Vision, Image, Imagination

This seminar explores the multivalent meanings of vision in the Middle Ages; our special focus is on objects created between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, reflecting the strengths of the CMA collections. We tackle the idea of vision from several perspectives, physiological as well as devotional, and explore its relationship with medieval images, memory theories, and concepts of imagination. At the crux of our inquiry is the discourse of visuality—the culturally constructed way of seeing—and its many reverberations through the late medieval material and literary cultures. Students read about optics; intellectual taxonomies of vision; dream visions; mystical visions; the physicality of the gaze; mnemonic values of seeing; and visions of the imaginary. Primary source material is complemented by recent and plentiful scholarly explorations of medieval notions of what it meant to see.

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