Session Title

Quantum Medievalisms (A Roundtable)

Sponsoring Organization(s)

postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies

Organizer Name

Eileen Joy

Organizer Affiliation

BABEL Working Group

Presider Name

Angela R. Bennett Segler

Presider Affiliation

New York Univ.

Paper Title 1

Schroedinger's Woman

Presenter 1 Name

Tara Mendola

Presenter 1 Affiliation

New York Univ.

Paper Title 2

The Piers Plowman Uncertainty Principle

Presenter 2 Name

James Eric Ensley

Presenter 2 Affiliation

North Carolina State Univ.

Paper Title 3

Bedetimematter

Presenter 3 Name

Christopher Roman

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Kent State Univ.-Tuscarawas

Paper Title 4

Quantum Memory and Medieval Poetics of Forgetting

Presenter 4 Name

Jenny Boyar

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Univ. of Rochester

Paper Title 5

Quantum Queerness

Presenter 5 Name

Karma Lochrie

Presenter 5 Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-Bloomington

Start Date

15-5-2015 10:00 AM

Session Location

Bernhard 158

Description

This panel uses a direct parallel with Quantum Physics to prompt interrogations of basic structures of figuring matter and temporality within scholarship of the Middle Ages. As the name suggests, the idea has a dual legacy. In classical Latin, “quantum” is the accusative form of the adjective “quantus,” usually paired with “tantus” to indicate questions of what size, how much, or magnitude of greatness. In its adverbial counterpart, “quantum” designated a comparison of quantity: “as far as,” “as much as,” “as great as.” Even from the Patristic writers, though, we find that “quantum” has become a noun that is no longer a comparison or a description of quantities, but a stand-in for quantity itself. In contemporary culture, the word “quantum,” carries with it the connotations of modern physics that, beginning with Einstein and Planck, define basic units of light and energy (respectively) as “quanta.” Quantum physics deals primarily with the level of the atomic and subatomic nature of all matter, at which levels the classical distinctions between matter and energy, wave and particle collapse completely. All things—light, energy and matter—are simultaneously waves and particles, and due to Bohr’s principle of complementarity it is the observer who intervenes via her scientific apparatus and determines what she is observing. One of the ramifications of Bohr’s interpretation is the idea of quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement means that all elements of a system are simultaneously affected as the system is affected. As those elements disperse—an inevitability according to the laws of thermodynamics—the system itself does not disassemble but becomes diffuse. Action upon the system will still simultaneously affect every iota of the system, even if those elements are light years apart.

This panel will comprise papers that not only consider the quantum nature of medieval philosophy and natural philosophy (science), but also the ways in which the implications of quantum physics may necessitate a re-reading of the temporality of the Middle Ages themselves. If time is relative, action at a distance (spatial or temporal) is simultaneous, and all possibilities occur simultaneously, how does that affect the way we read our own constitution of medieval phenomena? If we reject classical causality, what do the terms “premodern,” “modern,” “postmodern,” and Latour’s “nonmodern” even mean? In what ways are we entangled with the Middle Ages, physically and philosophically? Ultimately, the discussants will raise questions about our relationship to the past, to history, and to tradition based upon our understanding of the most fundamental units of matter, and the panel also serves as a prelude to a special issue of postmedieval on "quantum medievalisms" to be published in 2017.

Eileen A. Joy

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May 15th, 10:00 AM

Quantum Medievalisms (A Roundtable)

Bernhard 158

This panel uses a direct parallel with Quantum Physics to prompt interrogations of basic structures of figuring matter and temporality within scholarship of the Middle Ages. As the name suggests, the idea has a dual legacy. In classical Latin, “quantum” is the accusative form of the adjective “quantus,” usually paired with “tantus” to indicate questions of what size, how much, or magnitude of greatness. In its adverbial counterpart, “quantum” designated a comparison of quantity: “as far as,” “as much as,” “as great as.” Even from the Patristic writers, though, we find that “quantum” has become a noun that is no longer a comparison or a description of quantities, but a stand-in for quantity itself. In contemporary culture, the word “quantum,” carries with it the connotations of modern physics that, beginning with Einstein and Planck, define basic units of light and energy (respectively) as “quanta.” Quantum physics deals primarily with the level of the atomic and subatomic nature of all matter, at which levels the classical distinctions between matter and energy, wave and particle collapse completely. All things—light, energy and matter—are simultaneously waves and particles, and due to Bohr’s principle of complementarity it is the observer who intervenes via her scientific apparatus and determines what she is observing. One of the ramifications of Bohr’s interpretation is the idea of quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement means that all elements of a system are simultaneously affected as the system is affected. As those elements disperse—an inevitability according to the laws of thermodynamics—the system itself does not disassemble but becomes diffuse. Action upon the system will still simultaneously affect every iota of the system, even if those elements are light years apart.

This panel will comprise papers that not only consider the quantum nature of medieval philosophy and natural philosophy (science), but also the ways in which the implications of quantum physics may necessitate a re-reading of the temporality of the Middle Ages themselves. If time is relative, action at a distance (spatial or temporal) is simultaneous, and all possibilities occur simultaneously, how does that affect the way we read our own constitution of medieval phenomena? If we reject classical causality, what do the terms “premodern,” “modern,” “postmodern,” and Latour’s “nonmodern” even mean? In what ways are we entangled with the Middle Ages, physically and philosophically? Ultimately, the discussants will raise questions about our relationship to the past, to history, and to tradition based upon our understanding of the most fundamental units of matter, and the panel also serves as a prelude to a special issue of postmedieval on "quantum medievalisms" to be published in 2017.

Eileen A. Joy