Celebrating Arts and Humanities Research

The Ordered Universe project featured today at Durham University’s Celebrating Arts and Humanities Research Day. The second annual event of its kind, the day showcased research from the past year from all of the departments within the Faculty (History, English, Classics, Theology and Religion, Music, Philosophy, and Modern Languages and Cultures). Continue reading

Science Stories – Podcast

And here it is, the wonderful show from Philip Ball’s Science Stories, on Radio 4. An evocative opening, and then a treat with Tom talking about Grosseteste, the De luce and the interdisciplinary work of the Ordered Universe, and a final consideration of multiverses with Mary Jane Rubenstein. Thought-provoking, meditative and stimulating by turns! Just shows how well the story of Grosseteste’s world, how it inspires scholarship and creativity today, and the intrinsic interest in the phenomena studies, works on radio. Do listen – it’s well worth it.

Exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland

Absolutely thrilled to announce an upcoming exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Artists Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie, with contributions from MA and PhD students from the Centre will be creating a fantastic array of installations, all based on Grosseteste’s treatises on light, colour and the rainbow. The exhibition will run from October 2017 to February 2018 at the Glass Centre.

Amongst the pieces to be created are pillars of colour casting shadow and reflection, and an exploded rainbow, with sequences of colour moving and blending into each other:

Other pieces will work with medieval imagery and text; all will be exploring Grosseteste’s idea that Colour is Light ‘Color est lux’. Or, as he put in his Commentary on the Genesis Creation story, a constant mediation and mingling of the elements:

Nor should anyone think that the earth could not have been coloured at the beginning, given that colour is light in a diaphanous medium and light was not yet created. In fact, if the creation of things was successive the fire was mixed with this solid earth since the beginning, as it is now; and the incorporation of its light (that is: the fire-light) in the moisture of the earth made the earth coloured. In fact, these elements that we perceive around us are not pure, but mixed with each other, and are named from the element that predominates.
[Hexaemeron 4.7.2: ed. Richard C. Dales and Servus Gieben (Oxford, 1982); translated by C.F.J. Martin as On the Six Days of Creation (Oxford, 1996)]

Flowing from the Through A Glass Darkly collaboration the exhibition also forms part of the City of Sunderland’s bid for UK City of Culture. It really is amazing to see the continued inspiration that Grosseteste’s thinking moves and shapes, and to see different levels of analysis, interpretation and explanation of these texts through glass.

We’ll be creating a Vlog to track the progress of the making – many thanks to Claire Todd – and to whet your appetites for the exhibition, in its various modes: meditative and explosive by turns.

Medieval ‘Big Bang Theory’…

One not to miss! Tom McLeish is featured at 21.00 on Wednesday this week, talking with Philip Ball, on Science Stories, Radio 4: The Medieval Bishop’s Big Bang Theory. Tom and Philip explore the scientific world of Robert Grosseteste, rainbows, colour and light streaming through Cathedral windows, and the birth of the cosmos described in his treatise ‘On Light’ with its eerie resonance of modern thinking. Listen in, or to the podcast afterwards!

Science, Imagination and Wonder: Call for Papers and Posters

The Ordered Universe, in association with the International Robert Grosseteste Society, is organising a conference, 3-5 April 2018, at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. The call for Papers and Posters is available now. Please circulate and put in an application! Science, Imagination and Wonder: Robert Grosseteste and His Legacy…

CfP Oxford1


New Podcast: Tom McLeish at University College Dublin’s Institute for Discovery

Tom McLeish talking to Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain from University College Dublin, about interdisciplinary, Ordered Universe, and wider themes concerning science, faith and creativity.

Experiments in Space, Time and the Body

Thursday and Friday last week, 19th and 20th of April, saw the latest colloquium in the Ordered Universe programme. This time the focus was on the medieval science of time-reckoing – Compotus. To this science Grosseteste made a notable, and highly original contribution, in the 1220s. The colloquium took the theme of compotus, using the beautiful, tiny, and beguiling Durham Cathedral Library Manuscript Hunter 100, as a fulcrum, on which to balance thoughts about the inheritance and legacy of scientific learning as related to time-reckoning from the late tenth century to Grosseteste. In this way too we explored the context for and background too Grosseteste’s compotus, as well as the context for Hunter 100, and the wider dimensions of what medieval science meant, and how it related to the wider experiences of life in the period. Ordered Universe regulars Faith Wallis, Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, Giles Gasper, Philipp Nothaft and Sarah Gilbert were joined by a range of other experts, from graduate students to established scholars, Ana Dias, Eric Ramírez Weaver, Helen Foxhall Forbes, Charlie Rozier, Alfred Lohr and Jonathon Turnock. In the wonderful surroundings of All Souls College, and the Hovenden Room, two extremely stimulating days flashed past.

