2016-2017 Events Calendar


November 8, 2017 – January 14, 2018, Kohler Art Library, Conrad Elvehjem Building: Science and Nature, Religion and Wonder in Medieval Books. The current exhibition at the Kohler Art Library features a selection of medieval manuscript facsimiles exploring the many ways scientific notions and religious doctrine intertwined to produce a wondrous world view, circa late antiquity through the early 16th century.

Curated by Prof. Thomas Dale and students in Art History 415: Image and Text in Medieval Manuscripts, the show complements the Center for the Humanities Borghesi-Mellon workshop: Science, Nature, and Wonder in the Middle Ages, a series of events that seeks to “challenge modern understandings of science by investigating new approaches to the medieval conception of scientia—“knowledge”—which included not only sciences such as optics, geometry, medicine, anatomy, but also a wider range of ways of knowing, visualizing, representing and relating to the natural world, including theology and religious practice.”

Participating students include Jessica Cochran, Angli Deng, Benjamin Dickel, Aniello di Iorio, Özlem Eren, Mateusz Ferens, Mya Frieze, Abrahm Guthrie-Potter, Tanya Kolarik, Lucas Pointon, Laura Schmidt, Thomas Schwiegert, and Fernando Vazquez.

Friday, February 9, 2018: "Disabled Touch in the Middle Ages." Public Lecture by Edward Wheatley (Dept. of English, Loyola University, Chicago), Department of Art History, Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L150, 4:00. Borghesi-Mellon Workshop on Science, Nature, and Wonder in the Middle Ages. This lecture will examine aspects of the science of touch and the judicial, cultural, and religious significance of th edisabling of its synecdochic representatiive, the hand.  Drawing from such works as On the Property of Things and Middle English Fyve Wittes, the lecture will analyze the intersection of science and spirituality, with a special focus on disabling miracles of chastisement in which sinners lose the use of their hands; the most signifcant of these miracles were associated with the Virgin Mary, and were frequently represented in manuscript illuminations, stained glass, and other visual arts. Workshop "The Religious Model of Disability" at 12:00 in Art History Department, Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, Room 150. RSVP for reading to tedale@wisc.edu

Friday, February 23, 2018: Professor Vinay Dharwadker (Comparative Literature, UW-Madison) will lead a seminar discussion - "Shakuntala: Comparison and Critical Revaluation in the Twenty-first Century." The seminar will be held 3-4pm in 206 Ingraham Hall. Advance materials for this event may be obtained by emailing info@southasia.wisc.edu

Saturday, February 24, 2018: GAMS Symposium - The Graduate Association of Medieval Studies (GAMS) is inviting all those interested in issues of race, alterity, and appropriation for their symposium on "Medievalisms and White Nationalisms." The Symposium begins at 10am in Old Madison B (Third Floor), Memorial Union.

Saturday, February 24, 2018: Mad Lit Conference - The pleanary address will be given by our own Leah Pope Parker (University of Wisconsin - Madison) on "Light of the Everlasting Life: Disability, Xenophobia, and Anglo-Saxon Apocalypticism." THe address will take place at 2:15pm in Old Madison B (Third Floor), Memorial Union.

Friday, March 2, 2018: GEMSS Call for Papers Deadline Extended - The Graduate Early Modern Student Society (GEMSS) is looking for participants to present at their symposium, "(Mis)appropriating the Past: the Uses and Abuses of History" on April 27th, 2018. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018: Borghesi-Mellon Workshop Proposal Due  

Friday, April 6 - Saturday, April 7, 2018: Graduate Association of Medieval Studies 5th Annual Colloquium, "Land, Law, and Literature"            Memorial Union                                                                                                   Registration at 9am, Panels at 10am and 2pm, Lunch Workshops at 12pm, and Keynotes at 4pm.                                                                                               Friday Keynote: Scott Thompson Smith (Penn State University) "Artful Arrangement: Dispute Narrative and Commemorative Verse in the Libellus Æthelwoldi Episcopi"                                                                              Saturday Keynote: Thomas J. McSweeney (The College of William and Mary) "Roman Law and Royal Justices"

Friday, April 20, 2018: "Insular origin legends in comparative study (ASE + Ireland + Wales + Picts)." Public Lecture by Prof. Lindy Brady (Dept. of English, University of Mississippi),  Department of English, Helen C. White Hall, Room 7191: 4:00 p.m.  Sponsored by the Anonymous Fund and the Department of English.  There will also be a workshop for graduate students earlier (11:00AM-12:30 PM, Helen C. White Hall, 7190) on "borders/boundaries" (with focus in Old English but in a broader context).

