Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Lament for Lost Solitude?
Monastic Devotion Cultivated in the Secular Landscape
Lauren Mancia, Brooklyn College CUNY
November 10 2017
7:30pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave (btw 34th and 35th Streets) 
in the English Studies Conference Room (4406)
John of Fécamp, the eleventh-century abbot of the Norman monastery of Fécamp, has been called "the greatest spiritual writer in the epoch before Saint Bernard"; his devotional work the Confessio Theologica was a text prescribing the most emotionally extreme devotional practices known to his particular monastic world. And yet, Abbot John also acknowledged that there were limited benefits to being wholly absorbed in the "cloister of the soul"; in fact, to John, the world outside of the monastery was surprisingly useful to a monk's religious cultivation. In this talk, I will show how John's political and economic actions in the world beyond the cloister were at their core pastoral, ultimately serving to bolster contemplative and devotional feeling in both others and himself. Historians analyzing important abbots have often interpreted abbatial engagement with the world in a black-and-white way, either as a task despised by brilliant spiritual abbots "longing for the lost solitude" of the monastery, or a task revealing of the cunning minds of abbots who were actually political lords in their hearts. In this talk, I will paint a more nuanced picture, showing how John's worldly, pastoral actions, though seemingly far from prayerful, were actually directed towards his contemplative prescriptions and his desire to be 'awake' to proper devotional emotion.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Medieval Fictionality
Oct 20 2017
7:30 pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave (btw 34th and 35th Streets) 
in the English Studies Conference Room (4406)

Inquiry into “medieval fictionality” foregrounds the limits of two dominant approaches to studying fictionality today – that of a “universalist” camp, which understands fiction to be almost co-extensive with the human, and, contrarily, that of a “modernist” camp, which yokes fiction’s emergence to the rise of the novel. This talk argues that fiction cannot be bound to the semantics of the realist novel, even as I insist on the historical precision that such periodizing arguments often marshal. I show that the historiography of fiction remains caught in the grand récit of the secularization thesis, and against this I argue for the needfulness, and difficulty, of a comparative study of fiction. One way that medievalists might contribute to such study is through the corpus of “medieval literary theory” – but, though I attend to this body of thought, my own approach is different. Medieval practices of fiction-writing, especially in the vernacular, often developed at a remove from their theorization. Building on the claims of Nicolette Zeeman’s 2007 essay “Imaginative Theory,” I explore how medieval texts themselves disposed their metaphysical, epistemic, institutional, and formal resources to cut distinctions between different modes of reference, to fashion distinctive and immanent fictionalities.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Morgan Library Tour
Magnificent Gems
Friday, October 6
6pm
Morgan Library
225 Madison Ave, Manhattan

This year’s Morgan Library visit will be on Friday, October 6th, at 6pm, for the Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings show. A docent will be leading the tour. The Morgan’s website explains:

Among the exhibition highlights will be the ninth-century Lindau Gospels, one of the two finest Carolingian jeweled bindings in the world, and the thirteenth-century Berthold Sacramentary, the most luxurious German manuscript of its time.

While the Morgan is waiving its tour fee for us, they are charging us $11 a person this time. The Medieval Club can cover costs for graduate students, but otherwise, we are asking you please to reimburse the club when you arrive for the tour. A check made out to the New York Medieval Club would be best.

Write to me to the President of the NY Medieval Club, Karl Steel, at ksteel@brooklyn.cuny.edu, if you are planning to attend, ideally by September 12th, as the Morgan is asking the Medieval Club to place a deposit on the tour by then. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"The Algebra of Atonement"
Valerie Allen, John Jay College, CUNY
Friday, May 5th
7:30pm
Room 9204
CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave, between 34th and 35th)

Persian mathematician al-Khwarizmi’s Algebra (c.830) and St. Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo, (c.1098) have just about nothing in common. The latter was composed some fifty years prior to the earliest translation into Latin of the former, and the two texts address very different topics: calculation of business transactions on the one hand and, on the other, Christian salvation. Yet algebra developed in part out of the need to divide estates according to Islamic law and was motivated by the need to satisfy entitlement and debt. Understood thus, it addresses concerns not dissimilar to the problem Anselm confronts of how to make satisfaction of the debt owed God. In this talk I connect the texts as two methods for achieving equivalence between incommensurables. I consider what models of equality inform both al-Khwarizmi’s algebraic and Anselm’s salvation equations, and what theological implications follow from Anselm's logical method.

Friday, February 24, 2017


End Time(s) in Medieval Performance
Futurity and Absence
Jill Stevenson, Marymount Manhattan College
March 3, 2017
7:30
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave (btw 34th and 35th Streets) 
in the English Studies Conference Room (4406)