Category Archives: Uncategorized

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Marie-Louise Coolahan

‘Of Female Poets who had names of old’

Reputation, Reception and the Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing

Thursday, November 23, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Marie-Louise Coolahan

This paper emerges from the research of the team working on the RECIRC project (The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550-1700), funded by the European Research Council (2014-2019) and led by Marie-Louise Coolahan. The RECIRC project is essentially a study of intellectual impact. Its fundamental research questions include: Which women were read? How, where, and by whom were they read? RECIRC is structured around four interlinking ‘work packages’, each of which takes a specific entry point in order to amass quantitative data relating to the reception and circulation of women’s writing between 1550 and 1700. The first of these posits the Catholic religious orders as transnational channels by which devotional and polemical texts were translated and transmitted; it investigates the martyrologies and bibliographies of the various religious orders, as large-scale compendia of texts that included female-authored works. The second ‘work package’ examines scientific correspondence networks; the wealth of data to be found in the scriptorium operated through Samuel Hartlib has meant we have focused specifically on this circle. The third approach aims to rebalance the bias of digitization projects toward print culture by harvesting data from early modern manuscripts. It does so by focusing solely on the category of the manuscript miscellany (a compilation of miscellaneous materials) in order to assess the contexts for excerpting and transcribing women’s writing. It differs from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) initiative, which is a full-text transcription project, in its harvesting and structuring of data relating specifically to reception and circulation. The fourth RECIRC approach is concerned with early modern library catalogues; it captures data on the proportion of female-authored items in order to facilitate statistical analysis relating to the gendering of such book collections.

RECIRC, then, is testing these methodological approaches for understanding the ‘big picture’ of textual transmission, reception and circulation of women’s writing in the English-speaking world during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This includes writers who were read in Ireland and Britain as well as authors born and resident in Anglophone countries The focus on women’s writing enables investigation of the routes to impact that were exploited by early modern women, as well as of the ways gender inflected the construction of writerly reputation. It also delimits the corpus, facilitating our testing of methodologies for studying the circulation of non-elite, non-canonical writing in the period.

Marie-Louise Coolahan is Professor of English at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She is the author of Women, Writing, and Language in Early Modern Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2010). She is currently Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded project, RECIRC: The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550-1700 (www.recirc.nuigalway.ie).

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Kristján Árnason

Upphaf íslenskrar tungu

Formvandi og stöðuvandi á norrænum miðöldum

Thursday, November 16, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Kristján Árnason

Menn hafa lengi haft og hafa enn áhyggjur af dauða íslenskrar tungu. Frægt er kvæði Eggerts Ólafssonar Um sótt og dauða íslenskunnar, en samkvæmt því dó tungan úr iðrakvefi sem rekja mátti til lélegs málfars þeirra sem hana notuðu; það sem nú er helst talið ógna er það sem kallað hefur verið stafrænn dauði. Hugsjónin um varðveislu tungunnar virðist þó lifa, a.m.k. opinberlega. Ég vil leiða hugann að hinum enda þess „lífs“ sem vernda skal, þ.e. hvernig tungan varð til.

Flestum myndi þykja eðlilegt að miða upptök tungunnar við þróun sérstakrar menningar hér á landi á miðöldum. En hvaðan kom tungunni og menningunni nauðsynlegur og nægilegur kraftur og stuðningur til þess að „verða til“? Hvaða hugsjónir eða hugmyndafræði (ef einhver) bjó að baki? Ég mun ræða þessa þætti á grundvelli þess sem lesa má út úr íslenskum miðaldaritum sem fjalla beint um tungumálið og bókmenntirnar, málfræði og skáldskaparfræði. Helstu rit í þeim flokki eru Snorra-Edda og málfræðiritgerðirnar fjórar í Wormsbók. Einnig mun ég leiða hugann að félagslegum, pólitískum og málformlegum forsendum þess að það ritmálsviðmið, sem við (í vissum skilningi) búum enn við, náði þeim þroska sem raunin ber vitni. Hvað studdi og hvað ógnaði þessu nýja „lífi“, sem kannski var þó ekki nýtt, heldur enn eldra? Latína var alþjóðamál þess tíma, og spurning er að hve miklu leyti hún ógnaði heimamálinu eins og enska gerir nú. Hér er fróðlegt að huga að því hvers vegna Noregskonungasögur voru ritaðar á norrænu, en saga Dana á latínu.

