Due Aug 26 | CfP – Princeton Medieval and Early Modern Studies Graduate Conference

Princeton Medieval and Early Modern Studies Graduate Conference

December 3, 2022

“How did they learn? How did they teach?:

Exploring Knowledge Transmission from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern”


Much of our modern knowledge is the result of centuries of experiments driven by human desire to record and pass down successes, failures and lessons learned. The timespan from the periods often called “Late Antique” to that called “Early Modern” offers enormous scope to explore the historical record of knowledge transmission across diverse social contexts. While scholars in Baghdad, such as Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (9th c.), translated ancient medical texts, Theophilus (12th c.) distilled complex information to record proprietary painting techniques in his De diversis artibus. Just as Renaissance humanists classicized their curricula, Enlightenment thinkers sought to secularize scientific methods. In each case, knowledge was consistently safeguarded, amended, and transmitted. This conference will explore the many networks and forms of knowledge transmission active across the Late Antique and Early Modern periods. We will work within a wide span of geographical and chronological parameters as well as across disciplines.

The topic of education and knowledge transmission is timely. As the last two years have emphasized, learning and teaching methods can take on a variety of shapes and can change drastically in order to adapt to the rising needs of both students and educators. Pedagogical developments, though exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic today, have been inherent to the human experience throughout history and across the globe. However, the very concept of education and the interpersonal relationships knowledge and its transmission entails have greatly varied over time, and their historical models offer compelling challenges to our modern understanding of when, where and how learning takes place, who is a teacher, and who is a student. The conference invites graduate students to re-examine their own assumptions about education in the medieval and early modern eras and approach their material in a new light.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Context: religious and secular education, home/family-based transmission, apprenticeship, workshop practice, institutionalization/dissemination of school systems
  • Geography: dissemination of knowledge across territory
  • Chronologyand anachronism: continuities or changes in the transmission of knowledge from the Late Antique/Medieval into the Early Modern period, translation/retranslation
  • Gender and minority representation: gendered pedagogical spaces, learning in the margins of society
  • Technique: authorship/publication of treatises, manuals, instructional content for technical purposes, technical tools
  • Process: learning by doing (imitation/copying), copying as a precursor to forgery
  • Material: learning through objects and works of art, visual literacy, interaction between text and image, collecting, exhibiting

We welcome proposals from graduate students within the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium (Columbia University, Princeton University, CUNY Graduate Center, Rutgers University, Fordham University, Stony Brook University, New School University, Teachers College Columbia University, New York University, GSAS). Proposals for a 15-20-minute talk should be submitted in the form of a ca. 300-word abstract, accompanied by institutional and departmental affiliation and a brief description of any specific audio-visual needs. Selected speakers will be invited to travel to Princeton and present their work on campus to in-person and virtual audiences. Keynote speaker TBA. Please submit proposals or requests for more information to msauquet@princeton.edu—proposals should be submitted by August, 26, 2022, and applicants will be notified of decisions by August 30th, 2022.

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