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Debate: Innovation as Performance in Late-Medieval Universities

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DEBATE (Debate: Innovation as Performance in Late-Medieval Universities)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-07-31

1. What is the problem/ issue being addressed

The subtleties of understanding, the gentle hints inside a meaning. A debate. From Antiquity to our times, it is one of the most powerful tools humans have created to communicate in structured form, to allow the pro and con dynamic to give life to the ideas. It is a rather singular event today, but medieval universities made debates their core instrument of learning. This is why Project DEBATE turns to our collective past to ask: how was knowledge advanced in the medieval university? By studying the principium, one of the most representative academic disputations, the project aims at filling the gaps in the history of this intensely intellectual tool. Researchers employ a variety of technological solutions to study the uncharted medieval manuscripts, which still offer an astounding amount of new data, and to recreate this golden age of debates.

Why is it important for society?

The project excavates a very important activity of medieval universities, which is public debates related to graduation. In this respect everybody from society which is connected or has any interest on the present academia can find an interest. It help to undertant the heritage of present habits in acadamia. The PI could test this impact while in 2019 delivered a public talk in front of a 1000 persons and the public show a tremendous interest in the topic of the project.

1. What are the overall objectives

First of all identify as many traces of principial debates as possible in various collections of manuscripts. Identify the medieval authors of surviving texts, identify authors of non-existing texts via the quotations of and references to them during a debate. Once the corpus is established, the next step will be to make the information available via a database and to produce as many as possible editions in order to illustrate the practice of this public debates from reported texts.
The main work performed in the first stage of the project was to inform the scientific community of the novelty of the topic. In this respect a series of public talks that engaged in dialogue with collegues were performed by all the members of the team. An important workpackage was to establish the corpus of the project. Important discoveries have been made with respect to principia from Oxford, Paris and Vienna. A surprising number of new manuscripts have been identified, for example 17 unknown fragments of principia have been identified in the first period of the project. A number of results have already been been published or are forthcoming, including a monograph on the author of the longest known principia, Pierre Ceffons (2019), a major forthcoming article showing that there were principial debates at Oxford and using them to dispel myths about the curriculum (44 pages, 2020), a forthcoming edition of a previously unknown set of principia from Paris during the Great Schism (ca. 100 pages, 2020), a submitted article tracing a theme from Oxford principial debates back to Paris, and almost complete two-volume book on the rise of the genre (volume I) and case studies (volume II). Progress has also been made on the edition of an additional 1000 pages of principia for future publication.
By the end of the project the team’s target is to launch a database designed as a web digital document repository. This database’s aim is to transfer the results of the scholarly initiative DEBATE into an internet-based, complex, interlinked and user-friendly database. This outcome will help the team to organize all the data and to make it available by the end of the project.
A series of publications, articles and monographs or collective volumes presenting case-studies are already works-in-progress for all the memebers of the team.
The PI is also considering to develop a pedagogical platform to teach paleography on texts related to the corpus of the project. In this respect a summer-school will be organized every year during the period of the project.
Dissemination of the results will be considered also by organizing a ‘grand-public’ exhibition with manuscripts from the corpus of the project.
The progress beyond the state of arts will be also assured by the PhDs developed inside of the project and in conection with the topic of the project.
cover image of Schabel monograph book