Spring 2024 Events

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26: Dr. Mike Horswell (Fellow, Royal Historical Society)

8:00 am CST, public lecture, ON ZOOM: New Crusaders: Mobilizing the Crusades in the Modern Era

Zoom Link

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Long after the crusades ceased to be practical crusading rhetoric continues to cast a shadow. Invocations of the crusades conjure images of holy warfare and civilizational clashes; from so-called Islamic State’s claim that the West perpetuates a centuries-old crusade against Muslims to memes of President Donald Trump as a crusading knight on horseback, the crusades are still perceived to resonate. The use of crusading for mobilization has a long history from the medieval to the modern eras. This lecture will survey uses of the crusades from the nineteenth century to the present – primarily in the West – as they form part of nation-building projects, war mobilization and social campaigning. It will show how the crusades and the military orders, born in the crusades, have been flexibly deployed to bolster Western national identity, and to rally opposition to imperial interventions in the Near East.

Dr. Mike Horswell works on the perceptions and uses of the crusades in the modern era; he has a PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He published his first book – The Rise and Fall of British Crusader Medievalism, c.1825-1945 – with Routledge in 2018 and is the series editor of the Engaging the Crusades series (9 vols., 2018-24). His published work includes journal articles and chapters on C20th neo-military orders, the crusades in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia, the memory of Richard and Saladin, and crusading in C19th juvenile literature.

Co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, and the Anonymous Fund.

FRIDAY, MARCH 1st: Professor Laura Michele Diener (History, Marshall University)

2:00 PM CST, public lecture ON ZOOM: “Sigrid and the Sagas: Norway’s Golden Past in the Writings of Sigrid Undset”

Zoom link

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The Norwegian-Danish writer Sigrid Undset (1882–1949) found her greatest success with her multi-volume medieval novels for which she won the Nobel Prize in 1928. Early in her career she wrote Fortællingen om Viga-Ljot og Vigdis, an homage to the saga tradition. During the 1920’s, she produced seven books with astonishing rapidity—the trilogy Kristen Lavransdatter and the tetralogy Olav Audunssøn, both meticulously researched multi-generational epics. Undset continued to explore the Middle Ages through a series of essays and translations of hagiographies. For her as for many of her peers, art was a political action. Undset came of age during a key period of self-discovery for Norway, as artists and intellectuals strove to reclaim their history, language, and literature after centuries of Danish rule. She believed the key to cultural independence for Norway lay in an appeal to the medieval golden age, where she also found a spirit of religiosity and communality that possessed the antidote for the cold impersonality of modernity. Her own portrayal of medieval Norway responded to alternative visions proposed by fellow Norwegian artists such as Henrik Ibsen and Knut Hamsun. In this paper, I focus on Undset’s medieval writings, fiction and nonfiction, and how they occurred within a larger program of political activism in Norway.

Laura Michele Diener (Ph.D., Ohio State), teaches medieval and ancient history at Marshall University. She received her PhD in history from The Ohio State University and has studied at Vassar College, Newnham College, Cambridge, and most recently, the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches course on ancient peoples including the Vikings, Romans, Ancient Egyptians, and Celts and has written about medieval spirituality, medieval embroidery, and medieval hair; her current project is a biography of the Norwegian Nobel-prize-winning writer Sigrid Undset titled A World Perilous and Beautiful.

Co-sponsored by the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic+, the Department of History, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, and the Anonymous Fund

THURSDAY, MARCH 7: Professor Nina Rowe (Art History, Fordham University)

12:15 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty: Echoes of Social Life in Illuminated Manuscripts of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. Please contact Professor Tom Dale (tedale@wisc.edu) for the reading.

Standard narratives of Western European medieval art history tend to focus on images and structures connected to the church or the court. As a result, clerics and nobles are centered and the daily experiences of city dwellers often are ignored. This workshop explores objects and methods that can help us fill out the picture. We will examine images and texts in Middle High German illuminated manuscripts and consider how they register interests and practices also depicted in monumental sculptures and paintings, as well as in the new medium of engraving, targeted to patently lay and urban audiences.

6:15 pm, Elvehjem L 150: Public Lecture: Moses through an Urban Lens: Jewish Neighbors, African Visitors, and the Life of a Biblical Patriarch in Late Medieval Regensburg

Moses gives a magical ring to his wife, the Ethiopian princess Tharbis. Earlier in the same story, Moses is welcomed and protected at the Egyptian royal court, despite full knowledge of – and preoccupation with – his Jewish lineage. These tales from Moses’s life are presented in word and image in illuminated World Chronicle (Weltchronik) manuscripts made for high-ranking burghers in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, circa 1400. In the late Middle Ages, Regensburg was a prosperous trade hub, with a thriving Jewish community and a port center that hosted traders from far-flung centers. In this setting, there was apparent enthusiasm for stories that celebrated a biblical hero’s Jewishness and love for an African princess. Such interests do not square with standard conceptions of the European Middle Ages as a period that was unrelentingly hostile to those outside the white, Christian fold. My investigation of illuminated Weltchroniken, therefore, complicates modern understandings of the medieval era and gives voice to facets of late medieval daily life otherwise often silenced in the discourse of art history.

