Figuring Futures Seminar - Sic et Non? Contraries in Medieval Culture
This is the first seminar in the Figuring Futures seminar series.
The seminar series 'Through a Glass Darkly' is the flagship event of the Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in its inaugural year, 2010-11. Two interlinked themes will be addressed: 'Time, Art and Memory'; and 'Cultural Scripts, Augury and Prophecy'.
The Series is focused in particular on cultural scripts: the writing of the future within the literary and historical texts of the past, and their material contexts. A recurrent emphasis is the relation between anxiety and creativity: calling the future into question can inspire enduring, even visionary, thought and writing. Medieval and Renaissance thought resonates in various and interesting ways with later cultural attitudes, and seminars are intended to provide a lively forum for dialogue and debate. The Series includes nine eminent speakers (from the UK, Europe and the US) whose work spans a range of disciplines - English, French and Norse literature, history, theology and religion, cultural studies and the history of ideas.
The idea that medieval intellectual culture can be characterized in terms of an interplay between Yes and No ("Sic et Non") is familiar to most medievalists from the title of a controversial work by the philosopher Peter Abelard; and the phrase is often used as a kind of shorthand for the perceived divisions, or dividedness, of the medieval world. In this paper, Neil Cartlidge discusses what the opposition between Yes and No might have meant for Abelard and his contemporaries, its use as a motif in twelfth- and thirteenth-century debate-poetry and its significance for an understanding of oppositional patterns in medieval art and literature more generally.
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