27 Oct 16

The world of academia, whether medieval or modern, has long provided humorists with an image of ridicule: stodgy professors instilling recondite knowledge to perplexed students. In his Academy lecture, “Performing Scholasticism: Ars Disputandi and the Medieval Public Sphere,” which took place at Museum The Kennedys, Alex Novikoff breathes new life into the world of scholastic discourse and argues that the world of university debates is a good deal more live and entertaining than has been assumed. Focusing on the medieval practice of disputatio (debate), he looks both inside and beyond the ivory tower and argues that what at first glance might seem like useless hairsplitting is, in fact, part and parcel of a much broader culture of argumentation, one that both depends on and in turn influences a public and participatory sphere of knowledge exchange. Employing the methodologies of performance studies and intellectual history, Novikoff offers a new perspective on the world of medieval scholasticism and urges us to think creatively and interdisciplinarily about the social life of ideas, both medieval and modern.