A huge thank you to all who came to the launch for the first volume of The Scientific Works of Robert Grosseteste yesterday afternoon in Pembroke College, University of Oxford. It was wonderful to be hosted by the SCR, and in the company of the Master and Continue reading
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.
A new publication from Ordered Universe science colleagues Josh Harvey, Hannah Smithson and Rebekah White, inspired, in its first stages, by the collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s On the Generation of Sounds, and its emphases on different types of motion, and the relation of written letters to the shape of the vocal tract in voicing the letter. ‘Hand-Foot Coupling: An Advantage for Crossed Legs‘ is published in Perception, and makes fascinating reading.
Ordered Universe team members Giles Gasper and Joshua Harvey delivered a talk at University of California, Berkeley, on Wednesday this week (16th Jan). Organised by Dr Henrike Lange of the Departments of Art History and Italian at Berkeley, the talk focused on Robert Grosseteste’s treatise On the Generation of Sounds. An excellent example of the way in which the project used interpretative tools from a wide range of disciplines to analyse the implications of this short but beguilingly complex treatise. Continue reading
Ordered Universe team members Giles Gasper (History, Durham) and Joshua Harvey (Psychology and Engineering, Oxford) will be giving a talk, open to the public, at University of California, Berkeley, on January 16th. We’re delighted to have been invited by Dr Henrike Lange, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Art History and Italian, and will be talking about Ordered Universe work on Robert Grosseteste’s treatise On the Generation of Sounds. In particular Continue reading
The Ordered Universe team has been hard at work over the summer, putting together the first volume for a seven-volume series on Robert Grosseteste’s shorter scientific works to be published by Oxford University Press. The first volume incorporates the Continue reading
At the last Ordered Universe symposium the group made its third, and final, collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s treatise De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’. An intriguing, characteristically dense piece of writing, with the usual editorial conundrums, and a strange beauty to its construction, the DGS also sparked a series of reflections from a modern scientific perspective. The treatise deals with the notion of what sound is, showing Grosseteste’s familiarity with Aristotle’s De anima (probably in the translation by Gerard of Cremona), and human vocal production, showing his knowledge of Augustine (354-430) and Boethius (c.480-524) on music, Priscian (flourished around 500) and Isidore of Seville (c.560-636)on grammar and phonetics. However, as always with these works, the question of Grosseteste’s own interests and observations need to be considered, and not merely from the perspective of how he constructs his treatise and orders his thoughts. Continue reading
The 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
The 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 sonorum, On the Generation of Sounds, and a first outing for the mysterious and rather beautiful De artibus liberalibus, On the Liberal Arts. Continue reading
The final day of the workshop saw the team complete the read-through of the treatise, and the substantial progress on the question of the seven, and five motions. David Howard led off the day with a discussion of acoustic theory, including models of the human vocal tract, and the intriguing vocal tract organ – finally making the vox humana stop on an organ make sense and sound nice! A combination of palaeographical, historical and mathematical insights and observations enabled us to get through the most challenging part of the text, and with the sense of ‘Ah-hah’ to which Ulrike and Tom referred, and which we have almost come to expect. Nader el-Bisri and John Coleman were key to getting us started, but the final sections were a real vindication of the collaborative reading process. Continue reading