33 episodes

Each year, the Center hosts a series of lectures by visiting scholars on an annual theme, with a culminating "public" lecture in the spring that is aimed towards a general audience. Speakers represent a broad range of academic fields of study and historical periods.

CMRS Lecture Series The Ohio State University

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    • 4.3, 11 Ratings

Each year, the Center hosts a series of lectures by visiting scholars on an annual theme, with a culminating "public" lecture in the spring that is aimed towards a general audience. Speakers represent a broad range of academic fields of study and historical periods.

    Jane Burns - Mermaids and Material Culture: Looking Eastward from Medieval France

    Jane Burns - Mermaids and Material Culture: Looking Eastward from Medieval France

    Mélusine, a fourteenth-century snake-tailed woman who can fly, derives in part from medieval narrative traditions of fairies and mermaids. It is her excessive wealth, however, that strikes “wonder” and fear into onlookers at the court in Poitou. How might we draw on items of material culture used to characterize ​Mélusine’s lavish wedding celebration to help understand this ornately clad and bejeweled courtly woman in a more global context?

    • 1 hr 4 min
    Joel Kaye, Why a History of Balance?

    Joel Kaye, Why a History of Balance?

    Virtually every discourse in the medieval period was constructed around the ideal of balance. In my recent book, A History of Balance, 1250-1375, published this past spring by Cambridge Press, I show that preoccupations with balance lay at the core of medieval economic thought, medical theory, political thought, and natural philosophy, but one could apply the same analytic focus on balance to a host of other disciplines. And yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the concern with balance (or perhaps because of its utter ubiquity), it was almost never the subject of discussion in itself in the medieval period. For this reason modern historians, too, have failed both to recognize balance as a subject crucial to the history of ideas, or to imagine it as having a history – as changing in form over historical time. In my presentation, I will argue that an analysis of the forms of balance that were assumed and applied in the medieval period – and, in particular, an analysis of the change in the modeling of balance that occurred between 1280 and 1360 - are crucial both to the opening up of striking new vistas of imaginative and speculative possibility within scholasticism and to the scholarly comprehension of this many-faceted intellectual development.

    • 29 min
    Fiona Somerset Part I, 'In Cuntrey Hit is a Comune Speche': Vernacular Legal Theory in Mum and the Sothsegger [Silence and the Truthteller]

    Fiona Somerset Part I, 'In Cuntrey Hit is a Comune Speche': Vernacular Legal Theory in Mum and the Sothsegger [Silence and the Truthteller]

    It is not a new insight that what is probably the early fifteenth century’s most sustained and thoughtful response to Piers Plowman, the alliterative, allegorical dream vision Mum and the Sothsegger, is also a sophisticated critique of political corruption in contemporary England. What has not yet been addressed among studies of the poem’s political allegory and use of personification, though, is the extent to which its critique hinges upon a specific medieval legal idea whose implications continue to haunt us even up to the present day: that one person may be held responsible for (and even punished for) another’s sin because he or she has consented to it by remaining silent. Crucially, the poem insists (as in my title) that this theory is common knowledge, the property of all. My current book project focuses on the history of this idea, and its deployment in allegorical poetry and rhetorical prose between the late twelfth and mid fifteenth centuries. In my paper at OSU I’ll show what this broader perspective can contribute to our reading of Mum and the Sothsegger.

    • 40 min
    • video
    Jeremy Smith, "Music, Death, and 'Uncomfortable Time': William Byrd’s O that most rare breast and Shakespeare’s "Excellent Conceited Tragedy" of Romeo and Juliet"

    Jeremy Smith, "Music, Death, and 'Uncomfortable Time': William Byrd’s O that most rare breast and Shakespeare’s "Excellent Conceited Tragedy" of Romeo and Juliet"

    Arguably few playgoers today are aware that Act 4 of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet ends with musicians engaging in badinage with a clown. Treated generally as superfluous or insignificant, the Peter and the Musicians scene is now cut more often than not. Yet Shakespeare must have had some larger dramatic purpose for it in mind, as the same musicians appear as spectators in the preceding "false lamentations" scene, where key characters mistakenly mourn Juliet's putative death. Too dramatically crucial to obliterate, this section too has nonetheless been redacted heavily and roundly criticized over the years, usually for the effusive, stilted, and formalized nature of its rhetoric. From an interdisciplinary perspective this paper reexamines these scenes as well as other moments in the play that feature musical allusions. It posits that Shakespeare used the musicians and other characters he thrust unawares into the act of "false lamentation" to portray the rhetorical trope of catachresis and that his model was O that most rare breast, a polyphonic song by the Elizabethan composer William Byrd. After purportedly composing O that for the funeral of the famous military hero and English sonneteer Sir Philip Sidney, Byrd used literary methods of sequential arrangement to develop an elaborate interdisciplinary tribute to his subject in his first published collection of English texted music. It was Byrd's venture into literary structures, via the rhetorical method of eristic imitation, I argue, that drew Shakespeare toward the song as he developed his hitherto unnoticed catachrestic conceit in Act 4 scene 5.

