The Program in Medieval and Renaissance Studies is excited to announce a workshop and lecture series on the topic of “Premodern Elements.” Before the rare earths that invisibly shape and fuel your cell phone and hybrid car—minerals of costly environmental extraction and recondite names—the elements were simple: as simple, shifting, complex, and storied as earth, wind, fire, and air. Together with other iconic foursomes (seasons, humors, continents) the elements organized the premodern universe, animated myth, required iconography. Drawing on recent efforts to think “with” the elements in ecocriticism, this workshop proposes a group exploration of the impact of the elements on premodern cultural production. We seek to expand elemental thinking beyond purely ecocritical or materialist concerns to include topics, texts, and objects in literary studies, history of art and architecture, and history and philosophy of science. How did earth, air, fire, and water combine to order—or disorganize—materiality, bodies, space, or texts? How did they foster, temper, or block new experiences of scale or configurations of matter? What does it mean to approach a literary text or cultural artifact through its engagement with the elements? How did elements express national or gender affiliations? What were the relations between elements and affect?To get at these questions, we will bring together a group of scholars across different disciplines for a set of public talks and group work sessions Thursday, March 23 and Friday, March 24.
Sponsored by Medieval & Renaissance Studies
Location and Address
Humanities Center, 602 CL