Stream Lecture Series

 

2017-2018 CMRS Lecture Series

2016-17 CMRS Lecture Series

Shakespeare’s Day: Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2016

2015-2016 CMRS Lecture Series

2014-2015 CMRS Lecture Series

Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series

Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

 


Each year, the Center hosts a series of lectures by visiting scholars on an annual theme, with a culminating "public" lecture in the spring that is aimed towards a general audience. Speakers represent a broad range of academic fields of study and historical periods.

Lectures recordings are posted within a week of the lecture itself. To see a list of our past, current, or future lectures, please see our CMRS Lecture Series Event page

Our Lecture Series recordings can be accessed through iTunes U. They can be downloaded through iTunes for mobile devices or listened to in a browser.

 

"The Dark Age of Herodotus: Shards of a Fugitive History in Medieval Europe"
Scott Bruce, University of Colorado, Boulder
Dec. 01, 2017

stream

Herodotus of Helicarnassus (fl. 5th cent. BCE), whose Historiae were unknown in the
Latin language until the fifteenth century. Unlike the works of other ancient Greek
authors like Homer, the Historiae inspired no Latin epitomes and were unknown in the
curriculum of medieval monastic schools. Nevertheless, despite the absence of a Latin
translation, medieval authors were familiar with many of the stories told by Herodotus.
How can we account for this? Using as a case study the tale of King Cyrus'
vengeance against the Ganges River for drowning his favorite horse, this paper
investigates the modes of transmission that carried this and other tales of Herodotus
from Greek into Latin, from the Mediterranean across the Alps into northern Europe. It
argues that the dismemberment of the Historiae into literary shards in Roman antiquity
and the repurposing of those shards by late antique authors of historical compendia
and epitomes like Orosius made many of these ancient stories available to medieval
Christian readers long after the name of Herodotus had been forgotten. In doing so,
this article illuminates the Stygian channels by which knowledge of Herodotus'
Historiae migrated from into the cultural repertoire of monastic thinkers like Abbot Peter
the Venerable of Cluny (c. 1090-1156).
 
Bio: Scott Bruce is an historian of religion and culture in the early and central Middle Ages (ca. 400-1200 CE). He is a specialist on the history of the abbey of Cluny.  His first book, Silence and Sign Language in Medieval Monasticism: The Cluniac Tradition (c. 900-1200) was published in 2007 by Cambridge University Press (UK). This book explores the rationales for religious silence in early medieval abbeys and the use of nonverbal forms of communication among monks when rules of silence forbade them from speaking. His second monograph, Cluny and the Muslims of La Garde-Freinet: Hagiography and the Problem of Islam in Medieval Europe, was published by Cornell University Press in 2015. This book is a study of the representation of the Muslims of La Garde-Freinet in Cluniac hagiography in the eleventh century and the influence of these depictions on polemical works written against Islam by Abbot Peter the Venerable of Cluny in the twelfth century. Professor Bruce has recently translated a collection of medieval Latin ghost stories for Penguin Classics: The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters from the Romans to the Renaissance. His new book, The Relatio metrica de duobus ducibus: A Twelfth-Century Cluniac Poem on Prayer for the Dead (co-authored with Christopher A. Jones) will be published by Brepols this winter.

 

"The Law and the Soul"
Jesus Rodriguez-Velasco, Columbia University
Sept. 08, 2017

stream

This talk will explore the specific ways in which the legal discipline appropriated the science of the soul in the Mediterranean, with especial attention to al-Andalus and the university of Paris in the 12th and 13th centuries. Whereas I am interested in the Middle Ages, I think that this process of appropriation is still ongoing, and I will give some attention to contemporary legal artifacts that deal with the connection of the legal discipline and the science of the soul, including the Spanish Law of Historical Memory, and the project of Forensic Architecture.

Bio: Jesús Rodríguez-Velasco teaches Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Columbia. He has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, Universidad de Salamanca, Université de Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle), and the École Normale Supérieure (Lettres et Sciences Humaines). Among his publications are books and articles on Medieval and Early Modern knighthood, history of the book and reading, medieval political theory, law and culture, Occitan poetry, etc. He is one of the executive directors of the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies and a member of the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions. He was the recipient of the 2010 John K. Walsh award for his article "La urgente presencia de las Siete Partidas".
 