    Romeo and Juliet has long been associated with music. Byrd was the premier musician of Shakespeare's day and recent studies of Elizabethan rhetoric have been markedly interdisciplinary. This paper, nonetheless, will be the first to contend that Byrd and Shakespeare had any direct influence on one another. Shakespeare, it has long been argued, was so focused on the "lowly" popular ballad and the "lofty" theories of musica mundana that he took little interest in Byrd's specialty in "pricksong" (art song). Byrd's reputation, in turn, has long suffered from the idea that he was "unliterary." Recent studies, however, point a way out of this quagmire. Students of the so-called New Rhetoric have exposed ways in which Byrd might have approached the literature of his time that have not been considered or have been disregarded as Music and Shakespeare revisionists Joseph M. Ortiz, Erin Minear, and Andrew Mattison have opened new paths for interaction across disciplines in their findings that Shakespeare might "silence ... music" or provide "contexts that pull songs away from their musical status." From an interdisciplinary perspective gleaned from these approaches it will be shown not only that the scenes in Romeo and Juliet involving music were carefully integrated into the dramatic action, but also that they were integral to one of the play's larger purposes, which was to encourage an end to the enmity surrounding religious divisions of the time.

    • 1 hr 4 min
    • video
    Robert Henke, "Shakespeare and the Commedia dell' Arte"

    Robert Henke, "Shakespeare and the Commedia dell' Arte"

    Especially if one views the “commedia dell’arte” in its relationship to Italian scripted comedy of the day, Shakespeare thoroughly absorbed the Italian system of masks. Despite the fact that Italian professional actors, who scandalously had women actually play female roles, abruptly stopped visiting England in 1578, a professional interest in the Arte emerges in London theater of the early and mid 1590s, as Shakespeare explicitly deploys versions of Pantalone, the Dottore, the Capitano, and the Zanni in plays such as The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and the Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare’s interest in foolish old men, loquacious pedants, braggart soldiers, and plot-controlling servants seems to have waned in his mature comedies, but resurfaces in his tragedies, in figures such as Polonius, and in the character system of Othello. One of the more persuasive “sources” for The Tempest is the Arte subgenre of “magical pastoral”: a set of Italian scenarios representing a magician on an island populated by spirits and shepherds who causes a group of travelers to shipwreck.

    • 59 min
    Tom Burman (Tennessee); Ryan Szpiech (Michigan), “The Polemics and Projects of Ramon Martí O.P.: Debating the Legacy of Medieval Iberia's Greatest Linguist”

    Tom Burman (Tennessee); Ryan Szpiech (Michigan), “The Polemics and Projects of Ramon Martí O.P.: Debating the Legacy of Medieval Iberia's Greatest Linguist”

    The Catalan Dominican Ramon Martí (d. after 1284) was the most learned polemical author of the later Middle Ages. He was part of the thirteenth-century Dominican interest in missionizing and language learning in Aragon under the auspices of Ramon of Penyafort, interest that led to the famous Disputation of Barcelona in 1263 between Friar Paul Christiani and the great Rabbi of Girona, Moses ben Nahman (Nahmanides).Following in the wake of this debate, Martí developed many of its key arguments and strategies. In order to do so, Martí learned Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic and probably taught one or all of these languages to fellow Dominicans as well. His writing (two polemical works against Islam and two more against Judaism, including the massive Pugio fidei, or "Dagger of Faith" from 1278) makes ample use of original source material in these three Semitic languages, and cites and translates widely from Jewish and Muslim religious and philosophical sources. Despite the increasing attention that Martí's work has received in recent years, scholars have only scratched the surface of his abundant and complex corpus of writings, and much work (both editorial and interpretive) remains to be done in assessing Martí's important role in Christian relations with Jews and Muslims in Iberia as well as in Christian intellectual history more generally. These two talks will consider a few dimensions of Martí's work in detail, demonstrating Martí's profound importance for scholars of the Middle Ages in general, but especially for those interested in language learning in the later Middle Ages and Christian engagement with other faiths in this period.

    • 1 hr 11 min

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