Princeton Medieval & Early Modern Studies Graduate Conference

Saturday, December 3rd 2022

Louis A. Simpson 

International Building,

Room A71


How did they learn? How did they teach?: Exploring Knowledge Transmission from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern

Much of our modern knowledge is the result of centuries of experiments driven by human desire to record and pass down successes, failures and lessons learned. The timespan from the periods often called "Late Antique" to that called "Early Modern" offers enormous scope to explore the historical record of knowledge transmission across diverse social contexts. While scholars in Baghdad, such as Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (9th c.), translated ancient medical texts, Theophilus (12th c.) distilled complex information to record proprietary painting techniques in his De diversis artibus. Just as Renaissance humanists classicized their curricula, Enlightenment thinkers sought to secularize scientific methods. In each case, knowledge was consistently safeguarded, amended, and transmitted. This conference will explore the many networks and forms of knowledge transmission active across the Late Antique and Early Modern periods. We will work within a wide span of geographical and chronological parameters as well as across disciplines.

The topic of education and knowledge transmission is timely. As the last two years have emphasized, learning and teaching methods can take on a variety of shapes and can change drastically in order to adapt to the rising needs of both students and educators. Pedagogical developments, though exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic today, have been inherent to the human experience throughout history and across the globe. However, the very concept of education and the interpersonal relationships knowledge and its transmission entails have greatly varied over time, and their historical models offer compelling challenges to our modern understanding of when, where and how learning takes place, who is a teacher, and who is a student. The conference invites graduate students to re-examine their own assumptions about education in the medieval and early modern eras and approach their material in a new light.


Browse Session Schedule


Paula Findlen
Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of History and Professor, by courtesy, of French and Italian
Stanford University

Session Speakers

Daniel Berardino
"The Technique of Legal Argumentation in three Byzantine Canon Law Treatises"
Fordham University, Medieval Studies
Yaacov Bronstein
“The Common Gloss: Paradise Lost and the Language of the Latin Commentary Tradition"
Rutgers University, English
Sarah Cohen
“Cristoforo Buondelmonti’s Descriptio Insule Crete: Visualizing the Topography of Late Medieval Crete”
Columbia University, Art History & Archaeology
Brooke Franks
“The Merchant Maiden Hospital: Female Education and Work in Eighteenth Century Edinburgh"
Stony Brook University, History
Sofia Hernandez
"Designed, Printed, Colored: Francesco Panini’s Multimedia Prints of the Farnese Gallery"
Princeton University, Art & Archaeology
Jennifer Ruth Hoyden
"​​Personally invested: Medieval workshop as archetype of self-relevance fueled learning"
Teachers College, Columbia University, Art & Art Education
Faiza Masood
"Medieval Liars in the Arab World: The Censorship of Hasan al Bakri"
Princeton University, Religion
Fay Slakey
"Constructing Canon: Knowledge and Continuity in the Zoroastrian Dēnkard"
Princeton University, Comparative Literature
Anna Speyart
“Learning at Play: The Knowledge Games of Innocenzio Ringhieri”
Princeton University, History of Science


The Delaware Valley Medieval Association