 

 

2016 - 17 Lecture Series

 

"Repurposing Classical Myth and Medieval Bestiaries in Harry Potter"
John Friedman, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Barbara A. Hanawalt Public Lecture, Nov. 18, 2016

stream

 J. K. Rowling's 2001 book, *Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them,* premiering this fall as a wide-release film, shows great linguistic and literary playfulness and learning of a sort which may not always be apparent on casual reading. Rowling studied Classics at the University of Exeter and is also well read in Early Modern, nineteenth-century, and twentieth-century British literature. Her writings display remarkable wit and erudition in introducing, or transforming, beasts grounded in deep literary history. Many of her creatures are drawn from Greek and Roman mythology, from medieval bestiaries and related works, and from popular and Germanic traditions. A much larger proportion, however, including as many as fifty-six of the creatures in *Fantastic Beasts,* do not have any evident roots in any earlier mythology, but seem rather to have been the product of Rowling’s own zoological imagination.
 
Illustrated by numerous images from medieval and other sources as well as from the films, my talk will focus on the nineteen creatures Rowling introduces in *Fantastic Beasts* and in the first seven Potter novels that have classical and medieval sources, illustrating the ways in which Rowling creatively modified these sources to produce memorable creatures of her own. These creatures belong to three main groups. Some are straightforwardly borrowed from antiquity, including the basilisk, griffin, and sphinx; some derive largely from post-classical animal and plant encyclopedic works, including the dragon, manticore, mandrake, and unicorn; and some are drawn from popular culture, blending at times with late medieval and Early Modern zoology and ethnology, including the werewolf and the giants. An understanding of what Rowling inherited or modified, as opposed to what she created out of whole cloth through her remarkable imagination, deepens our appreciation of Rowling's achievement and places it in an appropriately rich literary and historical context.
 
Bio: JOHN BLOCK FRIEDMAN is Professor Emeritus of English and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a Visiting Scholar in the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, The Ohio State University. He was a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow and was Herbert Johnson Distinguished Professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is the author or editor of a number of books, of which the best known is The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Harvard University Press, 1981; Syracuse University Press, 2000). He serves on the Editorial Board of the Chaucer Review. He is also the author of eighty articles and book chapters, most recently “Werewolf Transformation in the Manuscript Era,” The Journal of the Early Book Society;  “Dürer’s Rhinoceros and what he or she was wearing: Carnations, Luxury Gardens, Identity Formation, and Urban Splendor, 1460-1550,” The Journal of Material Culture; and “Coats, Collars, and Capes: Royal Fashions for Animals in the Early Modern Period,” Medieval Clothing and Textiles. His current project is “’Monstrous Men of Fashion’: Striped Costume and Livery in a Danish Church Wall Painting.” He breeds werewolves in his spare time.

 

"The Concept of Baroque in Literature--and the World"
Roland Greene, Stanford University
Sept. 9, 2016

stream

In 1946 the Czech comparatist René Wellek published an essay titled “The Concept of Baroque in Literary Scholarship,” in which he argued that despite its shortcomings, the term “Baroque” remains the indispensable term for the period of European—and he might have added, American—artistic production between the Renaissance and neoclassicism. This lecture revisits “the concept of Baroque" for the twenty-first century. It proposes a new way of thinking about the Baroque through the problem of inception, or the continual articulation of a Baroque world-view against the background of what preceded it. When a concept is always being born over a century or more and yet is never fully established, what sort of period-term is it? Moreover, the lecture speaks to how we might imagine the Baroque not only in literary and humanistic scholarship, as Wellek had it, but in the world of the seventeenth century, as a practice that spanned the arts, the Old and New Worlds, and the divisions of race and gender.
 
Bio: ROLAND GREENE is a scholar of Renaissance culture, especially the literatures of England, Latin Europe, and the transatlantic world, and of poetry and poetics from the sixteenth century to the present. He is the founder and director of Arcade (http://arcade.stanford.edu), a digital salon for literature and the humanities. In 2015-16 he served as President of the Modern Language Association of America. He teaches at Stanford University.