The first day began with Helen Foxhall Forbes on scientific learning from the late tenth century to the early twelfth, looking in particular at a group of manuscripts – science compilations include compotistical material, and scribes in the south-west of England, in the Kingdom of Wessex. The array of networks demonstrated between religious houses and centres of learning, between England and Francia, and between generations, as well as the reasons why collections were made, used and re-used, raised themes which continued throughout the colloquium. Charlie Rozier took on the question of historical learning and scientific albums, and experiments with chronology, at Durham, and elsewhere in the early twelfth century. The Star Catalogue of Hunter 100, lavishly and beautifully illustrated (the more striking in so small a book), gave Eric Ramírez Weaver a fantastic platform to think about the Carolingian or later Antique models from which the illustrations may have been drawn, and how those models were moulded and transformed in a local setting. A wider reflection on the exuberance and fun on display in the manuscript raised the question of experimentation with form and content again. Visual evidence was explored in a different dimension by Jonathan Turnock, with a consideration of the sculptural schemes of Durham Cathedral Priory and its environs created at about the same time as Hunter 100. The relation between media and motifs between illustration and carving was fascinating to consider. Ana Dias returned to the detail of the manuscript illustrations themselves, developing a methodology to identify those who drew the figures, and their possible employment in other Durham manuscripts. Sarah Gilbert drew the day to a close with an in-depth palaeographical analysis of the manuscript, piecing together the number of scribes that contributed to its production – by the evidence a true community effort!

Our second day moved to wider contexts for the consideration of Hunter 100 and twelfth and thirteenth century compotus. Faith Wallis discussed how scientific albums such as Hunter 100 were designed to be read, with a scheme as meditative as it was instructive, moving the reader from earth to the heavens and back to the human body. How different collections deal with similar questions, and the question why Hunter 100 was produced provoked a lively debate. Philipp Nothaft gave depth and detail to the question of networks and experiments with chronology, with a treatment of the reception of the chronicle of Marianus Scottus (d. 1087), and its abbreviation by Robert of Hereford, and the status of the version of the abbreviation in Hunter 100. How these texts moved around is a key debate. Giles Gasper took the theme of correction from the later eleventh century to Grosseteste, a theme essential to compotus, to think through some of the implications of how time-reckoning and correction of the calendar, fitted into and held to forge, some of the dominant questions of the period, in their social as well as their intellectual setting. Sigbjørn Sønnesyn drew attention back to the practice of monastic reading, the framework of divine reading (lectio divina), with the Cistercian monk Isaac of Stella, and Grosseteste as models. To consider scientific albums as part of this process of slow and guided reading, with stress on experience and meditation, reinforced Faith’s points earlier in the day. Finally, with Alfred Lohr’s magisterial presentation we considered the compotus of Grosseteste, and how different it was to its twelfth century precursors. Similairities remain but Grosseteste’s focus on the mathematical was singled out. Alfred and Philipp reported on the progress of their critical edition – and its relation to the scientific opuscula, which form the emphasis of the Ordered Universe project.

A wonderful few days, in highly stimulating surroundings and company! Thanks go especially to Philipp and the All Souls staff for impeccable hosting, to Rosalind Green for organisational matters, and to all of the contributors. Experiment, dialogue, exchange and collaboration make everything possible.

Jack Cunnigham on ‘In Our Time’

Ordered Universe core research team member Jack Cunningham, from Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, features on In Our Time in a programme dedicated to Roger Bacon, which aired on Thursday 20th April. Together with Amanda Power (University of Oxford), and Elly Truitt (Bryn Mawr College), Jack discusses with Melvyn Bragg the life and legacy of Bacon, including his relationship and debt to Robert Grosseteste. Do take the time to download and listen!

Washington DC – Ordered Universe

So, the advance party for the Ordered Universe conference at Georgetown, Washington D.C. has arrived, and caught some of the amazing cherry-tree blossom. The conference proper starts tomorrow, and takes place over two days. Tomorrow afternoon 16.30-18.30 is the public talk featuring Neil, Tom, Giles and Projection Artist Ross Ashton, on the project in light of medieval studies, modern science and artistic creation. If you are in the Georgetown area, and there have been inquiries on twitter, please come along – the event is free and it would be great to see you. The conference itself will look at one of the central features of Grosseteste’s intellectual framework, and one that develops a central and standard model from antiquity, the early church and most of the medieval period, namely aspect and affect. Attempts to explain these terms and their meaning are fascinating and complex, and go to the heart of medieval notions of experience of, and interaction with, the world, understanding and action, and, we will find out, have sharp and powerful resonance with some modern notions of the same. We’re really looking forward to hearing all of the papers, learning a lot, and enjoying the stimulating, challenging and supportive environment of the project. And, wonderful to be in the US again, the last time Ordered Universe presented across the Atlantic was the Kalamazoo Medieval Congress, last year, and the New York CUNY public lecture in 2013. We’ll keep you posted on how things go!