Spurningarnar eru stórar, en ég mun ræða þær í ljósi nútíma málvísinda, þeirra sem fást við stöðlun og þróun og eftir atvikum „dauða“ tungumála. Ekki síst verður vitnað til kenningasmiðanna Einars Haugens og Heinz Kloss, en mér sýnist að þeir hafi ýmislegt gagnlegt til málanna að leggja. Með sínum hætti voru Snorri Sturluson, Ólafur hvítaskáld og aðrir málfræðingar tólftu, þrettándu og fjórtándu aldar að bregðast við formvanda og stöðuvanda tungunnar, og almennt séð átti sér stað merkilegur vöxtur og efling (e. elaboration) málsins þegar það tókst á við nýjar hugmyndir utan úr heimi. Og það er allt á sinn hátt hliðstætt málræktarstarfi 20. aldar.

Kristján Árnason er prófessor emeritus í íslenskri málfræði. Hann lauk kandídatsprófi í íslenskri málfræði frá Háskóla Íslands 1974 og doktorsprófi í almennum málvísindum frá Edinborgarháskóla 1977. Rannsóknir hans og kennsla hafa beinst að hljóðkerfisfræði, bragfræði og skáldskaparfræði, málsögu og félagsmálfræði. Hann sat um árabil í Íslenskri málnefnd og var formaður hennar 1989–2001.

The talk will be delivered in Icelandic. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Anne Mette Hansen

“Fragment af en Papistisk Bönnebog”

Medieval Danish prayer books in the Arnamagnæan Collection

Thursday, November 9, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Anne Mette Hansen

The extant Danish private prayer books all originate from the period between late 1400 and the time of the Reformation in Denmark in 1536. The standard edition includes about 30 manuscript books, 12 of which were acquired by Árni Magnússon, and two collections of fragments. The quote above is written by Árni in his notes on the acquisition of the manuscript at the auction of the library of another book collector, Frederik Rostgaard, in 1726. On this occasion, in fact, Árni bought several prayer books for his collection including some of other European provenance. In the lecture, I will present my work on Danish prayer books, addressing, among others, the following issues: the use of the books, the meaning of the physical appearance, and the transposition from text-bearing artefact to scholarly edition.

Anne Mette Hansen (PhD, University of Copenhagen) is Associate Professor in Old Norse Philology at the Arnamagnæan Institute, Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen. Her research covers a number of areas within manuscript studies and textual and literary scholarship, such as codicology and palaeography, history of books, scholarly editing and the history of edition. Her approaches are material and cross-disciplinary. Current research projects include artefactual and textual studies of late medieval and post-reformation private prayer books in Danish and research on script and language of charters from the archive of St Clara convent at Roskilde. She is also working on the digital editions of these documents.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Chip Robinson

An Open Secret of Icelandic Otherworldly Communication

Thursday, November 2, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Chip Robinson

In this talk, it will be argued that supernatural references in medieval Icelandic literature can be approached in the light of modern Icelandic practice of otherworldly communication. Literary motifs are not merely story elements; rather, they reflect a type of experience for participants and perform a social and cultural function in historical and geographical context, then and now. What is examined is how Icelanders interact with the other world, that is, the deceased, guardian spirits, and nature beings through prophetic dreams, mediums, and direct experience in landscape and in community. Recent multidisciplinary research is considered along with current folk practice, that is, scholarly and popular aspects. Supernatural phenomena are mediated in numerous ways, not just by mediums but also by media, nature, clergy, dreams, guardian spirits, folklore, and medieval literature, to arrive at what is termed an ethnography of the other world. Syncretic traditions are taken into account as they conceal parallel spiritual experiences and practices in Icelandic society including in the beyond, or hinum megin. As a comparative study on an island over time there is cultural durability in such concepts as spáfólk, álagablettir, að vitja nafns, berdreyminn, and bænahringir—an open secret of Icelandic otherworldly communication.

