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2014-2015 Research Theme:

"Medieval and Renaissance Globalisms"

In concert with the Pittsburgh Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, a set of talks and reading groups this year will focus on the theme of “Medieval and Renaissance Globalisms.” We will examine how today's globalization is part of a long and complex historical process that has roots in the cross-cultural interactions of the medieval and early modern periods. We invite students and faculty from area universities to join us as we explore topics such as the overlapping constructions of race and sexuality during Europe's early overseas expansion; mutually transformative encounters among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; the circulation of material objects in increasingly global markets; and textual, visual, and dramatic representations of cultural others.

Upcoming Events


Monday, March 2, 2015, 4 pm-6 pm, 501 CL

Dorothy Kim (Vassar College)
"The Music Libel Against the Jews & the Medieval Miracle of the Virgin"
Cathedral of Learning Room 501

Can sound mark embodied religious/racial difference in the Middle Ages? Against the backdrop of the rise and creation of Christian polyphony in the twelfth and thirteenth century in Paris, this talk will conisider how the sonic soundsacpe of Jewish heterophony reframes the entangled relations between Jews and Christians in the Middle Aages.

Please click here for flyer.

Co-sponsors: English, Music, Religious Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Digital Humanities Research Exchange, and the Honors College.


Monday, March 23, 2015, at 4:30 pm

Lauren Benton (NYU)

“Before International Law: Protection and Early Modern Global Legalities”

255b Baker Hall, on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University

Before "international law" existed as a field -- or even as a term -- cross-polity and cross-cultural relations of the early modern world were organized around several broad rubrics of law. Protection was one such rubric. References to protection pervaded early modern treaties and featured prominently in less formal agreements about alliances. Protection also conjured up a duty owed by a sovereign to his subjects. In this lecture, I consider the way protection functioned in both registers
in the early modern world, drawing on examples from Atlantic and Indian Ocean encounters between imperial agents and a variety of local polities. I also suggest that ideas and practices of protection shifted in ways that matter to understandings of world history and the history of international law.

Lauren Benton is Silver Professor of History at New York University. She researches and writes about the comparative history of empires, with special emphasis on the history of law. Her publications include works on imperial sovereignty, legal pluralism in empires, maritime law, and the history of international law. Benton’s main region of focus is the Atlantic world, but she also studies the global reach of European empires and has examined case studies from South Asia, Latin America, Africa, North America, and Australia. Benton is currently working on a history of imperial law and international order in the early nineteenth century, and she is developing a new project on imperial violence and the international law of war. Among many other books and articles, Benton is the author of A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900 (Cambridge, 2010).

Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Thursday, April 9, 2015, at 12:30 pm

Shirin Khanmohamadi (San Francisco State)

"Translating Empire in the Chansons de Geste"

Humanities Center, Cathedral of Learning Room 602

The twelfth century French of Italy text the Chanson d’Aspremont tells the pre-history of the transfer of Durendal, Roland’s sword of Song of Roland fame, from Muslim royal hands to Roland on the bitter mountain passes, “the aspremont,” of Calabria. Against the prevailing synchronic reading of the chansons de geste as the locus of civilizational confrontation between Frank and Saracen, in this talk I propose that we view such transfers of war objects in Aspremont and other chansons de geste as evidence of diachronic and historical thinking in these popular works, namely as popular expressions of the translation of Arab imperium to Franks. Placing my reading alongside historiographical explanations for the continuing 'imperium' of contemporary Arabs and Turks in high medieval universal chronicles, I argue that such literary and historical evidence urges our rethinking of how medieval writers understood translatio imperii, the Saracens, and their relationship.

Shirin A. Khanmohamadi is an Associate Professor in the Comparative and World Literature department at San Francisco State University, where she specializes in comparative medieval European literature, premodern travel and ethnographic writing, literary and cultural contact between the medieval European and Islamic worlds, and medievalism in contemporary theory and literature. Her articles have appeared in New Medieval Literatures, Exemplaria, and Arthuriana. Her study of premodern ethnographic poetics, In Light of AnotherĀ“s Word: European Ethnography in the Middle Ages, was recently published in The University of Pennsylvania Press' Middle Ages Series (2014). Her current research is on the way in which Arabs and Arabic culture figure in articulations of translatio imperii and studii in a number of medieval genres, including historiography and romance but especially the chansons de geste.

Co-sponsored by the Humanities Center and the European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center