Knowing and Speaking – Launch

A lovely moment for the Ordered Universe project. The first volume in our Oxford University Press series on The Scientific Works of Robert Grosseteste was published 11 days ago, on November 6th. In a resplendent red dust-jacket (the beginning of a rainbow as the other volumes appear), the volume presents Grosseteste’s treatises On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds with an intriguing Middle English re-imagining of both texts The Seven Liberal Arts. Nineteen co-authors, from the wide range of disciplines that characterise the project contributed variously to the tasks of editing, translating, elucidating, and analysing the treatises, and Grosseteste’s remarkable thought processes.

So, we have discussion of the evolution of the liberal arts as a conceptual and educational schema, discussion of Grosseteste’s location and circumstances – from the southern Welsh borders to (possibly) Paris of the first decade of the thirteenth century. We have analysis of his interest in music, of his mastery of Aristotle’s natural philosophy – notably the traditions of interpretation around On the Soul and the Physics, and his familiarity with Islamiate authors such as Abu Ma’shar. And, we have analysis of the sonativum, the sounding object and its physical properties and behaviour, alongside discussion of human vocal production and perception of phonemes. These are integral to the interpretation of Grosseteste’s intentions in his first two treatises, and their re-working in Middle English. The volume moves from the ancient world to the end of the medieval period, and to our own; Islamicate thinkers, Christian authorities, Ancient authors, and contemporary scholars, are check by jowl with the natural phenomena discussed, and the moral framework that Grosseteste sets up for learning.

The two treatises show Grosseteste at the beginning of an enterprise that would occupy him for thirty years or so, exploring new learning from the Ancient World, and medieval Islamicate, dedicated to the understanding of natural philosophy. The later treatises focus on astronomy and geography, comets, meteorology, colour, light, the properties of matter, and the rainbow, amongst many other subjects. It is unusual to be able to follow  the development of a past thinker from youth to old age; it is the case for the study of Grosseteste’s world. And this is a journey that we make in his company, and in his footsteps.

This then, is a special moment for the team and the project. We have brought together individual scholarship on Grosseteste into a creative dynamic focused on his scientific works. The project’s radically interdisciplinary ethos fuels its emphasis on learning without frontiers, from youth to experience, and from the university classroom to city-streets with projection art, galleries, schools, shopping centres, festivals, public talks in conference centres, cathedrals, societies, and pubs. There are so many people and institutions involved, and so many to thank for their generosity of funding, time, expertise, and insight. Now in its eleventh year, and fifth of major funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Ordered Universe has developed a distinctive modus operandi, and a distinctive reach into sciences, humanities, and wider communities of learning and interest. As Grosseteste might note scale is not the key here, but intensity: all contributions, no matter how seemingly small, are vital to the outworking of what we do. And this volume, in this sense, represents so much more than the nineteen authors; and proudly so.

This afternoon we are very fortunate to be able to hold a reception for the first official launch of Knowing and Speaking at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, a few hundred metres or so from where Grosseteste would have taught in the early 1230s at the house of the Franciscans, Greyfriars. We are extremely grateful to the college for facilitating this gathering, especially the Master Dame Lynne Brindley. There will be further book launches and discussion of the volume and its implications will take place in January 2020 at the University of York, and March 2020 at Durham University.

‘To Loose the Bonds of Arcturus’: Ordered Universe in Montreal

On the 28th September, Giles will give a public lecture to the McGill Medievalists, supported by the Mellon Foundation. The subject will be the place of Astronomy in twelfth century schemes for Liberal Arts. Grosseteste’s De artibus liberalibus features strongly; the lecture will explore what Grosseteste sets as his task in the treatise and contextualise some of its more particular and idiosyncratic elements. Alchemy, Medicine, the impact of Continue reading

Space and Place: Ordered Universe Symposium

The next Ordered Universe symposium takes place at the beginning of September. From 1-3 various members of the research team will meet at Durham University, at St John’s College, to continue the programme of collaborative reading. The symposium will see the second reading of the treatise De sphera – On the Sphere, the first of the next text in our roster, the De diferentiis localibus – On Local Differences, and revision of earlier work with the treatise De liberalibus artibus – On the Liberal Arts and its Middle English translation. A full programme – complete with a public lecture by Professor Clive Siviour, Department of Engineering and Pembroke College, University of Oxford on his research into High-Speed Photography, and Grossetestes’s treatise De generatione sonorum – On the Generation of Sounds. This takes place in the Cassidy Atrium at St Chad’s College, from 5.30 and is followed by an opportunity to meet the research team, to explore some of the resources of the project, and to participate in some medieval and modern experiments.

