Session Title

The Secret Life of Medieval Plants

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Rob Wakeman, Danielle Allor

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Maryland, Rutgers Univ.

Presider Name

Rob Wakeman

Paper Title 1

Human-Plant Assemblages in the Cornish Ordinalia Plays

Presenter 1 Name

Robert W. Barrett, Jr.

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Paper Title 2

What Makes the Cut: Selection and Omission in the Tree Catalog

Presenter 2 Name

Danielle Allor

Paper Title 3

The Secret Life of Dead Plants

Presenter 3 Name

Haylie Swenson

Presenter 3 Affiliation

George Washington Univ.

Paper Title 4

"Ripeness is all": Plants, Oedipal Myths, and King Lear

Presenter 4 Name

Vin Nardizzi

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Univ. of British Columbia

Start Date

15-5-2015 10:00 AM

Session Location

Bernhard 106

Description

Although plants are often considered the baseline form of life (i.e., Aristotle's vegetal soul) against which 'higher' forms of life are measured, and plants are often relegated to mere 'environment' or 'setting' (e.g., woodland, pasture, wold, heath) on which writers and artists stage the actions of more animate beings, this panel takes up a 'plant's eye view' of the Middle Ages. We invite papers that push back on our inherited modern idea of vegetal life, what Matthew Hall calls the 'Platonic-Aristotelian backgrounding of plants.' Rather than viewing plants as passive backdrop or as sessile, stable objects, this panel will bring together papers that examine how medieval writers, artists, thinkers, and theologians thought with and became entangled in the secret life of plants. From barnacle trees that grow geese in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the botanical empircism of medieval herbals in the tradition of Aristotle and Theophrastus to the exotic fantastical plants of John Mandeville's travels and Cain's spurned vegetable sacrifice in the Towneley Mactatio Abel –plants demand attention in medieval literature. How do plants – whether mythical, symbolic, or real - flourish in the medieval period? As forms of life that can shed parts of themselves without compromising the core identity of the plant, how do plants influence our thinking about sacrifice and regeneration? What do old-growth vines, hoary yews, ancient olive trees, and other plants that live for thousands of years teach humans about time, eternal life, and deep roots? How do plants intoxicate, ensnare, and provoke desire in humans and other animals - and what is it that they desire from us? What do technologies of cultivation such as grafting and coppicing reveal about hybridity or the location of identity?

Rob Wakeman

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
May 15th, 10:00 AM

The Secret Life of Medieval Plants

Bernhard 106

Although plants are often considered the baseline form of life (i.e., Aristotle's vegetal soul) against which 'higher' forms of life are measured, and plants are often relegated to mere 'environment' or 'setting' (e.g., woodland, pasture, wold, heath) on which writers and artists stage the actions of more animate beings, this panel takes up a 'plant's eye view' of the Middle Ages. We invite papers that push back on our inherited modern idea of vegetal life, what Matthew Hall calls the 'Platonic-Aristotelian backgrounding of plants.' Rather than viewing plants as passive backdrop or as sessile, stable objects, this panel will bring together papers that examine how medieval writers, artists, thinkers, and theologians thought with and became entangled in the secret life of plants. From barnacle trees that grow geese in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the botanical empircism of medieval herbals in the tradition of Aristotle and Theophrastus to the exotic fantastical plants of John Mandeville's travels and Cain's spurned vegetable sacrifice in the Towneley Mactatio Abel –plants demand attention in medieval literature. How do plants – whether mythical, symbolic, or real - flourish in the medieval period? As forms of life that can shed parts of themselves without compromising the core identity of the plant, how do plants influence our thinking about sacrifice and regeneration? What do old-growth vines, hoary yews, ancient olive trees, and other plants that live for thousands of years teach humans about time, eternal life, and deep roots? How do plants intoxicate, ensnare, and provoke desire in humans and other animals - and what is it that they desire from us? What do technologies of cultivation such as grafting and coppicing reveal about hybridity or the location of identity?

Rob Wakeman