Past Workshops

Corpus: Premodern Books and Bodies

Coordinators: Kellie Robertson (English) and Lisa Cooper (English)

The body is a thing among things.
-Maurice Merleau-Ponty

This workshop seeks to reassess the twin legacies of body studies and materialism as they have shaped and reshaped disciplinary boundaries in medieval and early modern studies over the past two decades, as well as to think about where work on premodern bodies may go from here. In returning to the "premodern" not as a static originary point against which the modern body can be read, but as a construction based on a different understanding of the human-nature divide, this workshop asks where an interdisciplinary approach can take us after three decades of work on the body that has been based primarily inside the categories of gender and sexuality. Our point of departure will be the semantic range of the medieval Latin term corpus, a word whose double valence—physical body and textual collection—presages recent critical concern with the thin line between body and representation. Recent work in disability studies, book history, the history of medicine, legal studies, as well as art and architectural history have suggested that other focalizers may offer new perspectives upon what it means to textualize the body or to embody texts in daily praxis. The goal of the workshop will be to bring in speakers whose work on the premodern body seeks new understandings of how bodily boundaries relate to ethical boundaries as well as to publicize the large amount of work in this vein currently being undertaken by UW-Madison faculty and graduate students across many disciplines.



Michael Papio

Italian Studies, University of Massachussetts-Amherst

April 16, 2012 @ 4:30 pm
French House, 633 N. Frances Street


Barbara Rosenwein

Department of History, Loyola University Chicago

Workshop with interested graduate students and faculty

April 13, 2012 @ 9:30 am
7190 Helen C. White

The reading for this workshop, "Problems and Methods in the History of Emotions," Passions in Context:
Journal of the History and Philosophy of the Emotions 1 (2010), can be found online


Barbara Rosenwein

Department of History, Loyola University Chicago

Texts, Emotions, and Bodies

April 12, 2012 @ 4:00 pm
7191 Helen C. White

Modern psychologists are nearly unanimous in viewing all emotions as entirely corporeal, by which they generally mean that they are expressed via the limbic system, the face, or the autonomic nervous system. However, as I shall argue, the associations between emotions and the body were (and remain) highly variable.  Rather than look at isolated emotions--fear, anger, and so on--I suggest that we consider emotions within the context of emotional communities.  These are generally the same as social groups, but the researcher interested in them considers, above all, the common interests, values, and emotional styles that characterize their members.  I will suggest that different emotional communities have different ways of incorporating (or not) the body in emotional expression. Some emotional communities welcome the body as part of their affective repertory, others gingerly accept--or indeed reject--the body’s role. In “Texts, Emotions, and Bodies,” I will look at three medieval emotional communities: the seventh-century Neustrian court, Thomas Aquinas and his disciples, and finally Margery Kempe and her supporters.


Peter Bovenmyer and Nancy Simpson Younger

Departments of Art History and English, UW-Madison

March 22, 2012 @ 4:00 pm
7191 HC White

Two Short Lectures

Peter Bovenmyer: “Redemptive Operations: Configuring Surgery and Salvation in BL MS Sloane 1977”

One of the most vexing medical manuscripts produced in the Middle Ages is the impressive 14th century illuminated Chirurgia of Roger Frugard (BL MS Sloane 1977). Consisting of both Christological scenes and illustrated surgical treatments, the images within this manuscript create a bizarre abutment of elevating sacred subject matter and vulgar surgical procedures.  To date, the relationship between these sacred and surgical images has received only cursory attention or been outright ignored. This project takes seriously the manuscript’s insistence that seemingly disparate images, such as Easter scenes and treatments for anal diseases, inform and interpret one another.  Remaining attentive to the compelling formal parallels, this paper examines three folios from the treatise and proposes that the surgical-salvific juxtapositions on each page marshal both medical and theological concepts to promote the skill and authority of the surgeon. It proposes that the treatise is not a series of isolated illustrations but rather an expansive constellation of bodies—pure and polluted, sinful and sanctified–which complicate our understanding of surgery and salvation in the Middle Ages.

Nancy Simpson Younger: "Virtues, Words, and Deeds: Confronting the Vulnerable Other in Lyly's Endymion"

As David Bevington points out, the play Endymion is about a "contemplative man"—the title character—who is "finally subsumed into the complete courtier."  Still, there has been little direct analysis of what it means to become a "complete courtier" in the world of Endymion, or what the play is trying to say about the ethics of contemplation and action in a courtly community setting.  In this paper, I will address these topics, arguing that a courtier's ethical virtue results from the ability to combine contemplation and action, and then to deploy both in the service of the physically vulnerable Other. To make this argument, I will examine the way that characters interact with the perpetually sleeping body of Endymion--a philosopher and courtier who serves the moon goddess Cynthia. Because of its vulnerability, the presence of Endymion's body on stage raises ethical questions for the rest of the community. To what extent does the body remain part of society at large? Should it be protected, moved, or abandoned? Should his peers (or subordinates, or leaders) make personal sacrifices in an attempt to 'cure' his sleep? By exploring these questions, I will show that Endymion develops a system of individual and community ethics that is founded on the ideal of reciprocal self-sacrifice. In this system, words, contemplative thoughts, and active deeds become synonymous, and the ethical courtier uses each of these elements to actively support more vulnerable community members.


