Graduate Student Essay Contest Winners


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Now showing 1 - 4 of 4
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    Contemplative Ascent and the Limitations of Vision in the Omne Bonum
    (Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-Modern Europe, 2011-05-12) Letvin, Alexandra
    The Omne Bonum, an encyclopedia compiled in London between 1359 and 1375, is unprecedented in both its scale and ambition to organize knowledge from various fields in alphabetical order. Before beginning to read the hundreds of articles contained in the manuscript, however, the viewer encounters in the prefatory material a full-page illumination dominated by a fiery, disembodied face. This paper argues that this perplexing image diagrams the possibilities and limitations of human vision. Comparing the painting to its likely source, found in a miscellany created some thirty years earlier, the paper situates both images in relation to contemporary theological debates concerning the beatific vision, the deceased soul’s face-to-face encounter with God. It is furthermore demonstrated that both images visualize contemporary optical theories employed in these debates to make fundamentally different claims about human vision and the visio Dei. The paper concludes that the Omne Bonum illumination positions imperfect human vision in relation to its most perfect form, unachievable by the manuscript’s reader in this life. Such a message was crucial to the presentation of the manuscript’s contents: before turning to the entries presenting knowledge gained by human inquiry, the reader is first asked to recognize the limitations of the epistemological potential of human vision.
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    From Jongleur to Minstrel: The Professionalization of Secular Musicians in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Paris
    (Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-Modern Europe, 2011) Daniels, Nathan A.
    This paper discusses the circumstances surrounding the formation of a Parisian guild for minstrels, the Corporation des ménétriers, in 1321. This action marks a pivotal moment in the history of urban minstrelsy and stands in stark contrast to the works of theologians who insisted that jongleurs had no practical use to society. In order to understand how this guild came to be, I first examine how the evolving intellectual climate in Paris provided a path for jongleurs to professionalize. I then explore the geography and demographics of medieval Paris, using the tax records levied by Philip the Fair, and the charter and early guild records of the Corporation des ménétriers. These documents suggest that minstrels had already become a stable presence on the Rue aus Jugléeurs well before their formal incorporation in 1321. Furthermore, by 1335, the guild had funded and constructed both a hospital and a chapel, evidently with the aim of benefiting not only guild members, but also their local community. This type of institutional construction was common among many other guilds, and I argue that by emulating those practices, Parisian minstrels were able to demonstrate that their labor was skilled indeed, and that their craft produced a tangible benefit to society.  
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    “Butcher-like and hatefull”: Domestic Medicine and Resistance to Surgery in Early Modern England
    (Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-Modern Europe, 2010) LeJacq, Seth
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    Through a Jewel, Darkly: A Reading of the Frontispiece of Giambattista Vico’s Scienza Nuova
    (2008) DeForest, Ben
    Abstract: This essay provides an interpretation of the frontispiece that adorns the 1730 and 1744 editions of Giambattista Vico’s Principj di Scienza Nuova, arguing that the beam of light depicted in the so-called dipintura should be read as an allusion to Isaac Newton’s discovery that white light “is a heterogeneous mixture of differently refrangible rays.” Vico’s championing of Newtonian optics is read as a response to an analogy that begins Descartes’s Rules for the Direction of the Mind, in which colored rays of light are compared to the various sciences. In borrowing the Cartesian metaphorics of light and colors and reconsidering this metaphorics in terms of a more current optical theory, Vico imagines a means for organizing human knowledge appropriate to the conditions of modernity that stands in stark contradistinction to that of Descartes.