Ordered Universe will be taking part in the 2019 Leeds International Congress, the largest forum for sharing research on the Middle Ages in Europe. The project has a lot to offer on the special conference theme of ‘Materialities’ so we proposed four sessions and a roundtable, all of which were accepted. The Ordered Universe activities will take place Continue reading
Next Monday the OxNet – Ordered Universe programme for 2018-19 launches in the North-East. Organised through the hub school at Southmoor Academy in Sunderland, the programme involves and is open to schools from across the regions. We’ll be holding a taster evening at St Peter’s Church in Sunderland, rich in its connections to the medieval heritage of the region and to the history of science – the church was once home to Bede. Join us for a tour of the church, sessions on Comets – medieval and modern, or Cultural Cosmology, with Brian Tanner, Sarah Gilbert, Jamie Irvine and Giles Gasper, from Durham University (Physics and History Departments), and, for parents a session on student life and myth-busting led by Peter Claus (University of Oxford) and Lee Worden (Durham). The sessions will give an insight into the sorts of activities we’ll run from January to July – evening seminars at St Peter’s on a wide variety of topics and subjects, a residential Easter School at Durham, and the longer residential school at Pembroke College, Oxford. Moving between science and humanities, and medieval and modern thinking, we’ll show the students what it is that we can do at university, the joys and challenges of collaboration, how to ask questions and think more deeply about the world around us. The evening will wrap up with talks from Peter Claus on the OxNet programme and its philosophy, Sammy Wright from Southmoor Academy, Claire Ungley our OxNet North East co-ordinator, two students who attended the course last year, and finally Giles Gasper introducing Ordered Universe.
And in other news we can report a number of talks delivered by Ordered Universe members in recent weeks. Neil Lewis was at the Medieval Studies Institute at Indiana University on October 17, and gave a presentation on ‘Robert Grosseteste and the Ordered Universe: The value of interdisciplinary study for solving textual and interpretative problems’, Giles Gasper gave a paper to the Durham University Centre for Catholic Studies Seminar on the Hexaemeron and Scientific Literacy in the Middle Ages, with a focus on Grosseteste on November 8th, and Nader El-Bizri gave two talks, on Monday 12th November at the Arab School of Astrophysics at American University of Beirut on Ibn al-Haytham, Selenography and Optical Studies on the Light of the Moon, with Ordered Universe as a model. Nader is also to be found tomorrow at the UNESCO sponsor event, ‘Une nuit de la philosophie‘ in Paris, tonight!
Over the last three days, some member of the Ordered Universe have been attending the North American Conference on British Studies at its annual meeting, this year in Providence, Rhode Island. The conference covers all aspects of British culture, from the medieval period to the present-day. So, Ordered Universe research was presented Continue reading
Yesterday, Sigbjørn and Giles were hosted by the Theology and Philosophy Departments at Boston College, for a seminar on Ordered Universe, its methods, principal findings and ethos. We outlined the historical issues in encountering Grosseteste, the difficulties in tracing his steps, which affect in turn the context that can be given, or is assumed, for his earlier works. After that we ran through On the Liberal Arts, On the Generation of Sounds, On the Sphere, On the Six Differentiae, On Comets, On Light and On the Rainbow, to give a full conspectus of Ordered Universe activities. At each step we evoked the conclusions of Continue reading
Towards the end of next week the North American Conference on British Studies takes place, meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. Founded in 1950, the NACBS is a society focused on all aspects of the study of British culture. This includes the Middle Ages, and it is a great privilege to have the opportunity to present Ordered Universe research to the Society at the conference. We have a session dedicated to twelfth and thirteenth century history: ‘Ordering Intellectual Life in Twelfth and Thirteenth- Century England’, sponsored through Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
Moving from monastic thinking, to historical writing, and the impact of translated works of Aristotle, the session features:
Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (Durham) on ‘Robert Grosseteste and the Early Reception of Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy in England’;
Laura Cleaver (Trinity College, Dublin) on ‘The Circulation of History in England: The Case of King Lear’
and Lauren Mancia (CUNY Brooklyn) on ‘Monastic Spiritual Thought: Emotional or Intellectual?’
In addition Giles Gasper will be presenting on ‘Durham Cathedral MS A.II.12: Science, Pastoral Care and Robert Grosseteste’, in a session, also sponsored by Durham IMEMS, on the Durham Priory Re-created project. A.III.12 is an important manuscript for the early history of how Grosseteste’s works circulated, and includes parts of his commentary on Psalms, Dicta and sermons. How it arrived in Durham, by 1258 at the latest, is intriguing.
We’ll post updates on the NACBS conference as well as the earlier talk in Boston, and enjoy very much presenting the Ordered Universe and research on Grosseteste’s scientific works.
Next week, Sigbjørn Sønnesyn and Giles Gasper will be talking about the Ordered Universe at Boston College, USA, Thursday 25th October, starting at 7.00 pm. They will be speaking on ‘Knowing through Speaking: Collaborative Learning through Interdisciplinary Research on Medieval Science.’
