Picturing the present: Structuring the medieval beholder’s relation towards time (Kalamazoo 2016)

Simone Martini, Agostino Novello polytych, simultaneous narrative showing resurrection of a child
Simone Martini, Agostino Novello polytych, simultaneous narrative showing resurrection of a child

Armin Bergmeier (Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich)
Andrew Griebeler (University of California, Berkeley)

“What then is time?” asks Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of
Hippo, “If no one asks me, I know, but if I wish to explain it, I do
not know.”  Although intimately familiar, time eludes simple
description. For Augustine, it is a single, ever-moving point of the
present distended by the soul forward in anticipation of things to
come, and backward through memory and recollection. The centuries
following Augustine saw the continued emergence of Christian and
medieval approaches to time alongside the concurrent appropriation and
adaptation of older pagan models, such as Neoplatonic conceptions of
time as a moving image of eternity, or Aristotelian understandings of
time according to the change and movement of bodies.

This panel examines the relationship between medieval artworks and
their viewers’ conception and experience of the present. Scholars of
medieval art have mostly concentrated on imagery depicting the past or
the future, in particular, those that express anxiety about the end of
time. A wide range of images, however, was particularly concerned with
expressing ideas of the present and with depicting the relation between
the visible human world and the invisible divine realm. This panel,
therefore, emphasizes and explores the medieval viewers’ relationship
to the present and their current place in the cosmological system. We
invite proposals covering a wide range of media (portable objects,
manuscripts, sculpture, wall decorations) from Late Antiquity through
the late Middle Ages.

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to the following:
– How images relate to the conceptualization of the historical present
– How artworks structure or organize the experience of time
– How artworks reflect philosophical concepts of the nature of time
– Notions of temporality in depictions of visions and prophecies
– The visibility and visuality of time-keeping instruments and practices
– Medieval conceptions of change in the physical or natural historical
present, including seasons, tides,stages of life, and the movement of

Please, send your abstracts (500 words maximum), CV with current
information, and completed Participant Information Form (available at
http://wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html) to the
armin.bergmeier@campus.lmu.de and agriebeler@berkeley.edu

Published by James Alexander Cameron

I am an art historian working primarily on medieval parish church architecture. I completed my doctorate on sedilia in medieval England in 2015 at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

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