 


 

Shakespeare’s Day: Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2016

 

"Shakespeare and the Commedia dell' Arte"
Robert Henke, Washington University in St. Louis
CMRS Public Lecture, 2015-2016 Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

Especially if one views the “commedia dell’arte” in its relationship to Italian scripted comedy of the day, Shakespeare thoroughly absorbed the Italian system of masks. Despite the fact that Italian professional actors, who scandalously had women actually play female roles, abruptly stopped visiting England in 1578, a professional interest in the Arte emerges in London theater of the early and mid 1590s, as Shakespeare explicitly deploys versions of Pantalone, the Dottore, the Capitano, and the Zanni in plays such as The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and the Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare’s interest in foolish old men, loquacious pedants, braggart soldiers, and plot-controlling servants seems to have waned in his mature comedies, but resurfaces in his tragedies, in figures such as Polonius, and in the character system of Othello. One of the more persuasive “sources” for The Tempest is the Arte subgenre of “magical pastoral”: a set of Italian scenarios representing a magician on an island populated by spirits and shepherds who causes a group of travelers to shipwreck.

 

"Music, Death, and 'Uncomfortable Time': William Byrd’s O that most rare breast and Shakespeare’s "Excellent Conceited Tragedy" of Romeo and Juliet"
Jeremy Smith,Professor, Music, University of Colorado at Boulder
Shakespeare’s Day Keynote Address

stream 

Abstract:

Arguably few playgoers today are aware that Act 4 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet ends with musicians engaging in badinage with a clown. Treated generally as superfluous or insignificant, the Peter and the Musicians scene is now cut more often than not. Yet Shakespeare must have had some larger dramatic purpose for it in mind, as the same musicians appear as spectators in the preceding "false lamentations" scene, where key characters mistakenly mourn Juliet's putative death. Too dramatically crucial to obliterate, this section too has nonetheless been redacted heavily and roundly criticized over the years, usually for the effusive, stilted, and formalized nature of its rhetoric. From an interdisciplinary perspective this paper reexamines these scenes as well as other moments in the play that feature musical allusions. It posits that Shakespeare used the musicians and other characters he thrust unawares into the act of "false lamentation" to portray the rhetorical trope of catachresis and that his model was O that most rare breast, a polyphonic song by the Elizabethan composer William Byrd. After purportedly composing O that for the funeral of the famous military hero and English sonneteer Sir Philip Sidney, Byrd used literary methods of sequential arrangement to develop an elaborate interdisciplinary tribute to his subject in his first published collection of English texted music. It was Byrd's venture into literary structures, via the rhetorical method of eristic imitation, I argue, that drew Shakespeare toward the song as he developed his hitherto unnoticed catachrestic conceit in Act 4 scene 5. 

Romeo and Juliet has long been associated with music. Byrd was the premier musician of Shakespeare's day and recent studies of Elizabethan rhetoric have been markedly interdisciplinary. This paper, nonetheless, will be the first to contend that Byrd and Shakespeare had any direct influence on one another. Shakespeare, it has long been argued, was so focused on the "lowly" popular ballad and the "lofty" theories of musica mundana that he took little interest in Byrd's specialty in "pricksong" (art song). Byrd's reputation, in turn, has long suffered from the idea that he was "unliterary." Recent studies, however, point a way out of this quagmire. Students of the so-called New Rhetoric have exposed ways in which Byrd might have approached the literature of his time that have not been considered or have been disregarded as Music and Shakespeare revisionists Joseph M. Ortiz, Erin Minear, and Andrew Mattison have opened new paths for interaction across disciplines in their findings that Shakespeare might "silence ... music" or provide "contexts that pull songs away from their musical status." From an interdisciplinary perspective gleaned from these approaches it will be shown not only that the scenes in Romeo and Juliet involving music were carefully integrated into the dramatic action, but also that they were integral to one of the play's larger purposes, which was to encourage an end to the enmity surrounding religious divisions of the time. 

 

"Buckets of Ducats"
The Confused Greenies of Player's Patchwork Theater Company
Shakespeare’s Day Performance

stream

Abstract:
A one-act commedia dell'arte performance

 



 

 

2015-2016 CMRS Lecture Series

 

"Compost / Compositions"
Frances Dolan, University of California, Davis
2015-2016 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

As part of an explosion of agricultural experimentation and innovation in seventeenth-century England, many “improvers” turned to composting as both an “ancient practice” and “newly born.”  The composting practices they advocated resembled the very particular practices that characterized early modern reading, remembering, and writing.  In comparing composting, commonplacing, and composition, amendment and revision, I hope to draw attention both to the importance of soil amendment in early modern English agriculture and to the ways it generated writing and modeled what writing might be. Focusing on early modern agricultural treatises, this talk will consider the compost pile as an archive, a commonplace book, an occasion of writing, and a pungent figure for assembling and ripening the past’s leftovers in the service of some future enrichment—that is, for the work of early modernists today.