Bringing together a unique configuration of natural scientists, social scientists and arts and humanities scholars, the Ordered Universe Project integrates the conceptual tools of modern science with the textual methods of the humanities to explore the richness of Grosseteste’s thought. Each team member, from whatever discipline, contributes to editions, translations, analyses and presentations. In so doing, we are pioneering new ways of working across and between our disciplines. Trusting one another, and learning to learn from the past have presented creative demands. We have challenged academic and public preconceptions regarding the value of past science as ‘irrelevant’. To the contrary: the team has published new science (on rainbows, colour and cosmology) inspired by engaging with another thinker from eight centuries ago. The centre and heart of the project are our collaborative reading workshops: we all sit down together, and, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, grapple with and unlock the amazing world which Grosseteste opens up.
We’re delighted to be at Boston College, and very grateful indeed to Professors Eileen Sweeney and Boyd Coolman for arranging for this to happen. To speak to diverse audiences, to engage with their views and reactions is extremely important to the project. Boston, here we come!
A guest post by Thomas Henderson, 2nd year history undergraduate at Durham University, who has spent this week as an undergrad mentor and tutor at the summer school
After a year’s programme of seminars and a residential Easter school in Durham, the OxNet-Ordered Universe access scheme has reached its climax with this week’s residential summer school at Pembroke College, Oxford. The sixth-formers from Sunderland have joined with others from OxNet schemes in Manchester, Cheshire and London, as well as students from rural India supported by the Karta Institute, for a programme of seminars, lectures and tutorials aimed to provide an insight into the realities of university study.
The entire summer school was kicked off on Sunday evening by Dr Peter Claus, Pembroke’s Access Fellow, and Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, who introduced the themes of the school’s title: ‘Through a Glass Darkly’. His diverting lecture urged the students to embrace the limitations of human knowledge, and its attendant feelings of uncertainty and confusion, as the precursors of investigation and exploration. Taking its cue from the Ordered Universe project, the school is designed to challenge the way the students conceptualise knowledge, and to encourage them to think in a way unbounded by A-level mark-schemes or conventional divisions between disciplines.
At this half-way point, it is clear that the sixth-formers have taken these words to heart. Their eager inquiries about the realities of university life and applications (making the most of their undergraduate mentors) have been matched by affirmations of their intentions to apply to elite universities. A visit from journalists from the BBC Look North served to focus them further. In their academic work, they have been just as engaged and stimulating.
The Ordered Universe strand is focused on colour, light and rainbows. Work on these topics has included two of the project’s signature collaborative reading sessions, of De iride and De luce, led by Sig Sønnesyn, and a workshop on the science of rainbows with Joshua Harvey. These sessions have seen students enthusiastically discussing and disagreeing with each other over (among other things) the nature of rainbows, the problems of perception and whether a sunrise can exist without somebody to observe it. We look forward to what they will produce come Friday!
Earlier this month members of the Ordered Universe team, Joshua Harvey and Alexandra Carr gave papers at the Media Lab at MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts. Joshua’s paper, ‘Medieval and modern visual alchemy: material and digital ‘transmutation’ of chromatic statistics’, in which he presented his recent work on the potential of manipulating distributions of chromatic statistics within an image, to transfer material appearances. His research has significant potential applications in the fields of image processing and computer graphics and has been informed by his investigations into the medieval imitation gold material featured in polychrome sculpture.
Alexandra’s paper, ‘The body of colour: a medieval perspective’, outlined her artistic outputs to her collaboration with the Ordered Universe project so far, with a particular focus on colour. Setting aside the current rationalistic empirical paradigm, she proposed the notion of colour as a physical body through investigating the phenomena of light and the concept of darkness. Seeing the world through the eyes of a natural philosopher allows space for the psychological, metaphysical and philosophical implications of the theory of colour, which has led to new scientific theories. The artistic investigation, thoughts and outputs of medieval treatises demonstrates that a revisiting of ideas from antiquity and an uninhibited re-questioning of phenomena is conducive to new methodologies and theories.
The talks provided a great opportunity for further lines of investigation both practically and philosophically, with colour perception and impossible colours taking centre stage. Dr Andreas Mershin of The Centre for Bits and Atoms very kindly showed everyone around the lab, wowed everyone with a laser capable of allowing you to see colours you have never seen before, and described the work he is carrying out on olfactory and visual perception. Joshua, Alexandra and Andreas plan to meet shortly to continue sharing ideas and keeping the dialogue going. We’ll keep you posted as to where this leads.
Ordered Universe team members (Giles, Nicola, Mike and Sarah), and colleagues from Durham University (Helen, Abi and Katie), made the journey from Montreal to Kalamazoo and then back to Toronto airport and home. We have a visual record here…from Quebec to Ontario to Michigan, the Kalamazoo Congress (and dance) and the Museum of Ontario Archeology and its recreation longhouse on the way home!