The Total Library: Aspirations for Complete Knowledge in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
The 27th Biennial Conference of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program of Barnard College
Barnard College, New York City
December 5, 2020
Ann Blair (Harvard University)
Elias Muhanna (Brown University)
According to Borges, “The fancy or the imagination or the utopia of the Total Library has certain characteristics that are easily confused with virtues.” This one-day conference will explore the aspiration for complete knowledge in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, an aspiration expressed in atlases, herbals, encyclopedias that were meant to mirror and maybe tame the diversity of the earth by including in their pages everything. Whether virtuous or problematic, the fantasy of the complete mastery of knowledge created utopias of learning. In our current moment when the value of knowledge is under question, we invite scholars of multiple disciplines (art history, history, literary studies, religion, history of science) to raise questions about the technologies, social structures, and modes of thought that shape what knowledge means at a given moment.
Please submit an abstract of 250-300 words and a 2-page CV by May 15, 2020 to Rachel Eisendrath, firstname.lastname@example.org.