Session Title

Speculatio, Medieval and Modern

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Material Collective

Organizer Name

Beate Fricke, Niklaus Largier

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of California-Berkeley, Univ. of California-Berkeley

Presider Name

Maggie M. Williams

Presider Affiliation

William Paterson Univ.

Paper Title 1

A Rose by Any Other Name: Speculating about the Rose Window

Presenter 1 Name

Elizabeth Carson Pastan

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Emory Univ.

Paper Title 2

Resisting Speculation/Embracing Speculation

Presenter 2 Name

Jennifer Borland

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Oklahoma State Univ.

Paper Title 3

Medieval Tupperware

Presenter 3 Name

Ittai Weinryb

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Bard Graduate Center

Start Date

12-5-2016 10:00 AM

Session Location

Schneider 1140

Description

Medievalists regularly deal with fragmented or partially recorded material evidence, e.g., in the case of a mosaic or a manuscript where some parts are still visible and others are lost and hard to reconstruct. The published results of our research often reassemble such fragmentary evidence and provide only the convincing, conclusive arguments. We rarely elaborate further on the dead ends, the ambivalence of the evidence and the gaps in our knowledge, like missing or lost written records from archives. Thus, speculation comes into play in multiple ways and occurs on several levels – we imagine what the missing pieces might have been, we try to consider lost connections between bits of “hard evidence,” we speculate about links among written, oral, visual, and material cultures and about networks in various parts of the medieval world. In doing so, our work often mirrors our own contemporary interests and agendas.

This panel takes the medieval connotations of “speculatio” (exploration, observation, spying out - contemplation, rethinking, speculation) seriously and brings light to the moments of decision-making in reading partial evidence, in interpreting ambivalence in the meaning of objects from the past, and in drawing conclusions from a scattered set of clues or contradictory materialities. The session highlights the recent rediscovery of the concept of speculation as it is articulated in the desire of “speculative realism” to produce a “wager on the possible returns from a renewed attention to reality itself” and to formulate a new program of discovery. Speakers will consider the relationship between such contemporary approaches and medieval notions of “speculatio” as a negotiation of the impossibility to know the absolute or the divine. Seen as a practice both of thought and of the production of artifacts, speculation can thus be seen a specific juncture where medieval culture (art, literature, sciences) and modern desires for and forms of understanding meet.

Beate Fricke , Niklaus Largier

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May 12th, 10:00 AM

Speculatio, Medieval and Modern

Schneider 1140

Medievalists regularly deal with fragmented or partially recorded material evidence, e.g., in the case of a mosaic or a manuscript where some parts are still visible and others are lost and hard to reconstruct. The published results of our research often reassemble such fragmentary evidence and provide only the convincing, conclusive arguments. We rarely elaborate further on the dead ends, the ambivalence of the evidence and the gaps in our knowledge, like missing or lost written records from archives. Thus, speculation comes into play in multiple ways and occurs on several levels – we imagine what the missing pieces might have been, we try to consider lost connections between bits of “hard evidence,” we speculate about links among written, oral, visual, and material cultures and about networks in various parts of the medieval world. In doing so, our work often mirrors our own contemporary interests and agendas.

This panel takes the medieval connotations of “speculatio” (exploration, observation, spying out - contemplation, rethinking, speculation) seriously and brings light to the moments of decision-making in reading partial evidence, in interpreting ambivalence in the meaning of objects from the past, and in drawing conclusions from a scattered set of clues or contradictory materialities. The session highlights the recent rediscovery of the concept of speculation as it is articulated in the desire of “speculative realism” to produce a “wager on the possible returns from a renewed attention to reality itself” and to formulate a new program of discovery. Speakers will consider the relationship between such contemporary approaches and medieval notions of “speculatio” as a negotiation of the impossibility to know the absolute or the divine. Seen as a practice both of thought and of the production of artifacts, speculation can thus be seen a specific juncture where medieval culture (art, literature, sciences) and modern desires for and forms of understanding meet.

Beate Fricke , Niklaus Largier