Indiana University Bloomington
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March 7-8
Indiana University, Bloomington

In his famous work, The Golden Bough, James Frazer proposed that human societies evolved from cultures dependent on magic to ones subject to religion and finally to ones guided by science. Scholarship since Frazer has worked to destabilize and expand upon this tidy theory, pointing out that the distinctions between these three categories of belief are not always clear and that, in fact, all three tend to exist simultaneously within the same societies, schools, and even individuals. Nonetheless, Frazer's division of belief into magical, religious, and scientific modes of thought provides a useful lens for examining the ways that truth can be legitimated, and offers us a clear heuristic paradigm for exploration into human thought and behavior throughout history. Asking questions about magic, religion, and science offers us avenues into different epistemes and windows into the habitus of a group or society.

It is particularly useful for exploring the Middle Ages, which presents a wealth of examples in which the boundaries between magic, religion, and science are blurred, re-drawn, or entirely confounded. Indeed, the designation "medieval" across cultures often signifies a perceived interim period, between classical and modern thinking, in which multiple paradigms--magic and superstition, the hegemony of religion, and scientific exploration--coexist and compete for dominance. Investigating magic, religion, and science further within the context of the Middle Ages helps us not only to understand medieval thinking and culture more accurately and to see how the boundaries of magic, religion, and science were policed at the time, but to disturb modern assumptions about the operation of knowledge in these time periods.

Friday, 7 March

All events, unless otherwise specified, will take place in Wylie Hall 015. Click here to see a map of events.

2-3pm — Registration

3-4pm — Avenues Toward and Obstacles To Knowledge
Moderator: Jessica Leach, Indiana University, History

“'The[y] Beleve on a Cake': Doubt, Sight and 'Misreading' in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament”
Elizabeth MaffetoneMA/PhD candidate, Indiana University Department of English

“153 Large Fish: Christian Paideia and Roman Concepts of the Sea in the Great Fishing Mosaic of Aquileia”
Sean TandyPhD student, Indiana University Department of Classical Studies

4:15-5:45pm — The Magic of the Body
Moderator: Erin Sweany, Indiana University, English

“The Therapeutic function of animals in recovery from insanity”
Emily O'BrockMA Student, Indiana University Department of French and Italian

“Beautiful Monsters: What Elves Teach about Anglo-Saxon Monstrosity”
Jonathan BroussardPhD Student, Louisiana State University Department of Communication Studies

“Eyes, Skin, and Soul: Conceptions of the Body in Old Norse Shape-Shifter Narratives”
Andrea WhitacrePhD student, Indiana University Department of English

7-10pm — Dinner & Reader's Circle
Federal Room, Indiana Memorial Union
Open to all Symposium attendees, RSVP required

Saturday, 8 March

All events, unless otherwise specified, will take place in Wylie Hall 015.

8-8.30am — Breakfast

8.30-10.00 — The Scholarship of Sin
Moderator: Rebecca Straple, Western Michigan University, English

“The obsolete demon: nature as artifex in De universo (c. 1231)”
Sarah ArcherLecturer, University of Kansas Department of History

“'Ryghte Evyll Apayed': The Instantiation of Evil in The Bowge of Courte”
A. Arwen TaylorPhD Candidate, Indiana University Department of English

“Science, Technology, and Sin in the Libro de Alexandre”
Moses FritzPhD Student, Indiana University Department of Spanish and Portuguese

10.15am-12.15pm — Magic, Science, and Religion Revisited: A Seminar on the so-called Occult Sciences
Moderator:William Newman, Professor, Indiana University, Department of History and Philosophy of Science

“The Mechanics of Wonder: The Function(ing) of Machines and Automata in Medieval Romance”
Kyle GrothoffPhD Student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science

“The Subjugation of Merlin in 'Lancelot du Lac': Devils, Unnatural Birth, and the Positive Power of Magic”
David WagnerPhD Student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science

“Navigating a Spiritual World: Astrological Influences on Lands and Peoples in Roger Bacon's Geography”
Sarah ReynoldsPhD student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science

“Alchemy and Atomism in Islam”
Nicolás BamballiPhD student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science

12:15-1:45pm — Lunch
Wylie 329, for all Symposium attendees, RSVP required

2-3.30 — Science, Magic, Superstition, and Power&8212;Bridging gaps and building boundaries
Moderator: Natalie Levin, Indiana University, History

“Re-writing Religion: Superstition, Indulgences, and the 'Arma Christi' Poem”
Katherine Storm HindleyPhD student, Yale University Department of Medieval Studies

“'The Power of Things': Confidence and Incantations in Pietro d'Abano's Conciliator”
Matthew KlemmAssociate Professor, Ithaca College Department of History

“Magic in Medieval Scandinavian Law and Literature”
Margaret Jean CormackProfessor, University of Charleston Department of Religious Studies

3.45-4.45pm — Science, Medicine, and Magic in Medieval England
Moderator: Kerilyn Harkaway-Krieger, Indiana University, English

“Celestial or Human Childbirth?: Medical and Scientific Terminology in Anglo-Saxon Marian Texts”
Rebecca StraplePhD Student, Western Michigan University Department of English

“'Shameful deeth': Plague, Trauma, and the Magic of Death in The Physician's Tale”
Misho IshikawaMA, University of Colorado Boulder Department of English

5.00-6.30 — Keynote Address: Bruce Holsinger
Professor of English, University of Virginia
"The Voices of Medieval London: History, Fiction, Historical Fiction"

Professor Holsinger, author of the recently released historical novel A Burnable Book, will discuss the recreation of medieval London through the lens and craft of historical fiction. Taking up theories of historical fiction and reenactment, the presentation will also include a reading from the novel and a discussion of the audiobook in relation to the city's medieval soundscape.

7-10pm — Keynote Banquet
CAHI Open to all Symposium attendees, RSVP required

Sunday, 9 March

Early Music Institute Concert, "Italia Mia"
7pm, Recital Hall, reception to follow

Sponsored by the Medieval Studies Institute of Indiana University and the following Departments and Programs:

  • Classical Studies
  • Comparative Literature
  • the Early Music Institute
  • East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • English
  • French and Italian
  • Gender Studies
  • Germanic Studies
  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • The Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program
  • Musicology
  • Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies
  • Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Spanish and Portuguese

If you have any questions, please contact Sean Tandy, Symposium Chair, or the Medieval Studies Institute.

For a PDF flyer, click here.

Medieval Studies Institute
Also of Interest

Mediaevalia at the Lilly

Medieval Studies Symposia