The Medieval Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers an interdisciplinary environment for the exploration of the cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean basin during the Middle Ages, a period spanning Late Antiquity to roughly 1500. Representing faculty from over 18 departments, we offer courses and certificate programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The Program also sponsors events and conferences on topics of interest both to the university and to the community at large.
The following public lecture and the workshop by Prof. Annabel Wharton are part of the Borghesi-Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshops in the Humanities sponsored by the Center for the Humanities.
Public Lecture. Prof. Annabel Wharton (Duke University), “Contemporary Uses of the Past: The Model of Herodian Jerusalem in the Israel Museum”
Thursday, February 25th, at 5:00
Annabel Wharton’s talk considers the reciprocal effects of a model of an ancient city and its modern observers. The “Holy Land Hotel Model of Ancient Jerusalem” was constructed under the direction of Michael Avi Yonah, a distinguished senior Israeli archaeologist; later, the project was supervised by another eminent archaeologist, Yoram Tsafrir. The model, opened to the public in 1966 on the grounds of the Holy Land Hotel in the suburbs of Jerusalem, was moved to the Israel Museum in 2006. Not only has the location of the model shifted in those forty years, but also its audiences and its meanings have changed. For its scholarly makers, the model was a scientific archive. For the model’s Jewish, Christian and Palestinian observers, it has had very different meanings, some of which have affected its form. This paper demonstrates how a model is, in unexpected ways, historical and political, and how those politics and histories are unstable and interdependent.
Workshop. Prof. Annabel Wharton (Duke University), “Holy Sepulchers: From the pre-Modern to the Anthropocene”
Friday, February 26th, at noon
The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, traditionally identified as marking the place of Jesus’ execution, burial and resurrection, was constructed in the fourth century and reconstructed often over the course of the centuries. Because of the deep Christian veneration of the Holy Sepulchre, models of the site have been consistently produced in the West from late antiquity to the present. Discussion considers how changes in the form and function of these models document dramatic shifts in the ways in which the world is seen, raising questions about periodization and historical understanding.
The 20th Vagantes Virtual Conference on Medieval Studies
For the program see http://vagantesconference.org/conference-program/
Host Keynote Lecture: Prof. Elizabeth Lapina (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Friday, March 19th, 5:00–6:30 pm CDT
Future Host Keynote Lecture: Prof. David J. Rothenberg (Case Western Reserve University)
Saturday, March 20th, 4:30–6:00 pm CDT
Public Lecture sponsored by the Anonymous Fund
Prof. Cord Whitaker (Wellesley College), “The shade of trees their ancestors left: Medieval Blackness, African American Medievalism, and the Resistance of the Far Right”
Thursday, March 18, at 5:00 p.m. CT
Maya Angelou writes that the “Reverse Migration,” the mass movement of Black Americans from northern and western urban centers back to the U.S. South is a homecoming: They “make places for themselves in the land of their foreparents. They make friends under the shade of trees their ancestors left…” The southern U.S. is deeply imbricated with American medievalism—from the white community’s events in which they reenacted medievalising scenes from Sir Walter Scott’s wildly popular Ivanhoe to Black Harlem Renaissance intellectuals’ claims that to leave the South was to leave the dark and primitive Middle Ages for a bright, contemporary future. In more recent years, medievalism has animated the ascendant white supremacist nationalism of the far-right in the U.S. and Europe. This talk will explore such uses of the Middle Ages to ask: when, whether, and how might Black Americans claim a home not only in the subdivisions and McMansions of the U.S. South but also in the Middle Ages that have animated so much of the South’s—and America’s—history and politics? And what happens when they do?
Workshop sponsored by the Anonymous Fund
Prof. Cord Whitaker (Wellesley College), “Trippin’ into the Medieval Future: History, Controversy, and a Way Forward”
Friday, March 19 at noon
For this workshop, participants will read Cord J. Whitaker’s 2015 “Race-ing the dragon: the Middle Ages, race, and trippin’ into the future” and the concluding chapter of his 2019 Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking. Professor Whitaker will entertain participants’ questions related to these texts as well as to research and pedagogical methods that promote an antiracist medieval studies. [To register and receive the readings and Zoom link, please email Thomas Dale at email@example.com]
Cord J. Whitaker is Associate Professor of English at Wellesley College. Having published widely on medieval romance, religious conflict, and race in premodernity and modernity alike, he advances work that troubles the powerful historical narratives that have denied the fullness of humanity to peoples around the world. The editor of postmedieval’s acclaimed issue “Making Race Matter in the Middle Ages” and the author of Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), Whitaker has used his expertise in the Middle Ages and the history of race to explore and reconsider ideas fundamental to society and culture in the western world. In addition to his new book project on how Harlem Renaissance writers and intellectuals deployed medievalism as a tool for racial justice, Whitaker routinely writes and edits on modern politics for audiences outside academe—from serving as co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Spoke: the blog of the Madeleine K. Albright Institute for Global Affairs to publishing on the alt-right in Politico magazine. His scholarly activism extends to serving on and working to diversify the boards and committees of some of medieval studies’ most important and influential publications and organizations as well as helping to found and direct new organizations devoted to the advancement of scholars of color in premodern fields and to the study of race in premodernity.
