This project is a cultural history of ingenuity in the European High Middle Ages (1100–1350). It is about how ingenuity, the invention of art and machinery, was conceived and represented as a fundamental part of what it means to be human. Crucially, it is about how the representation of invention, in visual art and especially in literature, played a key role in the development of medieval philosophy, science, and technology. Thinking takes place both when artists and craftsmen made artifacts and machines and when the audiences and users interpreted artistic fictions or handled machines.
Such thinking is related to experience: we can see the world differently through machine-aided observation, for example; we learn about the world and own minds through our experience of responding to a work of art. The use of machines can also produce models for understanding the mechanics of nature. While this project’s main corpus comprises works of allegory, romance, and visual art more commonly studied by literary scholars and art historians, it is, then, fundamentally related to the history of philosophy and the history of science.