‘Stylistic Effects and Bodily Health in Medieval Aesthetics’
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Mary Carruthers is the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of English, emerita, at New York University and Quondam Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. She studies memory training and rhetorical practices of the Middle Ages, in universities and monasteries, clerical and court cultures, with a particular focus on compositional and performative practice in the arts of the twelfth through the mid-fifteenth centuries in Europe. Her most recent publications include The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Rhetoric Beyond Words: Delight and Persuasion in the Arts of the Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
In this lecture, Professor Carruthers will explore the traditionally close relationship between ancient and medieval medical theories and rhetoric by focusing on the vocabulary commonly use for the effects of style. Words such as ‘sweet’, ‘harsh’, ‘soft’, ‘dry’, and ‘frigid’ expressed aesthetic values as well as signifying particular sensations of the body that could affect humoural balance and health. Medieval psychology used a model of knowing that originated with the natural sensations of body, received in the brain and processed by the joint activity of imagination, memory, and recollection into conceptual ‘objects’ proper for thinking. In this way, artefacts could be agents for health and psychic well-being as well as instruments for true human knowledge.
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