These events are sponsored by the Department of Art History.

FRIDAY, MARCH 8: Professor Bernardo Hinojosa (English, St. Norbert College)

2 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty. Please contact Professor Lisa Cooper (lhcooper@wisc.edu) for the reading.

5 pm, Elvehjem L150: Public lecture: Roger Bacon’s Rainbow: Experiment, Fictionality, and Modernity in the Middle Ages

What was an “experiment” in the Middle Ages? The question itself ensures raised eyebrows and accusations of anachronism. After all, it is an accepted premise in the history of science that the emergence of the controlled experiment – in which, to cite Francis Bacon, nature is “forced from its own condition by art and human agency” – signals and produces an epistemic shift between medieval and modern ways of understanding the material world and its operations. In my talk, I trace the development of a precursor to the modern experiment, which scholastic philosophers, namely Robert Grosseteste (c.1168-1253) and Roger Bacon (c.1219-c.1292), called experimentum. By combining techniques from classical rhetoric and Aristotelian natural philosophy, this mental procedure replicates physical phenomena as imaginative rehearsals of causal sequences, thus rendering these phenomena available for perception and investigation. As a collaboration of literary and empiricist thinking, the scholastic experimentum brings into relief how the modern controlled experiment, like its medieval ancestor, is a kind of fiction: an artificial procedure that replicates the material world and its processes in a different context and at a different scale.

Bernardo S. Hinojosa is an assistant professor of English at St. Norbert College. Before joining St. Norbert, he received a PhD in English and Medieval Studies from UC Berkeley. He is currently writing a book, Fictions of Experiment in Medieval England, on the development of experimentalist thinking and its relationship to literary mimesis in medieval natural philosophy and Middle English poetry, prose, and drama. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in New Medieval Literatures and theJournal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, among other venues.

Co-sponsored by the Departments of English and History, the Holtz Center for Science and Technology, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, and the Anonymous Fund.

FRIDAY, APRIL 5: Graduate Association of Medieval Studies (GAMS) annual conference

Details forthcoming.

FRIDAY, APRIL 12: Professor Kristina Olson (Italian, George Mason University)

2 pm, 6191 Helen C. White: Workshop for graduate students and faculty. Please contact Professor Jelena Todorovic (jtodorovic@wisc.edu) for the reading.

5 pm, 6191 Helen C. White: Public lecture: Cowardice is Political: The Legacy of Inferno 3 in 20th- and 21st-Century America

“Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” So wrote President John F. Kennedy, believing that he was citing Inferno 3 in his remarks at the signing of a charter establishing the German Peace Corps (June 24, 1963, in Bonn, West Germany). Dante’s idea of cowardice has been appropriated in literary and political discourse through the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, particularly in the American political arena. Olson’s talk aims to connect Dante’s poem with this interpretive afterlife by focusing on the poet’s vision of cowardice as a civic sin, namely as the refusal to act in a time of crisis.

Kristina Olson (PhD, Columbia University, 2006) is an Associate Professor of Italian in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at George Mason University. She is the author of Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio and the Literature of History (University of Toronto Press, 2014) and several articles on Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. She is the co-editor of three volumes: Open City: Seven Writers in Postwar Rome (Steerforth Press, 1997); Boccaccio 1313-2013 (Longo Editore, 2015); and Approaches to Teaching Dante’s Divine Comedy (second edition) with the Modern Language Association (2020).

Co-sponsored by the Center for European Studies (CES), the Department of French and Italian, the Departments of English and History, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, and the Anonymous Fund.

FRIDAY, APRIL 19: Professor Bryan Keene (Art History, Riverside Community College)

2 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty. Please contact Professor Thomas Dale (tedale@wisc.edu) for the reading.

5 pm, Elvehjem L150: Public lecture: Title TBA

Bryan C. Keene teaches art history at Riverside City College, where he specializes in Italian manuscript illumination and the global Middle Ages, with a particular focus on the nexus of Afro-Eurasian book culture, portable objects, and materials. Previously a curator in the Department of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, his exhibition credits include The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: An Epic Journey through Imaginary Medieval Worlds, co-authored with Larisa Grollemond (2022); Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the World through Illuminated Manuscripts(2019); and Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art, co-curated with Kirsten Collins (2019).

Co-sponsored by the Departments of Art History and History, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, and the Anonymous Fund.