Grosseteste meets York Stained Glass Studies

Bishop_Robert_Grosseteste,_1896_(3x4crop)Tom McLeish was invited last week (November 1st) to hold a seminar on Grosseteste’s colour science  with the University of York’s History of Art Department’s Stained Glass Studies Group.  So here (right) is a stained-glass representation of the Bishop to start with.

Tom, an original member of the Ordered Universe project right from the very early days in Durham, has recently joined the University of York as its new Chair of Natural Philosophy.  Although based in Physics, the role has time allocated to the

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Kings Manor of the University of York, the home of its Centre for Medieval Studies

University’s long-standing Centre for Medieval Studies, as well, which is now a partner of the project. The Centre is accommodated in Kings Manor, the former abbot’s house of St. Mary’s Abbey (now ruined) close to the Minster, Museum, Library and Art Gallery in the centre of the city.

The natural starting point for the Kings Manor seminar was Grosseteste’s De colore, his treatise, probably from the mid 1220s that develops his natural philosophy of light into a theory of colour.  Early in the Ordered Universe project’s life we had studies this jewel of a treatise, and found it to be structured in a highly mathematical way. It constitutes the first description of an abstract three-dimensional space for colour.Dimensions of Colour book_ These insights, together with a fresh edition and translation and interdisciplinary commentary, formed the first ‘pilot’ publication from the project, Dimensions of Colour, back in 2013. in only 400 Latin words, Grosseteste carefully identifies colour as the effect of light incorporated in a diaphanous medium, and describes three ‘axes’ along which colour can vary independently. Crucially, two of these depend on properties of light and one on the material within which the light dwells – its ‘purity’ or ‘impurity’. This is turn is related to the quantity of ‘earthiness’ (earth is the only non-translucent of the four Aristotelian elements). The final paragraph of the treatise contains an invitation to try out making colours with different lights and materials, and is one of the pieces of evidence pointing to Grossteste’s involvement in the very early stirrings of experimental tradition.

York stained glass scholar Sarah Brown, who led the scholarly work behind the recent 10-year restoration of York Minster’s Great East Window, was led to think about glass-making right away by this paragraph. Might Grosseteste have witnessed the manufacture of glass?  If so this would not have been in England, but in northern France. Does a thread from light through colour and glass constitute another line of evidence that leads to a presence for him in France in the early 13th century?

The discussion also moved onto lenses and lens making in that era, of which no doubt there will be more news on this blog at a future date…

 

Grosseteste’s Dicta

We’re very pleased to announce that the Ordered Universe website is now hosting a downloadable PDF of the working transcript of Grosseteste’s Dicta prepared by Edwin J. Westermann and Joseph W. Goering. We’re extremely grateful to Professor Goering for making the transcript available in this way, and these fascinating texts open to a wider audience. The PDF is available under Resources-Dicta. We hope that this will be of service and use to all interested in the fields that the Dicta touch upon. The essential starting point for contextualising the Dicta is Professor Goering’s article: ‘Robert Grosseteste’s Dicta: The State of the Question’ in John Flood, James R. Ginther and Joseph W. Goering, eds., Robert Grosseteste and His Intellectual Milieu(Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2013) pp. 64-86.

 In addition, thanks to the kind offices of Gordon Jackson, Bishop Grosseteste University, his English translation will also be made available on the website – the first two volumes are to be found under the same page-heading.

 

Ordered Universe at the North American Conference on British Studies

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

Nominations for Northern Lights

 

As followers of the Ordered Universe and its blog will know, various members of the team worked with The Projection Studio (Ross Ashton and Karen Monid) in June this year, on their show Northern Lights, set, spectacularly, in York Minster. Excitingly the show has been shortlisted for two awards. The first as Best Event in the MinsterFM awards. Now, this is based on a public vote, and voting closes on October 29th. So, if you feel like casting one, just follow this link: https://www.minsterfm.com/local-events/lcavote-event.php

Second, Northern Lights has also been shortlisted for the Excellence In Media Arts Category at the York Culture Awards 2018. This is judged by panel, so we wish the show and Ross and Karen the best of luck for that one.

Anyone who saw the show live will not be surprised, but delighted, by these nominations – it really was something quite stunning – the Minster roof dissolving into sky, for example. It was a real privilege to be of some help in the planning and inspiration for what was projected, alongside other academic colleagues at the University of York. It’s quite appropriate that the show should be recognised – fingers crossed for the awards (and get clicking for the first one!).

Boston College – Knowing and Speaking

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 ArtsOn the Generation of SoundsOn the Sphere, On the Six DifferentiaeOn 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

Grosseteste at the NACBS – North American Conference on British Studies

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.

 

Knowing through Speaking – Boston College

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!

OxNet on Grosseteste Day

Happy Grosseteste Day! The 9th October marks the anniversary of Grosseteste’s death, attended, as the chronicler Matthew Paris noted, with the miraculous sounds of bells in the night sky. As part of the Ordered Universe’s commitment to university access we led, for the second year, a strand based around the project for the OxNet Access Scheme. For us, this is based around the North-East, with a hub school at Southmoor, and involved a series of seminars from team members, an Easter school at Durham, and the summer school in Oxford. Here’s what some of the students on the course thought:

Ordered Universe in Dublin – Getting Hands-on with Medieval Science!

As part of last week’s Ordered Universe symposium in Dublin, Seb Falk and Giles Gasper gave a talk about the work of the project (Giles) and medieval understanding of the night skies, and the instruments for measurement and observation available in the period. It was a lovely venue – in the Long Room Hub at Trinity College Dublin, an attentive audience, and a testing series of questions (!), finished off with Seb’s demonstration of how to use an astrolabe. An especially fascinating and Continue reading