Making Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Literary Culture



The literature and culture of the late medieval and early modern periods were profoundly affected by the expansion of new artisanal and scientific technologies—innovations and ideas that would lead to the production and consumption of new forms of knowledge. In both periods, knowledge was conceptualized across a range of intersecting disciplines, including natural philosophy, astrology, mathematics, medicine, art, mechanics, and cartography, among others. Literature embraced, criticized, or participated in these fields in diverse ways, often examining how these new forms or categories of knowledge influenced the locus and ontology of the individual and social self.



Collectively, we will investigate the ways in which medieval and early modern literature engages with scientific, technological and textual processes of making and disseminating knowledge. In addition, we are interested in discussing the creation and development of modern/postmodern technologies through and around medieval and early modern texts. As such, scholars studying medieval and early modern texts, performances, and art—or later reassessments thereof— are welcome.



This conference is part of a three-year collaboration between King’s College, London and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Previous conferences include “Shakespeare and the Natural World” at UNC and “Shakespeare, Memory, and Culture” at KCL. “Making Knowledge” aims to continue this collaboration and engage in critical discussion with graduate students from both institutions and from across the US.



Suggested topics include:

  • ·         Technology or science’s effects on gender, politics, religion, magic, nature and preternature, economics, or epistemology
  • ·         Scientific observation and innovation, taxonomies, and literary form
  • ·         Transmission of texts
  • ·         Mechanics in literature and performance
  • ·         Medicine, technology, alchemy, humours and prostheses of bodies and texts
  • ·         The position of the self within material, vitalistic, or atomistic conceptions of the cosmos
  • ·         Boundaries between the human and the machine
  • ·         Nature versus artifice
  • ·         The effect of modern and postmodern technologies on the dissemination and evolution of medieval and early modern texts
  • ·         Medieval, early modern and postmodern intersections of text and technology
  • ·         Genre and technology

Dr. Pamela Smith, a cultural historian at Columbia University, will deliver a keynote on Saturday evening, April 5th. Dr. Smith’s work focuses on early modern conceptions of nature and artisanal craft. This talk will be held in Wilson Library. At 4:00 pm, Dr. Jessica Wolfe will introduce the Rooms of Wonder Exhibit (https://blogs.lib.unc.edu/news/index.php/2014/02/rooms-of-wonder-from-wunderkammer-to-museum-1565-1865/). Conference participants are encouraged to visit the exhibit on Friday or Saturday afternoon as well.


We invite 20 minute papers on these and related topics. Abstracts of 300-400 words are due November 1st, 2013 to uncgradconference@gmail.com. Participants will be notified on December 1st.



“Making Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Culture” will be held at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill from April 4th-5th, 2014. 


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