The following public lecture and workshop by Prof. Paul Cobb are part of the Borghesi-Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshops in the Humanities sponsored by the Center for the Humanities.
Public lecture. Prof. Paul Cobb (University of Pennsylvania), “Saladin’s Jerusalem”
Thursday, April 8, 5:00 pm
On Friday, October 2, 1187, the Ayyubid sultan Saladin recaptured Jerusalem after it had been occupied by Frankish Crusaders and settlers for three generations. On the following Friday, October 9, prayers were held in al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in 88 years, and preachers from across the region vied to be chosen to deliver the Friday sermon. This paper will walk us through the victory sermon that achieved this honor. It is a revealing public piece of ideology that tells us much about Islamic ideas about Jerusalem and other counter-claims on the city, as well as the changing currents of ideas about Jerusalem in the immediate political and cultural context of this moment in the Crusades.
Paul M. Cobb is Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Islamic History and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a social and cultural historian of the pre-modern Islamic world. He has been teaching at Penn since 2008. His areas of interest include the history of memory, Islamic relations with the West, and travel and exploration. He is, in particular, a recognized authority on the history of the medieval Crusades in their Islamic context. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including White Banners: Contention in ‘Abbasid Syria, 750-880 (SUNY Press, 2001); Usama ibn Munqidh: Warrior-Poet of the Age of Crusades (Oneworld, 2005); The Book of Contemplation: Islam and the Crusades, a translation of the “memoirs” and other works of Usama ibn Munqidh (Penguin Classics, 2008), and most recently, The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades (Oxford University Press, 2014). He is also the co-editor (with Wout van Bekkum) of Strategies of Medieval Communal Identity: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Peeters, 2003) and (with Antoine Borrut) of Umayyad Legacies: History and Memory from Syria to Spain (E. J. Brill, 2010).
Workshop. Prof. Paul Cobb (University of Pennsylvania)
Friday, April 9, noon
Johannes Schiltberger’s Excellent Adventure” In 1396, a German teenager named Johannes Schiltberger was captured while on Crusade against the Ottoman Turks. He became the personal attendant of Bayezid I and, when the sultan was himself captured, he became the attendant of the great Central Asian warlord Timur (aka Tamerlane), and passed into the service of various Timurid princes after him. For nearly 35 years, he spent his time crisscrossing the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus in service to the great lords of the day, before escaping back to Germany, where he wrote his memoirs. These provide a vivid window into the deeply interconnected world of medieval Eurasia, and gives us plenty of opportunity to reflect upon the facts and fantasy emanating from Europe’s encounter with the expended world of the late Middle Ages.
The following public lecture and workshop by Prof. Avinoam Shalem are part of the Borghesi-Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshops in the Humanities sponsored by the Center for the Humanities.
Public lecture. Prof. Avinoam Shalem (Columbia University), “The Return of the Gaze: On Modern Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Melancholies of a Blessed View”
Thursday, April 15, 3 pm
Much has been written about medieval and early modern sacred geographies and routes of holy devotions, namely pilgrims’ sacred geographies and roads. Specific holy sites and routes, which connect one holy space to another site of sacred interventions, were proclaimed by historians and art historians as the sources for the learning about the production of sacred spaces, images and artifacts. This particular manufacture enhances and boosts the sense of the holy and therefore contributes to the extended pilgrim’s experience of the divine. An emphasis was put on the disclosure of duration, on investigating processes of accumulating visual experiences and on the prolonging of the experience of the sacred; rather than highlighting its usual instantaneous and abrupt appearance – namely epiphany. In this lecture, a focus is set on the unexpectedness, suddenness, and almost ephemeral character of modern moments of religious revelations in front of sacred sites of the Holy Land. Moreover, an emphasis is put on the conversion of the blessed touch to blessed view and on the modern wish to arrest these moments by using varied visual technologies, traditional and advanced alike.
Avinoam Shalem is the Riggio Professor of the arts of Islam at the Columbia University in New York and the director of the American Academy in Rome. His main field of interest is in medieval artistic interactions in the Mediterranean, medieval aesthetics and modern historiography. He has published extensively on varied topics concerning intercultural exchanges within and between the world of Islam and Europe. His current book project, “When Nature Becomes Ideology”, critically explores the varied approaches of the ‘scaping’ and curating of the rural landscape of Palestine after 1947.
Workshop. Prof. Avinoam Shalem (Columbia University)
Friday, April 16, at noon
The following event is co-hosted by the Graduate Association of Medieval Studies and The Medieval Studies Program at UW–Madison.
The 8th Annual Medieval Studies Colloquium by GAMS, “Medieval Atmospheres”
Friday, April 23rd, 2 pm.
For more information including the Zoom link, visit: https://gamsmadison.wordpress.com/medieval-studies-colloquium/