Medieval Materialism: A Manifesto
Author: Robertson, Kellie
Source: Exemplaria, Volume 22, Number 2, Summer 2010 , pp. 99-118(20)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:Medieval views of matter have traditionally been left out of discussions of materialism, in part because philosophers and historians of science have considered them to be too "metaphysical" in orientation. Materialism has therefore been defined univocally in terms of the definitions of matter in vogue during the Enlightenment (primarily physicalism and Cartesian dualism). The effects of this omission are still felt in the materialist paradigms that continue to underwrite much work in literary criticism, history, and other humanist disciplines. This article argues that our modern understanding of materialism would be usefully widened by admitting that medieval definitions of matter, both hylomorphic and humoral, constitute their own versions of "materialism," versions that can help us to historicize later understandings of the term. Finally, medieval poetics would play a significant role in such a recuperative project, since late medieval natural philosophy and literary practice shared similar representational challenges in their respective attempts to textualize the material world and understand the immaterial forces that shaped it.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Wisconsin
Publication date: 2010-06-01