Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

7/1/2008 - 12/31/2008

Funding Totals

$25,200.00 (approved)
$25,200.00 (awarded)

Material Imagination and the Portrayal of Precious Stones in Medieval Art and Culture

FAIN: FB-53748-08

Brigitte Buettner
Trustees of Smith College (Northampton, MA 01060-2916)

My book will offer the first comprehensive account of the luxuriant use of gemstones in medieval works of art. Precious stones were neither a mute nor a dead material, for their richly layered meanings were matched by their paradoxical nature, at once hard and alive, earthly and yet infused with divine presence. I discuss a broad array of objects in light of an equally extensive range of texts, from theological interpretations and hagiographic literature to scientific works and travel literature. My study participates in a larger effort in the humanities and social sciences to "think thingness." I depart from object-centered inquiries by showing that even a single substance could be the focus of an intensive intellectual, poetic, and creative engagement, and that its import was as much scientific and aesthetic as it was social and economic. The grant would free me from teaching during the fall semester 2008 and allow me to make substantial progress toward the completion of this project.