In his book Becoming Human: The Matter of the Medieval Child (2014), Dr. J. Allan Mitchell, associate professor at the University of Victoria, argues that the problem of “being human” is fundamentally inflected by the project of “becoming human,” both individually and collectively.
Mitchell’s work offers meaningful conjectures about how pre-Enlightenment versions of humanity and not-quite-humanity speak to ongoing concerns about the future of both the humanities and humanity. He writes, “[W]hy should anyone take an interest in early and seemingly outmoded social practices, quasi-scientific theories, and low-tech developments from the Middle Ages? . . . In response to rapid technological changes, planetary ecological crises, and a sense of the ethical and political bankruptcy of traditional forms of humanism, thinkers today are increasingly worried about our collective fate . . . And so we can begin to ask, are there historical precedents for the present impasse?” Mitchell suggests that engagement with the versions of humanity represented in writings on medieval childhood represents an important opportunity for those in the humanities to continue the work of rethinking the humanistic endeavor.
Professor Mitchell's October 9 talk will focus on the risky, tentative process of child development in the later Middle Ages. It will run from 4-6 pm and will be held in the Cathedral of Learning, room G-24.
He will also offer two workshops while on campus (see below). The October 8 workshop will be aimed at undergraduate students, and will feature a reading and dicsussion of Sir Gowther, a story about a wicked child with inordinate appetities. The October 9 workshop will be aimed at faculty and graduate students, and will feature a discussion of a multi-species, disanthopocentric theory of play.
This event is also sponsored by the Children's Literature/Childhood Studies Program and the Medieval/Renaissance Studies Program. For more information, contact Courtney Weikle-Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org.