“Mermaids and Material Culture: Looking Eastward from Medieval France”
E. Jane Burns, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2015-2016 CMRS Lecture Series

 
Mélusine, a fourteenth-century snake-tailed woman who can fly, derives in part from medieval narrative traditions of fairies and mermaids. It is her excessive wealth, however, that strikes “wonder” and fear into onlookers at the court in Poitou. How might we draw on items of material culture used to characterize ​Mélusine’s lavish wedding celebration to help understand this ornately clad and bejeweled courtly woman in a more global context?
 
 

"Shakespeare and the Commedia dell' Arte"
Robert Henke, Washington University in St. Louis
CMRS Public Lecture, 2015-2016 Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

Especially if one views the “commedia dell’arte” in its relationship to Italian scripted comedy of the day, Shakespeare thoroughly absorbed the Italian system of masks. Despite the fact that Italian professional actors, who scandalously had women actually play female roles, abruptly stopped visiting England in 1578, a professional interest in the Arte emerges in London theater of the early and mid 1590s, as Shakespeare explicitly deploys versions of Pantalone, the Dottore, the Capitano, and the Zanni in plays such as The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and the Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare’s interest in foolish old men, loquacious pedants, braggart soldiers, and plot-controlling servants seems to have waned in his mature comedies, but resurfaces in his tragedies, in figures such as Polonius, and in the character system of Othello. One of the more persuasive “sources” for The Tempest is the Arte subgenre of “magical pastoral”: a set of Italian scenarios representing a magician on an island populated by spirits and shepherds who causes a group of travelers to shipwreck.


 

 

 

2014-2015 CMRS Lecture Series

 

“'In Cuntrey Hit is a Comune Speche': Vernacular Legal Theory in Mum and the Sothsegger [Silence and the Truthteller]”
Fiona Somerset, University of Connecticut
CMRS 2014-2015 Lecture Series

stream

Abstract

It is not a new insight that what is probably the early fifteenth century’s most sustained and thoughtful response to Piers Plowman, the alliterative, allegorical dream vision Mum and the Sothsegger, is also a sophisticated critique of political corruption in contemporary England. What has not yet been addressed among studies of the poem’s political allegory and use of personification, though, is the extent to which its critique hinges upon a specific medieval legal idea whose implications continue to haunt us even up to the present day: that one person may be held responsible for (and even punished for) another’s sin because he or she has consented to it by remaining silent. Crucially, the poem insists (as in my title) that this theory is common knowledge, the property of all. My current book project focuses on the history of this idea, and its deployment in allegorical poetry and rhetorical prose between the late twelfth and mid fifteenth centuries. In my paper at OSU I’ll show what this broader perspective can contribute to our reading of Mum and the Sothsegger.

 

“The Sites and Sounds of Early Medieval Latin Song”
Sam Barrett, Pembroke College, Cambridge
CMRS 2014-2015 Lecture Series

stream

Abstract: 

The music of early medieval Latin song has hitherto been known to only a handful of specialists.  Notations survive in manuscripts from ecclesiastical centres across the Frankish kingdoms from the ninth century through to approximately the end of the eleventh, but the fragmentary written record has relegated wider appreciation to the occasional cum neumis found in the footnotes of the volumes of Monumenta Germaniae Historica and Analecta hymnica medii aevi.  The difficulties involved in reconstructing melodies from mnemonic notations have also tended to obscure a body of song made up of hundreds of accentual verses (rhythmi), metrical verses by medieval authors from Eugenius III of Toledo through to Alberic of Monte Cassino, settings of late antique poetry by writers such as Boethius, Prudentius and Capella, extracts from classical authors (most notably Vergil and Horace) and computus.  One of the purposes of this paper will be to outline the full extent of this song tradition, examining hints about uses and users that survive in manuscripts associated for the most part with large abbeys and cathedrals.  A second aim will be to examine prevailing models of song transmission, challenging universal theories proposed for rhythmi in particular by Karl Strecker and Dag Norberg, emphasising instead genealogies specific to individual songs and the role played by a number of different centres in shaping the tradition.  A third aim will be to explore the limits of reconstruction, seeking in the absence of full information about melodic contents to establish how much can be recovered from the various types notational strategies adopted, and how much can be identified about modes of setting associated with particular verse forms. In seeking to summarize various aspects of what appears to have been a continuous song tradition strectching from novices through to notaries, abbots, bishops, and even Kings, it will finally be suggested that the early medieval Latin song tradition forms a significant precusor to the later flowering of vernacular song in medieval courts.

