IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 1: Keynote Lectures 2008: What Was the Natural World in Medieval Europe? (Language: English) Nature and Culture, Culture and Nature in the Middle Ages and in Medieval Studies (Language: English)

Monday 7 July 2008, 09.00-10.30

Sponsor:Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge
Introduction:Brigitte Resl, School of Histories, Languages & Cultures, University of Liverpool
Speakers:Richard C. Hoffmann, Department of History, York University, Toronto, Ontario
Oliver Rackham, Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Different to previous years there will be no tickets for the event. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment (the room will open 15 minutes before the beginning of the lecture). In addition to the lecture there will be a video relay in the Headingley Room where the same rule applies.

Abstract: Nature and Culture, Culture and Nature in the Middle Ages and in Medieval Studies (Richard C. Hoffman)

What is ‘The Natural World’ of the Middle Ages? Had medieval civilization a gap between evident human experience and work in the realm of natural causality and recorded human thought about ‘Nature’ and the ‘natural’ wider than prevails in modern or other societies? How would such a disconnect affect the practice of medieval studies? Or have we more a communications gap between two sorts of present-day scholars? The lecture contrasts present-day efforts to recapture what medieval texts and their creators called ‘natural’ with those trying to reconstruct from the world of medieval Europe phenomena that a modern sensibility assigns to the category of Nature. Anthropologists who distinguish between emic (culturally specific) and etic (external observers’) approaches to a cultural situation argue that the two perspectives are necessarily complementary for holistic understanding. In practice, however, divergent approaches have made Medieval Studies, seen collectively, very much a multidisciplinary set of endeavours, and very rarely interdisciplinary, even on so tailor-made a theme as ‘The Natural World’. What then will it take effectively to study the natural world of and in the Middle Ages? Several methodological considerations are proposed, followed by exemplary topics for mutually attentive respectful collaboration, all meant to engage the initial question of experience of Nature and thinking about Nature in medieval culture.