Tom Dale

Department of Art History, UW-Madison

Corpses, Portraiture and Self-Commemoration in the Sacramentary of Warmundus of Ivrea, ca. 1000

February 10, 2012 @ 4:00 pm
L150 Chazen Art Museum

The Sacramentary of Bishop Warmundus of Ivrea is remarkable for its very early display of an extensive cycle of narrative images documenting the ritual preparation for death and burial accompanying the Ordo defunctorum, anticipating by four centuries the extensive illustrations of the Office of the Dead in Books of Hours. It is also unusual in its insistence on the presence of the body of its donor, Bishop Warmundus, in texts and images within the book.  The bishop's body is inserted into the very prayers he recited during the mass as a performative model for ritual action, and in the commemoration of the Passion of Christ as mediator between the body of Christ on the cross and in the tomb.

It will be proposed that these two crucial facets of sacramentary's program were designed to reinforce the book's function as a living form of self-commemoration that was activated every time the liturgy was performed in the cathedral over which Warmundus presided, and in which he would be eventually buried.


Jordan Zweck

Department of English, UW-Madison

Spreading the Word: Mass Communication in the Middle Ages

November 17, 2011 @ 4:15 pm
7191 HC White


Seeta Chaganti

Department of English, UC-Davis

Danse Macabre and the Virtual Churchyard

October 28, 2011 @ 4:00 pm
7191 HC White

“Danse macabre and the Virtual Churchyard” is part of a book project tentatively entitled “The Past in Motion: Dance and the Construction of the Middle Ages.” The project argues that attending to medieval dance traditions and their study can reveal new insights about how scholarship has constructed the medieval past and how we might respond to and even revise some of these constructions. Within this context, Professor Chaganti suggests that the multimedia nature of danse macabre – incorporating visual art, architecture, text, and moving bodies – offers a new way of understanding how the Middle Ages conceived of poetic form. If danse macabre creates a kinetic and virtual space in which its components intersect, the form of danse macabre poetry correspondingly exists as kinetic and multidimensional.


Sarah Kay

Professor, French and Italian, Princeton University

Quotations from the Troubadours and the Development of European Poetry

April 21, 2011 @ 4:30 pm
7191 HC White


Tom Dubois

Professor, Scandanavian Studies, UW-Madison

Wooden Embodiments: The Place of Wooden Figural Sculpture in Nordic Spirituality during the Medieval Era

March 7, 2011 @ 5:00 pm
6191 Helen C. White


Jelena Todorovic

Professor, Department of French and Italian, UW-Madison

“Many Will Be Amazed:” A Corpus, a Scribe, and an Editor

February 9, 2011 @ 5:00 pm
6191 Helen C. White


Sarah Stanbury

Professor, College of the Holy Cross

Derrida’s Cat and the Manciple’s Bird: Posthuman Theory and the Premodern Animal Real

November 9, 2010 @ 4:00 pm
6191 Helen C. White

Dr. Stanbury is Professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross. She is the author of influential books in Medieval Studies, including The Visual Object of Desire in Late Medieval England (2008) and Seeing the Gawain-Poet: Description and the Act of Perception (1991). She is also the editor or co-editor of several collections on the topics of medieval gender and sexuality as well as feminist theory more generally: Women's Space: Place, Patronage and Gender in the Medieval Church (co-edited with Virginia Raguin, 2005); Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist Theory (co-edited with Katie Conboy and Nadia Medina, 1997); and Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature (co-edited with Linda Lomperis, 1993). Her scholarship has been recognized by numerous awards from institutions such as the NEH; most recently, she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship (2010-11) and is currently writing a book on animals in the Middle Ages.


Dominik Perler

Professor of Philosophy, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Ockham on Emotions in the Divided Soul

September 30, 2010 @ 4:00 pm
313 University Club

Professor Perler is currently Professor of Philosophy at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (since 2003) and a Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (since 2007). He is the author of numerous articles and books on Descartes, occasionalism, and intentionalism among other topics. In 2006, he was awarded the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz Prize. His research focuses on medieval and early modern philosophy, mostly in philosophy of mind, epistemology and ontology.


Medieval Studies Happy Hour and "Corpus: Premodern Bodies and Books" workshop meeting

September 24, 2010 @ 4:30 pm
Memorial Union

Workshop will meet on the Union Terrace, or in the Rathskellar in the event of rain.


Christopher Baswell

Professor of English, Columbia University and Barnard

Kings and Cripples: Royal and Eccentric Bodies in Medieval England

October 9, 2009 @ 4:00 pm
Chazen Museum of Art, Room L160

Workshop with Professor Christopher Baswell

October 9, 2009 @ 11:00 am
University Club Building, Room 313