 

“The Polemics and Projects of Ramon Martí O.P.: Debating the Legacy of Medieval Iberia's Greatest Linguist”
Tom Burman, Tennessee and Ryan Szpiech, Michigan
2014-2015 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

The Catalan Dominican Ramon Martí (d. after 1284) was the most learned polemical author of the later Middle Ages. He was part of the thirteenth-century Dominican interest in missionizing and language learning in Aragon under the auspices of Ramon of Penyafort, interest that led to the famous Disputation of Barcelona in 1263 between Friar Paul Christiani and the great Rabbi of Girona, Moses ben Nahman (Nahmanides).Following in the wake of this debate, Martí developed many of its key arguments and strategies. In order to do so, Martí learned Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic and probably taught one or all of these languages to fellow Dominicans as well. His writing (two polemical works against Islam and two more against Judaism, including the massive Pugio fidei, or "Dagger of Faith" from 1278) makes ample use of original source material in these three Semitic languages, and cites and translates widely from Jewish and Muslim religious and philosophical sources. Despite the increasing attention that Martí's work has received in recent years, scholars have only scratched the surface of his abundant and complex corpus of writings, and much work (both editorial and interpretive) remains to be done in assessing Martí's important role in Christian relations with Jews and Muslims in Iberia as well as in Christian intellectual history more generally. These two talks will consider a few dimensions of Martí's work in detail, demonstrating Martí's profound importance for scholars of the Middle Ages in general, but especially for those interested in language learning in the later Middle Ages and Christian engagement with other faiths in this period.

 

“Why a History of Balance?”
Joel Kaye, Professor of History, Barnard College
2014-2015 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

Virtually every discourse in the medieval period was constructed around the ideal of balance.  In my recent book, A History of Balance, 1250-1375, published this past spring by Cambridge Press, I show that preoccupations with balance lay at the core of medieval economic thought, medical theory, political thought, and natural philosophy, but one could apply the same analytic focus on balance to a host of other disciplines.  And yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the concern with balance (or perhaps because of its utter ubiquity), it was almost never the subject of discussion in itself in the medieval period.  For this reason modern historians, too, have failed both to recognize balance as a subject crucial to the history of ideas, or to imagine it as having a history – as changing in form over historical time.  In my presentation, I will argue that an analysis of the forms of balance that were assumed and applied in the medieval period – and, in particular, an analysis of the change in the modeling of balance that occurred between 1280 and 1360 - are crucial both to the opening up of striking new vistas of imaginative and speculative possibility within scholasticism and to the scholarly comprehension of this many-faceted intellectual development.

 

"Potions and Prayers: The Subject of Healing in Anglo-Saxon Medical Texts"
Renee Trilling, Associate Professor of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
2014-2015 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract: 

In texts like the Lacnunga and the Leechbooks, Anglo-Saxon healers struggle to merge two extremely powerful and largely incommensurate ideologies, with the result that detailed herbal remedies, charms written on communion wafers, and magical incantations of broken Latin and Irish find themselves on equal footing. Rather than focusing on whether or not these remedies are scientifically valid, then, I want to explore how the dissemination of medical knowledge in Anglo-Saxon England can offer evidence of a culture working out its own solutions to problems of embodiment amid the conflicting discourses of pre-Christian medicine and salvation theology.