Chip Robinson holds a PhD in Germanic Languages from the University of California Los Angeles 2017, MA in Medieval Icelandic Studies from the University of Iceland 2015, MA in Scandinavian from the University of California Los Angeles 2013, as well as MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College Boston 2004. He worked as librarian in Acquisitions, Cataloging, and Technical Services in the Germanic Division of Harvard College Library 1995–2010.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Three events this week

Daniel Sävborg

The Formula in the Icelandic Family Saga

Miðvikudaginn 25. október 2017 kl. 16.30
Lögbergi 101

Daniel Sävborg

It is well known that Icelandic saga prose contains formulas, but very little thorough research has been devoted to them so far. The attempts to analyze them precisely as formulas have usually taken their starting point in the so-called Oral-Formulaic Theory and the theories of Milman Parry and Albert Lord. But in the Oral-Formulaic Theory, the formula as a phenomenon was closely connected with the metrical form and the rapidity of the improvized oral performance in verse, two features without relevance to the prose genre of Íslendingasögur, which stands in focus for my research. In my analysis of the saga formulas, I will rather connect with modern linguistic theory on formulaic language and to folkloristic theory on oral tradition. The lecture will discuss the function, meaning and form of the formulas in the Íslendingasögur. A selection of saga formulas will be discussed, such as X hét maðr; tókusk með þeim góðar ástir; and X vanði kvámur sínar til Y. In the lecture, I will argue that the formula use in the Íslendingasögur is of fundamental importance for the stylistic/literary character of the genre and that a lack of understanding of the saga formulas several times has led to misinterpretations of central saga episodes.

Daniel Sävborg is Professor of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Tartu since 2010; before that he held research positions at Uppsala University and Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum. He has background in studies of Classical Greek and Comparative literature and holds a Ph.D. from Stockholm University with a dissertation on grief and elegy in Eddic heroic poetry. He has published on on topics such as love and emotions in Old Norse literature, the Uppsala Edda and its relation to the other Snorra Edda versions, the supernatural in Old Norse literature, folkloristic approaches to the saga literature, courtly style vs. saga style in the riddarasögur, Old Norse and Old Swedish sources to medieval Swedish history, oral tradition behind medieval Nordic historiography, tradition and originality in the post-classical Íslendingasögur, and the importance of the conversion in Njáls saga.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

—o—

Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda á dönsku

Nýjar þýðingar kynntar í hádegismálstofu

Fimmtudaginn 26. október 2017 kl. 12–13
Lögberg 204

Hinn íslenski sagnaflokkur fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda kemur um þessar mundir út í nýjum dönskum þýðingum. Þetta er fyrsta heildarþýðing fornaldarsagna á dönsku. Þótt sögurnar fjalli um fornkonunga á Norðurlöndum — og ekki síst í Danmörku — hefur um helmingur þeirra aldrei áður komið út á dönsku. Snemma á 19. öld þýddi Carl Christian Rafn úrval fornaldarsagna og gaf út í þremur bindum (1821–1826; aukin endurútgáfa 1829–1830) en hann undanskildi listrænar perlur eins og Gautreks sögu, Hrólfs sögu Gautrekssonar, Egils sögu einhenda og Ásmundar berserkjabana og Bósa sögu, enda fannst honum að fornaldarsögur „fra den poetiske Side betragtede, [ikke] have nogen besynderlig Fortrinlighed“. Sögurnar sem Rafn sleppti hafa fram að þessu aldrei komið út á dönsku, þótt sumar þeirra hafi verið þýddar á allt að tíu önnur tungumál.

Nýju dönsku þýðingarnar koma út í átta bindum hjá danska forlaginu Gyldendal, fyrstu fjögur bindin hafa þegar birst og afgangurinn er væntanlegur á næstu tveimur árum. Annette Lassen ritstýrir verkinu, og danski listamaðurinn Peter Brandes myndskreytir og hannar útlit bókanna, en þýðendur eru auk ritstjóra Peter Springborg, Erik Skyum-Nielsen, Rolf Stavnem og Kim Lembek. Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir og Gottskálk Jensson veita fræðilega ráðgjöf en danski rithöfundurinn Merete Pryds Helle er bókmenntalegur málfarsráðunautur.

