Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

  • Monday, November 13, 2017 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center
6th Floor of Van-Pelt Library

We will be welcoming Aden Kumler for a talk entitled: “Lyric Vessels.” Aden writes:

This talk derives from my work in a collaborative research project that poses the question, “What kind of thing is a Middle English lyric?” In my contribution, I take up this question by construing the word “thing” in insistently material terms. More precisely, I examine the presence and circulation of short poems in Middle English, often employing the first person, in the form of functional objects. In doing so, I aim to make two points. Firstly, that Middle English lyric (and, by extension, Middle English literature) circulated, was encountered, and performed in forms other than that of the book or booklet. Secondly, that these “lyric” or “literary objects” deserve more and different kinds of critical attention from historians of medieval literature, art historians, and cultural historians than they have received to date. In the talk I will discuss a selection of “lyric objects”—all vessels—in order to explore how the non-textual aspects of these objects are integral to their poesis and, in turn, how the lyrics that are constituent elements of their material forms effectively shaped these objects as objects and informed their reception.


Aden Kumler is Associate Professor in the Departments of Art History and Romance Languages & Literatures at the University of Chicago. Her first book, Translating Truth: Ambitious Images and Religious Knowledge in Late Medieval France and England was published by Yale University Press in 2011. With Christopher Lakey, she co-edited a special issue of Gesta (51,1) devoted to materiality and meaning in medieval art that appeared in 2012. In addition to essays focusing on medieval illuminated manuscripts, she has written on topics ranging from medieval impressed images of the Holy Face to the unsavory history of the waffle. Her current book project explores the formal and conceptual triangulation of the Eucharistic host, coins, and seals from the 6th century to the 15th century.