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Medieval Studies Lecture | Trans Natures and Alchemical Salvation

April 8, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

This lecture will be the second keynote lecture for the Graduate Association of Medieval Studies (GAMS) 9th Annual Medieval Studies Colloquium. All GAMS Colloquium lectures and conference sessions are free and open to the public.

Micah Goodrich, Lecturer, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Connecticut

Lecture: “Trans Natures and Alchemical Salvation”

Friday, April 8th, 2022 | 4:00–5:30pm CT | Science Hall, Room 180 and Virtual [Zoom link forthcoming]

Abstract: Medieval alchemists were interested in the salvific potential of creating the “Philosopher’s Stone” – a stone that, if created, would be filled with vitality – it could heal sickness, reproduce matter, and access the secrets of the divine. The alchemist’s final goal of creating the “Philosopher’s Stone” is rarely depicted in its metallic register. Instead, it is imagined as the “rebis,” a trans/nonbinary figure that represents both the presence of multiple fixed boundaries and binaries as well as the absence of these multiplicities. This lecture will discuss the trans animacy of alchemy’s magnum opus. Animacy is the discursive framing that shapes the conditions in which we apprehend something as animate or not and reveals the political ethics of alive-ness. It operates as an invisible mover of things, entities, and persons. Mel Chen’s recent work on animacy expands its queer and racialized dimensions to show how social attitudes creep into language to alter the agency of things. Expanding animacy through movement, trans animacy extends how life can cross between, through, and beyond seemingly fixed boundaries and binaries of animate/inanimate, male/female, alive/dead, hot/cold, etc. In medieval and early modern alchemy, the liveliness of compounds like sulfur and mercury are coded as male and female and when combined they (re)animate matter into new forms and functions. Alchemy reminds us that the act of being alive is most potent when matter is not reduced to being one thing but rather becoming many, multiple, and manifold.

Dr. Goodrich’s public lecture and workshop is sponsored by the Program in Medieval Studies, Department of Art History, Department of History, Department of English, Department of French & Italian, and the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic +. This lecture and workshop is also funded in part by an Associated Students of Madison (ASM) viewpoint neutral grant and the Wisconsin Experience Grant (WEG). For accessibility accommodations, please contact: gams@rso.wisc.edu.


Science Hall
550 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706 United States
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