Recycling, Revision, and Relocation in the Middle Ages

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lamont Forum Room, Lamont Library, Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138

Contemporary society is not the first to grapple with how to best dispose of and/or benefit from objects, opinions and knowledge that come from distant places or times. The medieval circulation of texts, objects, and ideas has received renewed scholarly attention in recent years; our goal is to continue the lively, ongoing scholarly conversation about the movement and/or circulation of texts, objects, and ideas throughout the Middle Ages.

The papers engage with a wide range of languages, including Latin and vernaculars; research topics, including trade routes, social network analysis, manuscript studies, and textual studies; and disciplines, including history of art, history, literature, and digital humanities.

Some of the questions addressed by our presenters include: what was the perceived utility of revision and reuse – i.e., what could new versions and contexts accomplish that old ones could not?  What role did time and/or physical location play in the reception and meaning of events or artifacts?Why and how did medieval works endure and remain relevant in cultural contexts far removed from those in which they first existed? What sociocultural factors account for the popularity of objects and texts in particular places at particular times? Are there hitherto unseen patterns in terms of where reuse occurs and of what?

Co-sponsored by the Committee for Medieval Studies, the Department of English, the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures, the Medieval Studies Interdisciplinary Graduate Workshop, and the Harvard Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities. 

Schedule of Events

8:30—9:00 Coffee and Registration
9:00—9:15 Opening Remarks, Joseph Shack
9:15—10:15 Keynote: Jan Ziolkowski: "The Juggler of Notre Dame" and the Making of Medieval Modernity


10:15—10:30 Morning Coffee Break

10:30—12:30 Panel 1: Recycling

  • Jennifer Purtle (University of Toronto), Salvaging Meaning in Sino-Mongol Quanzhou, ca. 1276-1350
  • Meredyth Winter (Harvard University), The Truth of Materials: A Shape-Shifting Silk of the late Abbasid Period
  • Andrés Wilson (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), King Artus and the Recycling of the Rabbinic Tradition: Lancelot, Guenevere, and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem(?)
  • Hannah Weaver (Harvard University), Miscellaneous Minor Manuscripts (Houghton MS Fr. 24.2)

12:30—1:30 Lunch

1:30—2:45 Panel 2: Revision

  • Abigail Balbale (Bard College), The Material Culture of Affiliation across Religious Lines in Medieval Iberia
  • Racha Kirakosian (Harvard University), Reimagining the Visionary's Account. The German Reception of Gertrude the Great
  • Ryan Lynch (Columbus State University), Writing with Purpose: Reuse, Reorganization, and Reshaping Historical Material in the Works of al - Balādhurī

2:45—3:00 Afternoon Coffee Break

3:00—4:30 Panel 3: Relocation

  • Arthur Bahr (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Some Temporal Problems with Patience
  • Kelsey Eldridge (Harvard University), Imitation and Appropriation in Theodoric’s Ravenna
  • Zachary Domach (Columbia University), Recycling Wisdom: The Use and Reuse of a Proverbial Idea in the Middle Ages

4:30—5:15 Response: Karen Overbey (Tufts University)

5:15—6:15 Reception