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How Medieval Wonders Work

How Medieval Wonders Work
125 Queen's Park, Lillian Massey Bldg 310
Time: Nov 27th, 2:00 pm End: Nov 27th, 4:00 pm
Interest Categories: Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations (FAS), Medieval Studies (FAS), History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), French and Linguistics (UTSC), French (FAS), English and Drama (UTM), English (UTSC), English (FAS), Comparative Literature (FAS), 400-1200, 1500-1800, 1200-1500
Lecture by Michelle Karnes, Stanford University

The Centre for Medieval Studies is pleased to present:

Michelle Karnes, English and Medieval-Early Modern Studies, Stanford University

How Medieval Wonders Work

Professor Karnes will present a seminar of work in progress on medieval theories of the imagination and the experience of wonder.  

Abstract: It is well known that medieval philosophers sought to work out the natural mechanisms of marvels, but the common reliance on imagination in their accounts has received almost no scholarly attention.  This article studies the proximate origins and early development of imagination’s association with marvels in the Latin West.  Starting with Al-Kindi in the 9th century and ending with Nicole Oresme in the 14th, it argues that imagination helped to produce the wonder that characterizes marvels because of its essential indeterminacy. Imagination contributed to natural and supernatural phenomena, it affected matter and spirit, and it deceived or enlightened with its images.  It created wonder not just by producing strikingly dissimilar phenomena but by making them resemble each other.  One might thus wonder whether an object was imagined or physically present.  Such attributes made imagination well-suited to marvels.  Disputing the common notion that philosophers “de-wondered” marvels by explaining them, this article argues that philosophers instead relied on imagination to provide marvels with their wonder-generating capacity.  Wonder was not an emotion to avoid or eliminate, but one to produce deliberately.

This event is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.  For further information, please contact the Centre for Medieval Studies at (416) 978-4884.


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