 

“Utopia Un-Mored: Reading across Historical Divides”
Karma Lochrie, Professor of English, University of Indiana - Bloomington
2014-2015 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

It is standard to read Thomas More’s “Utopia” in terms of its classical roots in Plato’s Republic, and at the same time, to treat it as an inaugural text, that is, as the text that marks the beginning of utopian thinking and a significant cultural break from the Middle Ages.  This lecture challenges the historical methods responsible for this narrative of utopianism, providing an alternative account of utopianism that includes medieval texts and thought. Instead of reading backwards from More’s text, Lochrie suggests a method of “reading forward” to More from medieval texts that engage utopian perspectives, ideas, and places.  “Unmooring” More, therefore, involves a rethinking of the way we conduct literary history as well as the way we understand utopianism.  Using John Mandeville’s Travels and the Middle English Land of Cokaygne, Lochrie maps alternative utopianisms to More’s and suggests new historical interlocutors that complicate our current understanding of utopian thinking and writing.

 


 

Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

 

“Eating the Bread of Angels: Transmutation in the Kabbalah”
Joel Hecker, Associate Professor of Jewish Mysticisim
Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

Medieval Jewish mystics drew on the same Neoplatonic lines of thinking as their Christian neighbors did, developing theology and practices that facilitated knowledge of, and union with, divinity. Much of the kabbalah of the Zohar, Judaism’s central and canonical mystical text, interprets biblical stories and rituals that deal with food as opportunities to explore the mystical possibilities inherent in Jewish lore and practice. Inevitably, manna, unleavened bread, wine for the Friday night Kiddush, etc., are all transformed into symbols through which one encounters Shekhinah and YHVH, the feminine and masculine aspects of divinity. In his talk, Joel Hecker will explore the ways in which common foods and idealized edibles perform the task of incarnating divinity, transmuting God, food, and human beings in the process.

 

“Feasting and Fun in Piers Plowman”
Derek Pearsall,Gurney Professor of English Literature, Emeritus Harvard University
Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

There are the expected references to food in ‘Piers Plowman’, and in addition Langland offers unusual insights into the actual diet of peasants during the hard months (of summer). There are also two major scenes of feasting, important in the developing narrative and in the understanding of Langland’s specialized techniques of allegory. Finally, in the category of ‘Fun’, there is allusion in the poem to some unexpected forms of entertainment at public feasts, which leads to some interesting historical revelations.

 

“Diets of the Poor in Medieval England”
Christopher Dyer, Leverhulme Emeritus Professor of Regional and Local History, the University of Leicester
Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

If we can know about the food and drink consumed by the medieval poor, we can understand their role in society. In the middle ages beggars and vagrants were regarded as a race apart, a desperate underclass, leading a separate existence. If we examine the diets consumed by poor people, from the doles that they were given, the diets that prevailed in hospitals and almshouses, and the types of bread that they could obtain, we find that they suffered disadvantages, but they can be compared with mainstream society. Many of the poor were regular people who through misfortunes, circumstances or just old age were down on their luck.

 

“Cuisine by the Cut of One's Trousers”
Timothy Tomasik, Associate Professor of French, Valparaiso University
Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

Contrary to what some culinary historians have been asserting up until the last decade or so, the French Renaissance did actually have a thriving trade in homegrown cookbooks. Beginning in the 1530’s, a new generation of cookbooks appears in France that synthesizes the innovations of earlier sixteenth-century texts.  Between 1536 and 1627 appear twenty-seven editions of a cookbook associated with the printer Pierre Sergent, bearing witness to the literate public’s appetite for works of cookery.  By analyzing title pages, woodcuts, and prefatory remarks, we can see that cookbooks were being marketed to a wide spectrum of social stations and potential readerships, each representing contradictory desires.  This analysis demonstrates that questions of conviviality are not limited to an elite sector of society.  The early modern French banquet is a space whose contours can be adapted to fit a number of occasions, accommodating diners from all strata of society. 

 

“Mountains of Cheese, Rivers of Wine”
Luisa del Giudice, Independent Scholar
Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract: none

 

“The Hungry Courtier: Gourmets and Ascetics in Early Modern Drama”
Joan Fitzpatrick, Senior Lecturer in English, Loughborough University
Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

This paper will trace attitudes to excessive consumption and fasting in the early modern period. By considering the church line on gluttony and fasting and how such excesses were regarded in sixteenth-century dietary literature we can get a sense of the strictures in place regarding this particular 'sin of the mouth'. Shakespeare was rather less judgemental than the Church and from his plays the paper will move to a close consideration of 'the hungry courtier' in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Woman Hater, showing that critics have hitherto overlooked an illuminating debt to Shakespeare in their depiction of the gluttonous figure.

