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Medieval Matters with Elaine Treharne (Stanford, English)

November 29, 2017 - 7:30pm
Bishop Auditorium, Lathrop Library


Tens of thousands of manuscripts survive from the western medieval period, circa 500–1500. Each of these manuscripts is uniquely handwritten and decorated—a product of immense expertise and often immense expense. All genres of writing survive, from laws and medical works, famous and not-so-famous literary texts, glorious illuminated bibles and psalters, to the workaday notebooks of students. Medieval books were prized and venerated, sold and traded, and sometimes even held hostage. They contained religious and irreligious words and images in startling juxtaposition; and they now have a global following through their frequent use in historical documentaries, in science fiction and fantasy, and on social media. 

In this lecture, Elaine Treharne will explore how contemporary audiences get access to and use these manuscripts, both in the real world and in the virtual world. These users include scholars, of course, but also (regrettably) those who destroy medieval manuscripts for financial gain, those who show off their collections with little idea of what they mean, and even those who try to recreate libraries and volumes that never existed (that’s the science fiction and fantasy). 

Elaine Treharne, Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities; Professor of English, Stanford

Elaine Treharne is a world-renowned scholar of medieval manuscripts and English texts, and more broadly of the history of the book. She has published twentyeight books and over sixty articles focusing on literature and its contexts from 500 through 1600 CE. Her next book, The Phenomenal Book, is due out in 2018; and the fourth edition of her Blackwell Anthology of Old and Middle English Literature will be published the same year. She is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, of the English Association, and of the Royal Historical Society. She also directs Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis and Stanford Text Technologies.

Series: Medieval Matters
Medieval Matters is a series of public lectures co-sponsored by Stanford Continuing Studies, the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Office for Religious Life, and the community group The Sarum Seminar. It explores the relevance of medieval history and culture to understanding the modern world. 

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