Symposium 2014

Magic, Religion, Science

7-8 March 2014

In his famous work, The Golden Bough, James Frazer proposed that human societies evolved from cultures dependent on magic to ones subject to religion and finally to ones guided by science. Scholarship since Frazer has worked to destabilize and expand upon this tidy theory, pointing out that the distinctions between these three categories of belief are not always clear and that, in fact, all three tend to exist simultaneously within the same societies, schools, and even individuals. Nonetheless, Frazer's division of belief into magical, religious, and scientific modes of thought provides a useful lens for examining the ways that truth can be legitimated, and offers us a clear heuristic paradigm for exploration into human thought and behavior throughout history. Asking questions about magic, religion, and science offers us avenues into different epistemes and windows into the habitus of a group or society.

It is particularly useful for exploring the Middle Ages, which presents a wealth of examples in which the boundaries between magic, religion, and science are blurred, re-drawn, or entirely confounded. Indeed, the designation "medieval" across cultures often signifies a perceived interim period, between classical and modern thinking, in which multiple paradigms--magic and superstition, the hegemony of religion, and scientific exploration--coexist and compete for dominance. Investigating magic, religion, and science further within the context of the Middle Ages helps us not only to understand medieval thinking and culture more accurately and to see how the boundaries of magic, religion, and science were policed at the time, but to disturb modern assumptions about the operation of knowledge in these time periods.

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Friday, 7 March

All events, unless otherwise specified, will take place in Wylie Hall 015.

2:00-3:00 p.m. — Registration

3:00-4:00 p.m. — Avenues Toward and Obstacles To Knowledge

Moderator: Jessica Leach, Indiana University, History

  • “'The[y] Beleve on a Cake': Doubt, Sight and 'Misreading' in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament” Elizabeth Maffetone — MA/PhD candidate, Indiana University Department of English
  • “153 Large Fish: Christian Paideia and Roman Concepts of the Sea in the Great Fishing Mosaic of Aquileia” Sean Tandy — PhD student, Indiana University Department of Classical Studies

4:15-5:45 p.m. — The Magic of the Body

Moderator: Erin Sweany, Indiana University, English

  • “The Therapeutic function of animals in recovery from insanity” Emily O'Brock — MA Student, Indiana University Department of French and Italian
  • “Beautiful Monsters: What Elves Teach about Anglo-Saxon Monstrosity” Jonathan Broussard — PhD Student, Louisiana State University Department of Communication Studies
  • “Eyes, Skin, and Soul: Conceptions of the Body in Old Norse Shape-Shifter Narratives” Andrea Whitacre — PhD student, Indiana University Department of English

7:00-10:00 p.m. — Dinner and Reader's Circle

Federal Room, Indiana Memorial Union

Open to all Symposium attendees, RSVP required

Saturday, 8 March

All events, unless otherwise specified, will take place in Wylie Hall 015.

8:00-8:30 a.m. — Breakfast

8:30-10:00 a.m. — The Scholarship of Sin

Moderator: Rebecca Straple, Western Michigan University, English

  • “The obsolete demon: nature as artifex in De universo (c. 1231)” Sarah Archer — Lecturer, University of Kansas Department of History
  • “'Ryghte Evyll Apayed': The Instantiation of Evil in The Bowge of Courte” A. Arwen Taylor — PhD Candidate, Indiana University Department of English
  • “Science, Technology, and Sin in the Libro de Alexandre” Moses Fritz — PhD Student, Indiana University Department of Spanish and Portuguese

10:15-12:15 p.m. — Magic, Science, and Religion Revisited: A Seminar on the so-called Occult Sciences

Moderator: William Newman, Professor, Indiana University, Department of History and Philosophy of Science

  • “The Mechanics of Wonder: The Function(ing) of Machines and Automata in Medieval Romance” Kyle Grothoff — PhD Student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science
  • "The Subjugation of Merlin in 'Lancelot du Lac': Devils, Unnatural Birth, and the Positive Power of Magic” David Wagner — PhD Student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science
  • “Navigating a Spiritual World: Astrological Influences on Lands and Peoples in Roger Bacon's Geography” Sarah Reynolds — PhD student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science
  • “Alchemy and Atomism in Islam” Nicolás Bamballi — PhD student, Indiana University Department of History and Philosophy of Science

12:15-1:45 p.m. — Lunch

Wylie 329, for all Symposium attendees, RSVP required

2:00-2:30 p.m. — Science, Magic, Superstition, and Power&8212;Bridging gaps and building boundaries

Moderator: Natalie Levin, Indiana University, History

  • “Re-writing Religion: Superstition, Indulgences, and the 'Arma Christi' Poem” Katherine Storm Hindley — PhD student, Yale University Department of Medieval Studies
  • “'The Power of Things': Confidence and Incantations in Pietro d'Abano's Conciliator” Matthew Klemm — Associate Professor, Ithaca College Department of History
  • “Magic in Medieval Scandinavian Law and Literature” Margaret Jean Cormack — Professor, University of Charleston Department of Religious Studies

3:45-4:45 p.m. — Science, Medicine, and Magic in Medieval England

Moderator: Kerilyn Harkaway-Krieger, Indiana University, English

  • “Celestial or Human Childbirth?: Medical and Scientific Terminology in Anglo-Saxon Marian Texts” Rebecca Straple — PhD Student, Western Michigan University Department of English
  • “'Shameful deeth': Plague, Trauma, and the Magic of Death in The Physician's Tale” Misho Ishikawa — MA, University of Colorado Boulder Department of English

5:00-6:30 p.m. — Keynote Address: Bruce Holsinger

Professor of English, University of Virginia

"The Voices of Medieval London: History, Fiction, Historical Fiction"

  • Professor Holsinger, author of the recently released historical novel A Burnable Book, will discuss the recreation of medieval London through the lens and craft of historical fiction. Taking up theories of historical fiction and reenactment, the presentation will also include a reading from the novel and a discussion of the audiobook in relation to the city's medieval soundscape.

7:00 p.m. — Keynote Banquet

CAHI Open to all Symposium attendees, RSVP required