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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Culture, Imagination and Memory: Medieval Narratives of Time Seminar

16th October 2012, 17:30 to 18:30, The Prior’s Hall, Durham Cathedral, Dr Luke Sunderland, (Durham University)

Title  - Power and its limits: sovereignty in the Middle Ages

Is there such a thing as sovereignty in the Middle Ages? For most modern political theorists, the answer is no: sovereignty is a phenomenon unique to the world of nation states. But if we think of sovereignty not as a bundle of positive features, but as a set of questions about the location and nature of final authority within a community, things look a little different. Inspired by Giorgio Agamben's transhistorical problematic of sovereignty, this paper will cast Aquinas's writings on government and the creep of royal power into new domains under Louis IX as negotiations and deployments of sovereignty. Medieval and modern thinkers alike confront the same difficulty: how to limit absolute power and avoid its collapse into tyranny? 

Luke Sunderland is Lecturer in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. His current research focuses on pro- and anti-royal currents in medieval literature and thought from England, France and Italy. He is also a member of international research groups on medieval libraries and medieval translation.

Contact for more information about this event.