A Research Project funded by a A Marie Curie Fellowship Grant nr. 101023762 (SPPELME)
The Science, Philosophy, and Poetics of Experience in Late Medieval England (1360–1450)
The project aims to produce the groundwork for a larger and more ambitious interdisciplinary study of the ‘poetics of experience’ in English vernacular poetry, ca. 1360–1450, in the context of the wider intellectual and scientific developments in European scholastic Philosophy, Theology, and the Natural Sciences over the longer period between c 1215 and 1500. The primary aim of the project is to explore the full range and complexity of the engagement with experience found in the work of English poets working between 1360 and 1450, and evaluating the larger cultural and intellectual-historical significance of what we call an emerging ‘poetics of experience’. A related, broader aim is that of exploring the divergence between the medieval and the modern understanding of ‘experience’, shaped by the fundamentally different models of science and knowledge that dominate those two historical periods.
While the project concentrates on literary texts in the vernacular (English and, to a lesser extent, French), it aims to provide a much more nuanced and precise description of the interactions between Latin, academic discourses on experience, and vernacular explorations of this important topic. Materials examined will therefore include the writings of scholastic authors on experience, with particular attention to the work of English (or rather ‘insular’) authors, as well as the work of scholastic thinkers whose ideas demonstrably contributed to shape the wider debate on experience in England during the period in question. Beyond this, the project will also examine evidence provided by non-scholastic Latin texts and discourses on experience that would have shaped the immediate cultural and intellectual environment within which English poets wrote.This will include, for instance, monastic, mystical, and Victorine ideas and theories of experience; evidence gleaned from pastoral and devotional literature; and earlier literary texts in Latin, French, and Italian where relevant.