Literary Dimensions Seminar
Although "media" conjures modern, technologized modes of communication (television, the internet, print journalism), mediation is a central part of all communication. In the Middle Ages, media referred to networks of voices, texts, bodies, human actions, and nonhuman forces that were involved in sense perception, social interaction, storytelling, and other acts of cultural transmission. This talk will elaborate on the media ecology of the medieval West by putting Aristotle's theories of sense perception in dialogue with theories of new media and embodied informatics, from Marshall McLuhan's description of media as the "extensions of man" to N. Katherine Hayles's cyborg theory. Understanding media before machine technologies and the era of mass communication heralded by the printing press also yields new insights into medieval literature, and this talk will conclude with a discussion of media and mediation in Geoffrey Chaucer's masterwork, The Canterbury Tales.