 

“Things That Seemed Incredible: The Starving Time at Jamestown”
Kathleen Donegan, Associate Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley
Feast and Famine in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

In the desperate winter of 1610, mass starvation reduced the settler population of colonial Jamestown from 500 to 60. This paper uses the specter of starvation at Jamestown to explore a larger and ongoing relationship between suffering and violence, hazard and horror at the site of colonial settlement. Connecting the misery of “Starving Time” to the viciousness of the first Anglo-Powhatan war, the paper will trace how, as structures of meaning crumbled in Jamestown, the colonial arena became a theater of atrocity wherein settlers did (in the words of one) “things which seame incredible.” And because the place called “Jamestown” was always also the place called “Paspahegh,” the extremities committed there left behind a harrowing history for natives and settlers alike.

 

“Ceremonies and the Arts in Late 15th Century Florence”
Timothy McGee, Professor Emeritus of Music, University of Toronto
Feast and Famine  in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: 2013-2014 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

The arrival of Girolomo Savonarola in 1490 had serious implications for the traditional public ceremonies in Florence as well as the practices of music and art. The elaborate public ceremonial events were either eliminated or converted to sacred ceremonies; the sophisticated music was curtailed and professional choirs disbanded; and artists were encouraged to confine their work to sacred subjects. It is generally thought that the artistic community completely surrendered to the new restrictions, but the discovery of a disguised protest in a painting by Filippino Lippi leads to the suggestion that this may not have been so.  

 


 

Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series

 

“Blindness, Desire, and Touch in Two French Paintings”
James Clifton, Director and Sarah Campbell, Blaffer Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

In a discussion at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris in 1667 on Nicolas Poussin's painting of Christ Healing the Blind (1650), the participants assumed that fidelity to the biblical text was part of the painter's brief, yet they could not account for several aspects of the painting or even agree on whether Poussin depicted the miracle at Capernaum (Matthew 9) or the one at Jericho (Matthew 20), a point still unresolved. Modern scholarship tends to view Poussin's painting as thematizing seeing and (proper) looking, but this paper returns to the relationship of the painting to its textual source(s), viewing it as a "visual exegesis" of Scripture, and examines the range of possible readings of both Poussin's painting and a related, but remarkably different, painting by Philippe de Champaigne (ca. 1660). Particular attention is given to the desire and faith of the blind men and to Christ's potent gesture.

 

“Toward a History of Distraction”
Shigehisa Kuriyama (Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History, Department Chair, Harvard University
Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

Why was being distracted once synonymous with being mad? And why did distraction later come to figure as a much less radical disability? Starting with close analysis of some iconic Renaissance images, my talk will spotlight the entwined histories of curiosity, death, and the power to attend.

 

“Maimed Bodies and Broken Systems in the Old Norse Imaginary”
John Lindow, Professor of Scandanavian, University of California, Berkeley
Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series
Annual Francis Lee Utley Lecture

stream

Abstract:

This lecture treats the use of bodies and body parts as they relate to kinship and social systems in Old Norse heroic legend and myth. In various ways, body parts can be appropriated for cosmic purposes or forfeited for enhanced abilities. But if an intact body represents an intact kin group (as language such as 'within the knees' for 'kin' suggests), appropriation or forfeiture of body parts suggests loss of kin, and also flaws in social systems in which kinship plays a role. Indeed, body parts and kinship—especially kinstrife—relate in powerful metaphorical ways.

 

“Serfdom Without Strings: Amartya Sen in the Middle Ages”
Paul Hyams, Professor of History, Cornell University
Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

What is poverty? What does it mean to label people as "poor"? Social scientists tend to reach for the measurable in their definitions. Equating poverty more or less with starvation, the inability to sustain life, they have often calculated the income required for this, and called it the "poverty line". The poor are those who live below this. Critics have long pointed out the many defects of such a view, but the language is nevertheless still in frequent use. And historians have tended to follow the crowd.

One influential recent attempt to do better is the Capabilities Theory of Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen. This located the essence of poverty in the inability of some men and women to perform certain mundane acts that ought to be within the power of all. Not starvation alone but exclusion from freedom marked off the poor, a formulation that has attracted conservative applause for the liberal economist.