Friday, April 27, 2018: "Art, Nature, Fabrication." Public Lecture by Prof. Claudia Swan (Dept. of Art History, Northwestern University), Department of Art History, Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L150, 4:00 p.m.  Borghesi Mellon Workshop on Science, Nature, and Wonder in the Middle Ages.  Co-Sponsored by the Department of Art History, the Center for Visual Cultures and the Department of History. Workshop Discussion for faculty and students on "Image, Imagination, Cognition," 12:00 p.m. to 1::15 p.m., Department of Art History, The Hagen Room, Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, Room 150. RSVP for reading to tedale@wisc.edu.

Monday, April 30, 2018: "An Ordinary Ship and Its Stories of Early Globalism: Scale, Mass Production, Art, and Innovation in the Global Middle Ages." Public Lecture by Prof. Geraldine Heng (Dept. of English, University of Texas - Austin), Department of Art History, Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L140, 5:00 p.m. Borghesi Mellon Workshop on Science, Nature, and Wonder in the Middle Ages. The abstract can be found below. Workshop for faculty and students on "Teaching on Race in the Middle Ages," 2:30-3:30 p.m., Department of Art History, Hagen Room (Room 150), Conrad A. Elvehjem Building. 

What do we gain, in studying an interconnected early world?  For one, our understanding of traditional grands récits can be revised: What does it mean to say that the Industrial Revolution began in the West, when we learn from the Sinologist Robert Hartwell’s data that the amount of coal burnt in 11th century Song China for its iron and steel industries was already 70% of the coal burnt for these industries in 18th century industrial England?  Enlarging the scale of historical data collection by interleaving data from outside the West discloses a number of 'industrial' and 'scientific' revolutions, in different vectors of the world, moving at different rates of speed across macro-historical time.


An ordinary ship and its cargo can tell the story of far-flung global markets, human voyaging, and early industrialization in China that supplied exports to the world.  Sometime after 825 CE an Arab dhow set sail from the port of Guanzhou in coastal south China, having unloaded its goods from the Near East, and reloaded with some estimated 70,000 ceramics and other items, “ this hand-sewn ship made of planks fastened with coconut fiber (without any nails) seems to have decided to offload some cargo first in maritime Southeast Asia, perhaps intending to pick up a secondary cargo of spices, resins, and aromatics for which the Indonesian islands were famed.  The dhow sank near the island of Belitung, at a reef called Batu Hitam ("Black Rock").

Fifty-five thousand ceramic wares, along with gold and silver ornaments, ingots, mirrors, ewers, vases, jars, cups, incense burners, boxes, flasks, bottles, graters, and the like, and 2 objects that may have been children’s toys, and a re-soldered gold bracelet sized for a woman’s wrist were excavated intact in 1998, and are housed at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore.  This 9th century dhow is the earliest ship of its kind recovered, though hand-sewn ships that plied the Indian Ocean are described in travel accounts from as early as the 1st century CE.  The dhow is a remarkable example of the global ships carrying people, goods, ideas, religion, and culture, which knit the world into relationship along transoceanic routes.  Its vast trove of ceramics is the earliest physical evidence attesting the industrial production of ceramics in China for export to foreign markets as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Designs painted on the great majority of the ceramic wares were favored in the export market, not in China.  


Part of the trove includes prototypes of blue-and-white ceramics for which China would become famous 200 years later: ceramic experiments that feature Persian designs attesting global interrelationships in art and the exchange of ideas.  The crews of ships such as this one were multiracial, multi-religious, and assembled from everywhere: The cargo, knowledge, and stories these diverse, anonymous voyagers helped to transfer across the world transform our understanding of scale, time, art, and globalism.