James Palmer visits Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
April 20, 2013 Leave a comment
Early mediaeval historian Dr James Palmer has just returned from a productive time as a visiting scholar at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. He was invited there by Dr Matthew Gabriele as the two continue to develop their research into apocalypse and prophecy in the Middle Ages.
They began their fortnight together by travelling to the annual Medieval Academy of America meeting, which this year was being held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, co-organised by fellow apocalypse scholar (and MacArthur Fellowship winner) Prof Jay Rubenstein. There, James chaired a packed session on ‘The Millennium: Fresh Views of the End of Time’, featuring Dr Brett Whalen of UNC at Chapel Hill with whom James has applied for funding for a network on apocalypse and medieval society. Three full and stimulating days of conferencing ended with a reception inside the iconic Sunsphere, built for for the World’s Fair in 1982.
Returning to Blacksburg, and after finding some proper Bluegrass by the New River, James spent the next week working at Virginia Tech. For the most part, he continued to work on his new book, Perilous Times: Apocalypse and Authority in the Early Middle Ages, which he hopes to finish by this summer. On the Wednesday lunchtime, he gave a brief paper about his methodology and theory to members of the Department of Religion and Culture, which provided a great opportunity to compare ideas and assumptions between different disciplines.
Later that day, James gave a public lecture entitled ‘How the End of the World Shaped the World’ at the Residential College of Ambler West Johnston Hall, the college that had kindly funded his visit. The lecture was well-attended, as James explained how apocalyptic thought encouraged actions and ideologies which helped to transform the political and religious map of Europe in the first millennium AD.
On the Thursday James taught a graduate seminar as part of Dr Gabriele’s course on ‘History and Prophecy’. The session was entitled ‘What is the End?’ and the group had a stimulating time discussing Negri and Hardt’s Empire, the use of narratology in understanding apocalyptic movements, and the intersection of politics and apocalyptic beliefs more generally.
There may be collaboration between St Andrews and Virginia Tech in future, and James is looking forward to welcoming Dr Gabriele to St Andrews in June when he speaks at the conference ‘The Middle Ages in the Modern World’.