Please join us for the annual Ferber Lecture this Thursday, April 26 from 5:30-7:00 in the Anderson Center Reception Room. Anthony Cutler, Evan Pugh Professor of Art History, Pennsylvania State University, will speak on “The Empire of Things: Gifts and Gift Exchange Across Byzantium, Early Islam, and the Medieval West.” Free and open to the public; reception at 4:30. Co-sponsored by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Art History Department, the Fernand Braudel Center and the History Department. Contact Barbara Knighton, CEMERS, at 607-777-2730 or email@example.com.
The art historian faces a dilemma: we possess scores of medieval objects supposed by their curators/historians to have been gifts and, conversely, hundreds of references (usually quite unspecific) in Arabic, Greek and Latin literature to things (artifactual, human, and zoological) transmitted either domestically or “internationally.” Can and should these categories be related to each other? In the face of a huge body of secondary literature on gift theory written in the wake of Marcel Mauss’s Essai sur le don, I propose to restore to surviving objects some of the quiddity that they possess and, at the same time, to see how, in part or in whole, they conform to or strain the theoretical structures that have been erected upon and about them on material and textual bases. Clearly, nonetheless, the quiddity of things is something that has to be transcended. If such things are culturally shaped, how and under what circumstances is it possible to posit a “shared culture of objects”?