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.