Í stuttum hádegiserindum mun Annette Lassen fyrst segja frá þessari nýju heildarþýðingu og hugmyndunum að baki, Kim Lembek mun ræða vandann að þýða fornaldarsögur í samanburði við þýðingar Íslendingasagna; þá fjallar Rolf Stavnem um þýðingar sínar á eddukvæðum í fornaldarsögum, og loks mun Peter Springborg skemmta áheyrendum með upplestri úr þýðingu sinni á Örvar-Odds sögu.

Erindin verða flutt bæði á dönsku og íslensku.

—o—


Mikael Males

Snorri and the Sagas

Medieval Icelandic authors and their methods

Thursday, October 26, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Mikael Males

The use of Icelandic sources to bolster the historical pedigree of the Scandinavian states from the seventeenth century onwards has been relatively well studied. In the case of Sweden, the seventeenth century saw the rise of the Swedish political star at the expense of the Danes, and the Icelandic sources provided the Swedes with a welcome opportunity to match the present state of affairs with a respectable historical background. These sources were used to show how old and excellent the Swedish nation was, and in our present era of Western self-criticism, such practices have attracted much attention in Scandinavia, Germany and elsewhere. Less interest has been accorded to the fact that the Icelandic sources were so readily useful for later nationalistic purposes, and why this might have been the case. This must be explained through recourse to the texts themselves, and this book focuses on the methods and interests of the medieval Icelandic authors in presenting their own cultural history and that of the Scandinavian realms.

There can be little doubt that medieval Icelanders took their role as transmitters of Nordic history seriously, but it is equally clear that their own past as pagan Vikings was often as fascinating and exotic to them as it was to many in later periods, and still is. Their way of transmitting the past was therefore an active and often a creative one. Awareness of this fact has, at least since the early twentieth century, led to a long debate regarding whether the Icelandic texts can be trusted as historical witnesses, and many studies have focused on to what extent the sagas are right or wrong. Others have opted for solving the problem by treating the sagas as literature without taking their diachronic value into account. This book aims for an intermediate solution, namely that of focusing on the methods of the authors in presenting their past, and how this conditioned the nature of the literary corpus. It argues that an analysis of their methods and interests, preferably on a case-by-case basis, may be a fruitful approach to Old Icelandic texts as witnesses to history.

Mikael Males is Associate Professor of Old Norse Philology at the University of Oslo, specializing in skaldic poetry and grammatical literature.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Ármann Jakobsson

Að sjá tröll

Um yfirnáttúrulegar skynjanir á miðöldum

Thursday, October 19, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Ármann Jakobsson

The Troll Inside You: Paranormal Activity in the Medieval North kom út í sumar hjá Punctum-forlaginu í Bandaríkjunum sem einkum sérhæfir sig í ritum undir áhrifum póstmódernisma. Í bókinni er fengist við rammann utan um hugmyndir og rannsóknir á yfirnáttúrulegum verum og atburðum með íslenska frásagnartexta á miðöldum sem þungamiðju. Þannig er meginefnið hin yfirnáttúrulega reynsla, hvernig henni er komið í orð og tengsl hennar við aðra þætti samfélagsins, þ.e. hvernig tröllskapur er vitnisburður um hvers konar samfélagslegan núning og vandamál. Í erindinu mun höfundurinn kynna þetta verk, rannsóknina sem það grundvallast á og forsendur verksins. Eins mun hann ræða hugmyndafræði verksins og gildi hinnar hugvísindalegu nálgunar þar sem verkið er öðrum þræði í viðræðu við langa rannsóknarhefð tengd þjóðfræðilegum efnum og yfirnáttúrulegri reynslu.

Ármann Jakobsson er prófessor í íslenskum bókmenntum fyrri alda við Háskóla Íslands. Hann hefur áður gefið út bækurnar Illa fenginn mjöður (2009), Nine Saga Studies (2013) og A Sense of Belonging (2014) og ritstýrt The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (2017).

The talk will be delivered in Icelandic. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Árni Daníel Júlíusson

Lesið í leifarnar

Um menningar- og búsetulandslag miðalda í Dalvíkurbyggð og Hörgársveit

Thursday, October 5, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Árni Daníel Júlíusson

Menningar- og búsetulandslag tveggja meginbyggða Eyjafjarðar á miðöldum er viðfangsefni þessa fyrirlestrar. Þessar byggðir eru Hörgárdalur og Svarfaðardalur (nú Hörgársveit og Dalvíkurbyggð). Menjar um kuml og forn- (fjölskyldu) kirkjur eru mestar við ströndina og virðast benda til þess að þar hafi byggðin verið mest í fyrstu. Nú síðast fannst stórmerkur kumlateigur í Dysnesi sem fellur vel inn í þá mynd sem áður er komin fram.

