Annual Riddy Lecture (11 November) – Kneeling, Calling and the Medieval Self

Annual Riddy Lecture – Kneeling, Calling and the Medieval Self (Wednesday 11 November 2015, 5.30pm)

Speaker: Dr Isabel Davis, Department of English, Birkbeck University of London

The kneeling figure is a ubiquitous medieval way of representing the human person, so common and defining that it is rarely considered. Why was this one of the central postures for representing the self? What did it mean? What does it bequeath to later models of selfhood?

This lecture will argue that the kneeling gesture is associated with being called, out loud, by name. Textual evidence which demonstrates an association between kneeling and calling offers a crucial commentary on the visual articulation of the kneeling human person in the late Middle Ages and, furthermore, on definitions of selfhood beyond.

Location: Bowland auditorium, Berrick Saul building

Admission: is free and open to all. No ticket required.

Untitled, 8/12/02, 11:40 AM, 8C, 536x806 (70+52), 8%, bent 5 stops, 1/30 s, R112.8, G76.8, B97.5

About the Speaker

Isabel’s background has been particularly in medieval gender studies from which she has taken a committed interest in the politics of the personal – the household, subjectivity, intimate relationships and social identity. Her monograph, Writing Masculinity in the Later Middle Ages, charted particular currents in the presentation of masculinity in a number of late medieval English literary texts. It was especially focused on the themes of labour and the household, in a period when they were deeply interconnected. She has carried over from that work an on-going interest in questions of marriage, subjectivity, love and labour and her more recent work has come increasingly to consider theological understandings of these topics. This new, more theological work is reflected in her publications on time, skin, calling and the Trinity.

In 2011 Isabel won a nine month Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for a project entitled The Perpendicular Imaginary in the Late Middle Ages which set out to look at the human figure in relation to the strong vertical axes which governed medieval understandings of space. Her initial work on the kneeling subject has been published in Studies in the Age of Chaucer, in an article on St Paul and calling. Her current research is still embroiled with these questions; she is currently writing a monograph about the kneeling figure and its medieval meanings.

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