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Networks of Shared Imagination: Medieval Legends and the Construction of History
February 20, 2017 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Solmsen Fellow (2016-2017)
History, Syracuse University
What can we learn about the past from sources long dismissed as worthless? Medieval legends recount a version of early Christian history starkly at odds with reality. They also repeat each other again and again. For these reasons, they have been branded as unreliable and unoriginal. But what happens if we take them seriously – not as sources for early Christian history, but as evidence of how medieval people constructed and used history? This talk explores the hidden value of these supposedly worthless sources.
Samantha Kahn Herrick is Associate Professor of History at Syracuse University. Her research focuses on medieval Europe and, in particular, the uses and significance of hagiographical legends. In addition to studying how and why medieval people fashioned and disseminated stories about the past, she is also interested in how historians can use problematic but abundant hagiographical legends to supplement the very limited number of more “reliable” sources. Her first book demonstrated the political significance of legends celebrating largely imaginary saints. She is currently writing a monograph about a neglected body of apostolic saints’ lives and co-editing a volume on history and hagiography. She has been a fellow at the Syracuse University Humanities Center (2014-15) and a Scruggs Faculty Research Scholar (2012-15), a member of the Institute for Advanced Study (2011-12), and Professeur invitée at the Université Paul Verlaine, Metz (France) (2007).