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LAUNCH EVENT // 2 new Medieval and Early Modern Studies specialisations

Monday 8 May 2017
Leiden University Library
Witte Singel 27

Why did people burn books in the later Middle Ages and how were unicorns studied in Early Modern Europe? On the 8th of May, two interesting lectures will launch the arrival of two new options for specialisation within existing MA programmes: Medieval Studies and Early Modern Studies.

Launching Medieval Studies and Early Modern Studies in Leiden

Leiden University is home to over a hundred specialists studying the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. From 2017-2018 onwards, they will join forces to offer two new options for specialisation within existing MA programmes: Medieval Studies and Early Modern Studies.

The launch event on 8 May, in the Leiden University Library, will feature an introduction to the initiative by dr. Thijs Porck and two lectures, by dr. Krista A. Murchison and prof. dr. Eric Jorink.

Medieval book burning

The first lecture Late Medieval Book Burning and the Persecution of Heresy, by dr. Krista A. Murchison, will focus on late medieval book burning: “In popular conceptions of the late medieval period, anyone caught with a vernacular copy of the Bible was condemned, along with the offending text, to the flames”, Murchison says.

“Laws against heretical books, such as Henry IV’s De heretico comburendo (“on the burning of heretics”), suggest that heresy was indeed severely punished in the period. And yet, as this talk will show, these laws were, much like present-day music piracy laws, not enforced equally and the persecution of heresy was fundamentally shaped by questions of social status, class, and gender.”

Dr. Krista A. Murchison

Krista Murchison on Medieval Studies

Dr. Murchison appreciates the interdisciplinary approach of the new specialisation ‘Medieval Studies’: “The new options for the MA program in Leiden will introduce more opportunities for collaboration between students and instructors with a variety of approaches, This kind of collaboration is valuable for anyone studying the medieval period; since the period was full of cultural and linguistic exchange, any approach to it is enriched through an interdisciplinary perspective.”

The quest for the unicorn

The last speaker at the launch event, prof.dr. Eric Jorink holds the special chair ‘Enlightenment and religion in historical perspective’ and is one of the lecturers involved in the core course ‘Early Modern Studies’.

Jorink says about his lecture The Quest for the Unicorn in Early Modern Europe: “Having its origin in ancient sources – including the Greek translation of the Old Testament - the unicorn fascinated scholars and artists both in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Europe. Although few people claimed to have seen the animal with their own eyes, its existence was not debated, and the unicorn was described and depicted in bestiaries, in manuscripts and on tapestries. In some churches and princely collections, the horn of a unicorn was even at display.”

Jorink continues: “The 16th century saw the emergence of both a new, naturalistic approach to nature, as well as an increasingly more critical approach to ancient and biblical texts. This process lead to a new interest in the unicorn. Could the animal be found in nature? Were earlier depictions correct? Was the alleged ‘horn’ really from this creature? And were the ancient sources on this animal understood correctly?”  

Join the launch event!

All are welcome to join the launch event on the 8th of May. The event will take place in the Vossiuszaal of the Leiden University Library. Doors open at 15:00. For registration and more information: m.h.porck@hum.leidenuniv.nl

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