Fornleifar og ritheimildir gefa sérstaklega skýra mynd af dreifingu kumla og fornkirkna á þessu svæði, mynd sem óvíða er að fá annars staðar jafn skýra. Víða um svæðið, sérstaklega um það norðanvert, í Svarfaðardal og Árskógsströnd, getur að líta garðlög, fornar girðingar. Þær gefa góða hugmynd um hvernig landnýtingu var háttað og einnig þá hugmynd að landamerki hafi verið þau sömu í þessum sveitum um mjög langan tíma, því þær eru oft á núverandi landamerkjum. Miklar minjar um búsetulandslagið eru einnig dreifðar um allt svæðið, eins og rústir af seljum, sem eru nánast við hvern bæ víða í Svarfaðardal og Hörgárdal, en mun færri í sveitunum við ströndina. Rústir af bæjum sem voru í byggð á miðöldum en hafa síðan verið í eyði eru mjög víða.

Hvernig ber að lesa í þessar gríðarlegu leifar? Hvernig tengjum við saman og túlkum einstaka þætti þeirra? Ritheimildir, sem koma til sögunnar eftir 1100, bæta síðan í myndina, aðeins lítið í fyrstu, en síðan meir og meir. Við lok 12. aldar verða miklir atburðir í héraðinu sem skráðir eru í Guðmundar sögu dýra. Átök standa milli að því er virðist tvenns konar pólitískra kerfa, hins gamla goðorðakerfis annars vegar og nýs höfðingjaveldis hins vegar. Í þessum heimildum sést skyndilega inn í heim höfuðbóla, stórbýla, virkja, sem bæta alveg nýjum drætti í myndina af byggðinni. Skjalaheimildir bætast við og verða miklar að vöxtum á 14. og 15. öld. Þær gefa líka alveg nýja innsýn í byggðina, skipulag hennar og efnahag, og vísa jafnframt aftur í tímann, í þeim eru vísbendingar um eldri tíma. Rannsóknirnar sem þessi fyrirlestur byggir á voru gerðar við Þjóðminjasafnið, í rannsóknastöðu Dr. Kristjáns Eldjárns. Hluti þeirra var lagður fram í bókinni Miðaldir í skuggsjá Svarfaðardals, en hér bætist við stórt svæði og ný túlkun. Hvaða sögu má segja út frá þessum heimildum? Hvaða þróun varð í þessu samfélagi við Eyjafjörð á tímabilinu 870–1500? Í fyrirlestrinum verður reynt að svara þeim spurningum.

Árni Daníel Júlíusson er fræðimaður við Þjóðminjasafnið og ReykjavíkurAkadamemíuna. Hann hefur doktorspróf frá Kaupmannahafnarháskóla og hefur sent frá sér fjölda greina og bóka um fræðasvið sitt, bændasamfélag fyrir nútímavæðingu. Á meðal rita hans má nefna Landbúnaðarsögu Íslands 1. og 2. bindi.

The talk will be delivered in Icelandic. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Margaret Cormack

Holy Water, Holy Wells

Justification of the Spring Blessings of Guðmundr Arason

Thursday, September 28, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Margaret Cormack

On the continent and the British Isles, a tradition of ‘holy wells’—wells that are ‘other’ than everyday water sources, which may have special powers of healing, foretelling the future, or even cursing—are today often associated with saints, although in some cases their use can often be traced to the prehistoric period. Not so Iceland, whose human habitation began in the ninth century. However, many Icelandic springs/wells had a reputation for healing powers in medieval times, which in some cases survived to the present day. These water sources are commonly associated with Bishop Guðmundr the Good Arason (d. 1237), a religious innovator whose activity, including the blessing of water sources caused controversy. Fourteenth-century versions of his saga contain a defense of the practice, said to have been delivered to the Archbishop of Trondheim; an analysis of this defense forms the main part of my paper. I will discuss various means of producing ‘Holy Water’, and then discuss the origins of the ideas presented in Guðmundr’s defence of his practice of blessing springs.

