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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 217: Medieval Entanglements between Humans and the Environment

Monday 3 July 2023, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Amanda Power, St Catherine's College, University of Oxford
Paper 217-aBuilding in Winchester: Entanglement, Materiality, and Opera manuum
(Language: English)
Christina M. Heckman, Department of English & Foreign Languages, Georgia Regents University
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Language and Literature - Old English, Language and Literature - Latin, Monasticism
Paper 217-bThe Environmental Impacts of the Late Medieval English Leather Network
(Language: English)
Erin Kurian, Department of History, University of Waterloo, Ontario
Index terms: Daily Life, Economics - Urban
Paper 217-cMeekness Entangled: The Boundaries between Meekness and the Environment
(Language: English)
Merridee Lee Bailey, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Index terms: Geography and Settlement Studies, Lay Piety, Mentalities, Religious Life

Paper -a:
Early medieval monastic rules promoted self-sufficiency, guaranteeing thorough entanglement with materiality. The more thoroughly monastic communities were established, the more buildings, crops, and livestock they required. They became 'entangled', to use Ian Hodder's term, with the material world they claimed not to value. Æthelwold of Winchester, for example, was known to work on building projects with his own hands, while the vitae of both Swithun and Æthelwold foreground the role of craftsmen (artifices) in the saints' pursuit of their opera. Along with other workers, the saints become entangled in materiality, engaging in creative, productive work to support the opus Dei.

Paper -b:
Tanners needed to work in partnership with fellow merchants to obtain the required raw materials to conduct their work. This required the cooperation of butchers, lime manufacturers, curriers, and others to produce and sell leather. While the impacts of the leather industry on the urban environment have been researched, studies have focused exclusively on the tanning facilities themselves. To understand the full impact of the leather industry on the medieval environment, the extensive network of suppliers must be considered. This paper, therefore, will outline the supply chain of the leather industry their overall impacts on the environments in which they are situated.

Paper -c:
Meekness was a virtue extolled throughout the Middle Ages, although it is now largely overlooked. The virtue of meekness was commended in sermons, anchoritic material, penitential handbooks, and lay narratives. As such, meekness had a clear relationship to the moral self. However, the entanglement between meekness and the self was more complex than it first appears. This paper charts how the virtue of meekness was entangled with the medieval environment in three different ways. Firstly, I explore how meekness was identified with the physical environment through the metaphor of valleys, skies, and trees. Secondly, I explore how meekness was entangled with non-human agents such as animals. Finally, I investigate diagrammatic schemas in illuminated manuscripts and on church walls to understand how meekness's qualities were visually depicted via physical objects like ladders and steps, common items in people's environments. The goal of the paper is to highlight where the edges of people's moral selves met and interacted with the living and non-living elements of the medieval environment.