Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Materiality of Devotion in the Late Middle Ages

Caroline Walker Bynum will complete a series of three lectures on Thursday at the University of Toronto. Bynum, Professor of Medieval European History at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, is the 2009 F.E.L. Priestley Memorial Lectures in the History of Ideas.

She was speaking on the theme of "The Materiality of Devotion in the Late Middle Ages" and this week gave papers on:

"Weeping Statues and Bleeding Bread: Miracles and Their Theorists"

"Living Synecdoche: Parts and Wholes in Medieval Devotion"

"The Materiality of the Visual: How Did Medieval People See?"

University College describes the lecture series: "In the period between 1150 and 1550 a number of Christians in western Europe made pilgrimage to places where material objects--among them paintings, statues, relics, pieces of wood, earth, stones, and Eucharistic wafers--allegedly erupted into life by such activities as bleeding, weeping, and walking about.

"In these three lectures, Prof. Bynum will describe the miracles themselves, discuss the problems they presented for both church authorities and the ordinary faithful, and probe the basic assumptions about matter that lay behind them. She will also analyze what modern theorists call 'medieval art' and argue that it called attention to its materiality in sophisticated ways that help explain both the animation of images and the iconoclastic resistance to them."

Caroline Walker Bynum studies the religious ideas and practices of the European Middle Ages from late antiquity to the sixteenth century. In the 1980s, her book Holy Feast and Holy Fast was instrumental in introducing the concept of gender into Medieval Studies. Her recent work, in Wonderful Blood and in her forthcoming Christian Materiality, is a radical reinterpretation of the nature of Christianity on the eve of the reformations of the sixteenth century.

Click here for information about the time and place of the final lecture.