Center for Humanities Monday Night Lecture Series #3


Jesse Torgerson

Lying Comparatively: Ordered Times and Ruptured Worlds

Imagine a world. In this world, the year in which you are living depends upon the city in which you are: there is no given “AD” or “CE”. To compose the record of such a world, you would have to make times and times’ places commensurate: times would have to be made to lie down together. The period we call ‘medieval’ was like to this world, and we can trace the monumental collection and classification activity that went into making time commensurable upon the pages of surviving manuscript books (codices).

This talk thus begins by exploring these manuscript pages, not as simple containers for text, but as traces of layered, frenetic activities. But once the extent of the labor becomes clear, it is hard not to wonder: what impulse so drove people to ‘record the past’ that they would invest such time, energy, and resources?

The motivation may have been much more dramatic than ‘to record’. One pair of chronological compilers in Byzantine Constantinople – George Synkellos and Theophanes the Confessor – seem to have sought not to compare distant places, but to compare what was with what is, and so posit what could (or, should) be. In Synkellos’ and Theophanes’ gathering together of all times, and in their laying time down on the page, we might see a carefully emplotted rupture: the crafting of a re-imagined present, the proposition of an alternative cosmos.

Mon Mar 28, 2016
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM EDT
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Usdan University Center Usdan 300 (Daniel Family Commons & Lounge)
Venue Address
45 Wyllys Ave, Middletown CT 06459 United States
Center for Humanities Monday Night Lecture Series