Margaret Cormack is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston, SC, and Affiliate Professor in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland. She has published The Saints in Iceland: Their Veneration from the Conversion to 1400 and edited several volumes pertaining to the cult of saints at different times and locations. She is interested in vernacular religion in all its forms.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Kristján Ahronson, Jonathan Wooding, and Alexis Pantos

Marked caves in Scotland and Iceland

Recording an early medieval phenomenon

Thursday, September 21, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Kristján Ahronson

Early medieval religious impulse marked hundreds of special places with simple sculpture across the Irish and Scottish littoral zone. In Scotland, marking caves with rock-cut crosses and other early Christian carvings was a discrete subset within a wider early medieval monastic tradition. Looking to Iceland, we discover a similar phenomenon and, critically, recent research identifies what appears to be the earliest human presence on the island at and in the immediate vicinity of a cave site, around AD 800.

Detailed analysis of the sculpture suggests that the Scottish and Icelandic phenomena are connected. A suite of typological similarities makes a persuasive case for connections between the Icelandic and Scottish cave sites: a number of shared features such as the distinctive sunken form, expanded terminals, bold V-cuts and sinkings indicate particular connections between the Seljaland caves (Vestur-Eyjafjallahreppur, southern Iceland) and western Scotland, as well as wider connections to the Irish and Scottish littoral zone more generally. However, there are also regional differences.

Building on the recent publication of Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North (University of Toronto Press, 2015), this presentation is the very first airing for new recording and illustration of rock-cut crosses from southern Iceland.

Kristján Ahronson is a Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at Bangor University, UK. He is interested in the medieval north Atlantic, inter-disciplinary thinking, and in the ways that people relate to their environments. Recent publications include Into the Ocean: Vikings, Irish and Environmental Change in Iceland and the North (University of Toronto Press, 2015)

Jonathan Wooding is Sir Warwick Fairfax Professor of Celtic Studies at the University of Sydney. His research interests are in early medieval Celtic and North Atlantic history, with special interests in monasticism, pilgrimage and literature of travel — especially the Irish ‘voyage’ tales, such as the Nauigatio of St Brendan.

Alexis Pantos MA MSc is a freelance archaeological photographer specialising in digital imaging techniques and heritage visualisation.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.

Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Jean-Claude Schmitt

History of Social Rhythms in the Middle Ages

Wednesday, September 20, 2017, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Jean-Claude Schmitt

Rhythms do not only involve music, speech, dance or biological functions. They are also social phenomena. The measure of time, the organization of work, of the day, weeks, months and years, this and much more is shaped by social forces. Rhythms vary form one society to another, more particularly from one historical period to another. Social rhythms have been studied by social scientists for a long time, as well as by philosophers and art historians. The historical comparison of social rhythms has however been neglected. The conference will present the results of Jean-Claude Schmitt‘s extensive research on social rhythms in the Middle Ages. They were published last year in a landmark study: Les rythmes au Moyen Âge (‘Rhythms of the Middle Ages’).

Social rhythms do not only manifest themselves in the way time is accounted for or in the tempo of the day. They can also be perceived in numerous types of social behaviour, as well as individual lifestyles, architecture, visual arts, poetry and of course music.

Rhythms in the Middle Ages were shaped to a large degree by the Christian faith, which was dominant in the period. The story of the Creation is echoed in the organization of the week and the Church year commemorates stages in the life of Christ, from his birth to his crucifixion. But other things also had an impact on the rhythms of medieval society as will be discussed in the conference, which will be illustrated by numerous examples from the visual culture of the Middle Ages, on which prof. Schmitt has produced much innovative research over the years.

Jean-Claude Schmitt is a professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He is one of the best known representatives of his generation of the Annales school in historical research. He has been a pioneer in historical research which is also inspired by anthropology and folkloristics, but also in the interdisciplinary study of medieval visual culture. Schmitt has written a number of books which have been translated into many languages, among others Ghosts in the Middle Ages (1998), La Raison des gestes dans l’Occident médiéval (1990) and, published last year, Les Rythmes au Moyen-Âge (2016).

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.