Session Title

Hyle, Materia, Sylva, Subject Matter, Prime Matter, Woods

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Sarah Powrie

Organizer Affiliation

St. Thomas More College

Presider Name

Sara Ritchey

Presider Affiliation

Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette

Paper Title 1

"Hyle sive Materia": Rupert of Deutz on Matter, the Elements, and Chaos

Presenter 1 Name

Wanda Zemler-Cizewski

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Marquette Univ.

Paper Title 2

"Tractates in Stone": On the Origin of Matter

Presenter 2 Name

Nurit Golan

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Tel Aviv Univ.

Paper Title 3

"A Natura ad Vivum Effigiatum": The Artistic Agency of Nature in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Presenter 3 Name

Rebecca Zorach

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of Chicago

Paper Title 4

Sylvan Images: Augustine's Rhetoric of Unformed Potential

Presenter 4 Name

Sarah Powrie

Start Date

15-5-2015 3:30 PM

Session Location

Bernhard 159

Description

The panel proposes to generate an interdisciplinary conversation about philosophical and poetic expressions of "matter" in late ancient and medieval contexts. The confluence of literary and scientific conceptions of materiality have animated early modern scholarship for some time, with studies such as Stephen Fallon's Milton Among the Philosophers: Poetry and Materialism in Seventeenth-Century England, Jonathan Gil Harris's Untimely Matter in the Age of Shakespeare, and Jonathan Goldberg's The Seeds of Things. This panel seeks to stimulate conversations among specialists in literature, philosophy, art history, and the history of science, so as to explore fields of meaning generated by the historically influential keywords: "materia" and "sylva"

"Materia" and "Sylva" (Latin variants of the Greek "hyle," meaning "primary substance") are invoked to categorize the indescribable material preceding created form. Calcidius's description of "sylva" and "materia" in his Commentary on Plato's Timaeus played a seminal role in the medieval interpretation of Genesis and twelfth-century natural philosophy, as medieval commentators used Calcidius's terms to interpret the confused mass of darkness featured in the first verse of Genesis. "Materia" and "sylva" also refer to woods or timber, describing an uncharted geographic site or latent natural resource that might be harvested and transformed for human use. For instance, Virgil's account of early agriculture in the Georgics describes the sylvan wilderness as transformed into productive land with fruit-bearing crops. Such "sylvan" expressions contain ecocritical implications, signaling an instrumentalizing regard of the natural world. Finally both "sylva" and "materia" are rhetorical/ compositional terms, with "materia" referring to the subject of a text, and "sylva" signifying fragments of verse that the poet intends to refine and perfect. In the hands of medieval writers, the metaphysical, physical and poetic nuances of "sylva" and "materia"become conflated and elastic, as literary authors self-referentially describe the unformed "sylva" of their nascent poetic intuitions, as allegorized Natures explain their physical and literary "materia," as Genesis commentators compare the divine work of transforming matter to the carpenter's craft of shaping wood. Augustine, Bernardus Silvestris, Peter Abelard, Jean de Meun, and Dante all experiment with these various intonations of "materia" and "sylva." This panel aims to extend the discussion of sylvan materia so as to explore these philosophical and poetic expressions.

submitted by Sarah Powrie, St. Thomas More College

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May 15th, 3:30 PM

Hyle, Materia, Sylva, Subject Matter, Prime Matter, Woods

Bernhard 159

The panel proposes to generate an interdisciplinary conversation about philosophical and poetic expressions of "matter" in late ancient and medieval contexts. The confluence of literary and scientific conceptions of materiality have animated early modern scholarship for some time, with studies such as Stephen Fallon's Milton Among the Philosophers: Poetry and Materialism in Seventeenth-Century England, Jonathan Gil Harris's Untimely Matter in the Age of Shakespeare, and Jonathan Goldberg's The Seeds of Things. This panel seeks to stimulate conversations among specialists in literature, philosophy, art history, and the history of science, so as to explore fields of meaning generated by the historically influential keywords: "materia" and "sylva"

"Materia" and "Sylva" (Latin variants of the Greek "hyle," meaning "primary substance") are invoked to categorize the indescribable material preceding created form. Calcidius's description of "sylva" and "materia" in his Commentary on Plato's Timaeus played a seminal role in the medieval interpretation of Genesis and twelfth-century natural philosophy, as medieval commentators used Calcidius's terms to interpret the confused mass of darkness featured in the first verse of Genesis. "Materia" and "sylva" also refer to woods or timber, describing an uncharted geographic site or latent natural resource that might be harvested and transformed for human use. For instance, Virgil's account of early agriculture in the Georgics describes the sylvan wilderness as transformed into productive land with fruit-bearing crops. Such "sylvan" expressions contain ecocritical implications, signaling an instrumentalizing regard of the natural world. Finally both "sylva" and "materia" are rhetorical/ compositional terms, with "materia" referring to the subject of a text, and "sylva" signifying fragments of verse that the poet intends to refine and perfect. In the hands of medieval writers, the metaphysical, physical and poetic nuances of "sylva" and "materia"become conflated and elastic, as literary authors self-referentially describe the unformed "sylva" of their nascent poetic intuitions, as allegorized Natures explain their physical and literary "materia," as Genesis commentators compare the divine work of transforming matter to the carpenter's craft of shaping wood. Augustine, Bernardus Silvestris, Peter Abelard, Jean de Meun, and Dante all experiment with these various intonations of "materia" and "sylva." This panel aims to extend the discussion of sylvan materia so as to explore these philosophical and poetic expressions.

submitted by Sarah Powrie, St. Thomas More College