised and expanded edition' of Medieval History, which first hit the streets of academe in 1963 - so it's based on 1950's scholarship, which is a fact relevant in itself.
Norman F Cantor is, or was at the time of paperback publication, professor of history sociology and comparative literature at New York University. So far I have reached page 198 of the 566 pages of his main text.
He's a man of authoritative - sometimes authoritarian - views. It took me quite a while to latch on to his main thesis. And that depends largely on his version of 'civilisation'. It fits in with what I was taught in school in the late 1930s. In the Latin class. Civis, a citizen. Civitas, a city. Hence, civilisation is seen to be based on the Classical, Roman, model. Civilisation requires cities - and it requres literacy. Professor Cantor has short shrift with tribal societies, Germanic warbands, long-haired Merovingian kings, Alaric the Goth, et hoc genus omnes. But Augustine and Ambrose, now they were men of status, men the product of and the fertilisers of Civilization, men whose words we can still drool over and be thankful for learning which depends on reading and writing.
In his title, 'civilization' should be understood as a verb. On the basis of the chapters I have covered so far, he gives me the impression that after the disastrous collapse of the Western Empire, even before 476, Western Europe was in a pitiful primitive condition from which it was rescued and given the kiss of new life only by the paramedic cohorts of Latin Christendon emanating from its GHQ in the Eternal City. (I exaggerate only a little, and that only for the purposes of clarifying my conclusions.)
My mind takes off on one of its random rewarding introspections.
I have observed similar symptons in publications focussed on the minutiae of Old English. (Perhaps there's something in the concept of the Ivory Tower Syndrome after all.)
It is as though certain specialists - in certain academic faculties where scrutiny of ancient documents is de regeur - become so absorbed in their texts that they loose touch with the realities of the world outside their individual ivory towers. In short, they come to regard their books and codices as sources of knowledge which cannot be contradicted. All within their covers is, incontravertibly, True.
How very dangerous books can be.
Literacy is not always the summa cum laude it's cracked up to be.