held at the King’s Manor, University of York, 28-29th May 2016.
Organised by Liz Alexander and Meg Boulton
Keynote Speaker Peter Harbison, Royal Irish Academy
Prefiguration and prefiguring along with associated ideas of foreshadowing were concepts understood to be central to the structure of the medieval world, and to subsequent understandings of it. Whether biblical, ecclesiastical or secular prefiguration/s, the events, structures, figures and stories of the past were an ever-present leitmotif used to explain the recent past, the present and the future as they continued to unfold. For example, in the early medieval period Bede’s description of paintings hanging in the ecclesiastical structures of the Wearmouth-Jarrow complex speak volumes about how Anglo-Saxons visually articulated the relationship between the events of the Old Testament and the New; his exegesis on the Temple provided insight into contemporary understandings of the church; while Ӕlfric used his homily Maccabees to highlight the similarities between current events and the plight of the Maccabeans. Such pre-figurations are not confined to textual examples or to this early period, however, but are extant across the art, literature and material culture of the medieval world.
Wider examples of prefiguring in this world include but are not limited to: concordance between Old and New Testament motifs; the transposition and reconstruction of architectural features that may be seen as early exempla of larger, more complex structures; the symbolic significance of architectonic vocabularies that were reproduced in the Medieval world; narrative devices that were carried from the past to the present; sacred or secular events/figures that were thought to prefigure their successors; historic tropes that were echoed across the medieval period; and the significant dates and computistical correlations that were understood to share cross-contexts from the past, to the present, foreshadowing contemporary and future events alike.
This two-day multi-disciplinary conference brings together emerging scholars, early career researchers and established academics to provide a platform to discuss how this important idea was manifested in the visual, textual and material evidence of the Medieval world and to examine the implications and significance of ‘Prefiguring’ in the Medieval in its widest possible contexts.
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