Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mapping Medieval Geographies

The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UCLA is holding a conference this week on “Mapping Medieval Geographies: Cartography and Geographical Thought in the Latin West and Beyond, 300-1600.” This conference aims to promote an exchange between historians, philologists and geographers working on geographical ideas and thinking from late Antiquity to the Renaissance.

The conference was organized by Dr. Keith D. Lilley (Queen’s University Belfast) and the late Professor Denis Cosgrove (UCLA). Dr. Lilley said in an interview with Medievalists.net that "we had begun planning the conference in 2006 following discussion that such an event was needed to bring together a wide range of scholars working on different aspects of geography and cartography, broadly across the Middle Ages, and across Europe. Few geographers are doing this kind of work themselves, so (as two geographers) we both wanted to provide a forum for exchange to flag-up this work to a geographical audience, as well as highlight to those historians working on the topic the potential of linking to current ideas and trends in historical and cultural geography."

Nineteen papers will be given over a three day period starting on May 28th, which will be held at Royce Hall at UCLA. Some of the papers include “Chorography Reconsidered: Roman Mapping Traditions in Late Antiquity and Beyond,” by Jesse Simon, and “Portraits of ‘the West’ in Arab Maps and Poetry,” by Karen Pinto. Dr. Lilley will deliver the first paper, where he says he will discuss "what it means 'to map', and how this can help us in understanding not just maps as visual representations but also as textual ones. I also make the point that medieval geography was a topic discussed by geographers in the twentieth century, but geographers have lately neglected their discipline's medieval ancestry."

The conference organizers are negotiating with Cambridge University Press on the possibility of publishing the papers of this conference in a volume. Dr. Lilley is hopeful that this will be the beginning of renewed interest in medieval geography. "There is much potential," he explained, "especially in cross-disciplinary research, whether focused on a particular map, or text, or an individual person or group - I am setting up such a project to work further on the 14th-century Gough Map of Great Britain, but the potential exists to work on, say, the geographical texts in particular archives, as Natalia Lozovsky has done, or particular themes, such as cartographic representations of Europe from Islamic and Christian medieval traditions. I hope these new areas might develop as a result of the conference."

For details about the conference, including its program, please go to: http://www.cmrs.ucla.edu/programs/conference_mapmedgeos_program.html