As the keynote lecture for the Medieval and Renaissance Graduate Student Association's conference 'Intersectionality,' this talk explores the concurrent attempts to grapple with the problem of emptiness in medieval art and philosophy. Nature, medieval philosophers exclaimed in an unsteady chorus, abhors a vacuum. Guided by Aristotelian theories, scholars from Avicenna to Grosseteste rejected the possibility of the void: a locus sine corpore locato was a contradictory notion, and God, even in his omnipotence, surely could not create anything contradictory. Medieval art, exclaims a much more assured collective scholarly voice, equally abhors the same: hence, the notion of horror vacui, the fear of empty space, is often construed as a definitive feature of Gothic material culture in its many manifestations. This talk will explore some intersections among natural philosophy, mathematics, piety, and image-making in order to suggest that late medieval art, in its constant attempts to grapple with the unrepresentability of the invisible, is in fact predicated on new engagements with emptiness.
For more information, visit the MRGSA conference website.