CMEMS Invited Lecture Series
Thursday 21 March 2013 at 5pm
(University Club 105)
Professor Mark Gregory Pegg (Washington University)
“Comparative History, Grand Narratives and the Medieval World”
This talk is about overcoming the tension between what some scholars see as the crippling legacy of microhistory (and arguably postmodernism) which supposedly denies the ability to write sweeping narratives about the past and what other scholars see as the tendency of wide-ranging narratives to eliminate historical detail and dissent for sake of chronological clarity, so that all too frequently the most traditional assumptions about a topic simply get artfully remade in the novelistic forward rush of telling a story. The recent historiographic arguments for “transnational” histories, as well as the renewal of debate about comparative history, all circle around the problem of how does the historian write a grand narrative with the same level of detail as a microhistory, and so what are the methodological frameworks, let alone artistic ones, by which such histories can be written in the twenty-first century. Moreover, how does the historian emphasize the contingency and specificity of the past over millennia without succumbing to ahistorical superficiality or the essentialism that has become so common in other fields analyzing large swathes of human history (such as cognitive science, psychology, and anthropology). These questions of method, form, and content, let alone intellectual justification, shape his forthcoming book Beatrice’s Last Smile: A History of the Medieval World 200-1600 (Oxford University Press).
Professor Mark Gregory Pegg is the author of The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246 (Princeton University Press, 2001); and A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom (Oxford University Press, 2007).
A reception will follow Professor Pegg’s talk.