 

Image of walking around the world, from Goussouin de Metz, L’image du monde, with permission from the BN, France, Fr. 1548, used with permission.

Ordered Universe in Brussels

On the 15th June, Giles, Cecilia and Sigbjørn took the Ordered Universe project on the road to Brussels, and, in particular, the Université Libre de Bruxelles. An invitation by Professor Christian Brouwer, Department  of Philosophy and Director of the Bibliothèque des Science Humaines, to present the concept and results of the project in a seminar was an excellent opportunity. Christian and Odile Gilon ran a reading and translation group focused on the De luce of Robert Grosseteste, using Cecilia’s critical editionIt was, therefore, to an expert seminar that we made our presentation, with colleagues including Anja van Rompaey.

The presentation moved from the historical context, the purpose of the Ordered Universe collaboration (the provision of editions, translations, and analyses of Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula), and the nature  of the collaboration in action. Some discussion of our most recent work on the treatise De artibus liberalibus followed, before Cecilia took on the question of Grosseteste’s development of a unitary understanding for first the cause. From the power of celestial bodies, to light, to the notion of radiation, it is clear that Grosseteste’s overriding concern was to consider what the first cause of motion might be. Sigbjørn gave details of some of the problems we have encountered in making the new editions and the solutions we have adopted. A summary of some of the scientific results of the project, modelling the medieval universe and the natural rainbow formed the final section (delivered by humanities scholars – but that we can do so is all part of the spirit of the collaboration!), and the cascade of artistic projects attached to various aspects of Ordered Universe research on Grosseteste. We finished with a showing of the World Machine projection.

A very engaging discussion ensued on the textual problems, how to relate Grosseteste’s different interests to each other especially the issues concerned with theology and science. Wider issues such as mathematical theologies, particularly as articulated by David Albertson, and Grosseteste’s intellectual inheritances, also formed part of the discussion.

Collaboration between the ULB Grosseteste Reading Group and Ordered Universe is very much in formation, and this will be of great benefit to the project.We’re delighted to be forging closer bonds with Christian and his team, one of whom, Anja, will be based in Oxford next year for  post-doctoral fellowship. Greater access to Grosseteste’s scientific works is perhaps the primary aim of the Ordered Universe and it is heart-warming to see this taking place. We will post regularly on the Brussels-Ordered Universe activities, and look forward to seeing our Belgian colleagues soon! The Ordered Universe project members were very grateful for their generous welcome and hospitality and the opportunity to get to know Brussels better.

On the Utility of the Arts

A reminder for Durham-based Ordered Universe participants and devotees, that tomorrow we have a two-session On the Utility of the Arts on Grosseteste’s treatise De artibus liberalibus- On the Liberal Arts. Starting at 10.30 and finishing at 2.30, the seminar takes place in the Hatfield College SCR Dining Room. We will be joined by Faith Wallis from Continue reading

Robert Grosseteste’s Early Treatises and their Reception

IMG_0125OU logo large text 2015The next in the Ordered Universe symposia series starts today. The research group will be taking its final look, at least in session, at the treatises On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds (De artibus liberalibus and De generatione sonorum). So, vowel shapes, musical measure, the powers (or not) of astrology, and Grosseteste’s rising familiarity with the De anima of Aristotle. Continue reading

Singing for the Lincolnite

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA20140719_153207Grosseteste speaks in the De artibus liberalibus – On the Liberal Arts of the healing power of music, as part of a psychological study on proportion, harmony and the exercise of will and passion. As part of the workshop in Lincoln (hosted at and by Bishop Grosseteste University) next week, the newly formed ‘Cantus [In]firmus’ will be making a short musical offering in honour of the Lincolnite, whose appreciation for, and love of, music can be shown from his earliest works to the end of his days. Continue reading

Liberal Arts

20140719_090058IMG_1323The next Ordered Universe symposium will take place at Bishop Grosseteste University, in Lincoln, 8th-10th April, 2015. Jack Cunningham and his team at BGU will be taking the helm for the symposium, dedicated to the two earliest of Grosseteste’s works, a second series of sessions on the De generatione sonorumOn the Generation of Sounds, and a first outing for the mysterious and rather beautiful De artibus liberalibusOn the Liberal Arts. Continue reading