Freedom has, of course, a quite concrete and down-to-earth connotation to historians. Specialists in slave and serfdom societies quickly recognize sees that Sen’s "capabilities"—that full participation in community life from which the poor are excluded—map closely onto the disabilities of servitude. Sen's understanding of "poverty" is virtually serfdom without the strings. Perhaps then the historian can add some perspective to the common criticism that Sen gives too little weight to power relations and the role of law in maintaining and validating poverty.

In this paper I first sketch briefly and without frills or exegetical polemic what I take to be the gist of Sen’s theory. I then argue a case for the serfdom analogy. I note that the early medieval opposition was Potens/Pauper (not yet Dives/Pauper), since the "poor" were those subject to oppression by the powerful. I briefly examine the takeover of servitude by national laws and Marc Bloch's three (questionable) "signs of serfdom". I then ponder a few consequences of this insight for the study of medieval servitude, and offer a few modest suggestions as to lines of argument on the nature of medieval poverty. I end with some thoughts on the special case of famine and what this might suggest about the persistence of poverty in a Western world still dominated by Judeo-Christian attitudes toward charity and the equal worth of rich and poor.

 

“Mental Illness, Self-Violence, and Civil War”
Julie Singer, Assistant Professor of French, Washington University in Saint Louis
Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

Around the turn of the fifteenth century it might well have seemed to many French people that the world was going quite mad. King Charles VI's scarcely mentionable mental illness was soon mirrored at every level of social experience, from the irrational civil war through which the body politic tore itself apart, to reports of elevated suicide rates among the common people. Allusions to suicidal impulses and acts recur in an astonishing number of works composed in the first three decades of the fifteenth century: in sermons (Jean Gerson's Vivat rex), political pamphlets (the anonymous Songe véritable), mirrors for princes (Jacques Legrand's Livre des bonnes meurs), diaries and chronicles (by Michel Pintoin, Juvénal des Ursins, and theBourgeois de Paris), poetry and prosimetra (Alain Chartier's Livre de l'Espérance).

In these texts, self-violence is an act marked by political implications that far exceed individual mental health concerns. Indeed, rather than constituting a symptom or manifestation of a mental disability, suicidal acts are presented in early fifteenth-century French literature and chronicle as the cause of a disability of a different sort: a direct attack on a surprisingly corporeal body politic. Exploring the intersection of the physiological and the metaphorical realms, we will see how the rhetoric of suicide brings together discourses of bodily disability and political disunity.

 

“Able Bodies: Considerations of (Dis)ability in Anglo-Saxon England”
Christina Lee, Lecturer in Viking Studies, Faculty of Arts, Nottingham University
Disabilities and Abilities in the Middle Ages & the Renaissance: 2012-2013 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

Abstract:

The body is a useful instrument for medieval writers to charter desirable an undesirable traits. Physical features may be used as 'signs' so: how much can we rely on medieval writers when it comes to studying disability? Can they really tell us anything about attitudes? Also: how much do concepts connected with impairment create disabilities? Are differences made between congenital impairments and acquired illness? Some fine studies of medieval disability have been published of late, but there are still a number of questions that need consideration. In this paper I will examine how impairment compares with other 'inabilities', such as gender, age and status. I will look at literary texts but also at normative sources, such as laws and observations from material culture.

 


 

Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

 

“Cartography, Iconography, and Ethnography in Early Modern Portuguese Asia”
Jorge Flores, European University Institute, Florence
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

 

“Holy Sepulcher, Lunar Lost-and-Found”
Robert Hanning, Columbia University
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

 

“World Upon Worlds: The Waldseemuller Map of 1507”
Toby Lester, Independent Scholar
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream


“Britain, France and the Mediterranean: 1702-1713”
Nabil Matar, University of Minnesota
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

 

“Sea Charts, Sea Power and the Visual Language of Sixteenth Century Political Persuasion”
Richard Unger, University of British Columbia
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

 

“Mapping Magic: The Sites of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia”
Valerie Kivelson, University of Michigan
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

 

“The Saga-Steads of Iceland: A 21st-Century Pilgrimage”
Emily Lethbridge, University of Cambridge
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

 

“Policia and the Plaza: Utopia and Dystopia in the Colonial City”
Richard L. Kagan, Johns Hopkins University
Mapping Minds, Bodies, and Worlds: 2011-2012 CMRS Lecture Series

stream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0