Images from London, BL, Royal 20 B XX (Le Livre et le vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre), France, c. 1420  fol. 76v (Alexander in a griffin-powered flying machine)

Alexander in a griffin-powered flying machine. Source: British Library, Royal 20 B XX (Le Livre et le vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre), France, c. 1420.

Project (2018-2022)

Medieval Ingenium: Knowledge, Experience, and Technology

This project considers twelfth- and thirteenth-century Western European thought and literature, in particular machines as models for thought and the relationship between poetry and engineering in medieval science and science fiction. The corpus for this project includes twelfth-century romance literature written in medieval French, especially as it features ingenious machines, automata, and robots, the Alexander romance tradition and the romans d’antiquité. The particular aim is to show these literary texts as offering specific ways of creating and imagining that allow for new insights and hypothetical experience. These romances are considered alongside twelfth-century Neoplatonist poetry and philosophy in the tradition of Plato’s Timaeus; tracing the links between these two textual networks is an important feature of the project. The present focus of the research is on ideas of experience, intelligence, and cognition in the period immediately before and during the assimilation of Aristotelian natural science in medieval Europe. Of particular interest is the human capacity for ingenium—which can mean ingenuity, craft, intelligence, creativity, or machine.

Past Events

Around the Pluriverse in 9 Objects: Cosmological Compositions for Critical Zones


Performing Knowledge: Experiments between Arts, Science, and Politics


The Science of Character: Realism and Feminism in Fin-de-Siècle England