Thursday, 20 December 2007

Very cool Warburg/Warwick course...

I've booked myself onto what promises to be a fascinating three-day workshop run between University of Warwick (in Coventry) and the Warburg Institute (in London), on "Resources and Techniques for the Study of Renaissance and Early Modern Culture". It aims to give post-grads the kind of in-depth specialist research training they need to look at Renaissance / early modern artefacts in a very cross-disciplinary way, by grasping many of the different ways and methodologies available for researching them.

It is almost a top-end DIY course for Voynichologists, as it seems to cover every one of the areas of Voynichological interest (apart from herbal mss, which basically forms a medieval genre)... which is of course why I've signed up for it. Oh, and the lecturers are fantastic too (don't get me started on yet another Charles Burnett panegyric).

But the match between the two is perhaps not as coincidental as you might at first think. What is not widely known is that the Warburg has a deep affinity with all things Voynichian, thanks to its long association with hidden/occult histories and medieval astrology. Its library has a number of books on the VMs (all on the same open shelf, so much friendlier than the British Library), and so it would be highly unsurprising if breakthroughs in our understanding of the VMs came from someone schooled in this Saxl / Panofsky / Yates / Burnett tradition.

Still, the Voynich's academic "kiss-of-death" reputation lingers: and perhaps rightly so, for it is painfully easy to misread its layers and signs, and glimpse in them a story written only on the not-so-blank slate of your own overfertile psyche. All the same, we are now in an era which tolerates multiple academic [hi]stories, even things like Liane Lefaivre's re-reading (of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili as having been written by Leon Battista Alberti), which seems at odds with the (basically Venetian) object itself (it's signed, for goodness' sake!): so perhaps the penalty for daring to try is not as high as it formerly was?

No comments: