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Brian Cummings - 'Petrarch and the Arts of Memory'
Traditionally, the medieval and early modern arts of memory have been conceptualized in terms of a cognitive system, as in the brilliant studies of Frances Yates and Mary Carruthers. In this framework the key word is the Latin memoria. But Latin had another word for memory, recordatio, equivalent to something like the English "recollection". It is a more elusive and rarer term: from its root in the word for "heart" (cor) we can recognise a connection with the emotions as much as with mental faculties. It is a word used frequently in letters by Cicero and by Seneca, and hence becomes important to Petrarch, who was also familiar with its presence in a devotional context in Augustine and in medieval liturgy. In this lecture Professor Brian Cummings will trace this alternative history of memory, out of faculty psychology and into theories of affectus and the passions, via Petrarch both in the Latin works and in the vernacular Rime Sparse.
Brian Cummings is Professor of English and Related Literatures at the University of York. Before moving to York he was Professor of English at the University of Sussex, where he co-founded the Centre for Early Modern Studies in 2004. In Spring 2014 he was Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Toronto, based at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies. He has also held Visiting Fellowships in Los Angeles, Munich, and Oxford, and he was previously Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Among a number of academic honours he has given the Shakespeare Birthday Lecture in Washington D.C. in 2014, the Clarendon Lectures in Oxford in 2012-13, and the British Academy Shakespeare Lecture in 2012. From 2009-2012 he held a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, and in 2007 he was a British Academy Exchange Fellow. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, one of the oldest learned societies in the world.
As well as his academic work, he was guest curator for the Diamond Jubilee Exhibition at Lambeth Palace Library from May to July 2012, which was opened by the Prince of Wales and Archbishop Rowan Williams; the exhibition was called Royal Devotion: the Monarchy and the Book of Common Prayer. He has also talked on BBC Radio 3 and BBC South East TV.
He is known for his research in a number of fields, including Shakespeare and Renaissance literature; Erasmus, humanism and the history of philosophy; religion and secularity; the history of the book; the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer; poetry and poetics (including modern poetry and literary theory). He has given lectures on these subjects at universities all over the world, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Western Australia, the University of Oslo, Freie Universität in Berlin, LMU in Munich, the European University Institute in Florence, and the Royal Dutch Academy of Science in Amsterdam.
- Prof Brian Cummings
- The Sir Duncan Rice Library - Craig Suite