Official Launch: Tomas Zahora “Nature, Virtue and the Limits of Encyclopedic Knowledge’

Zahora Nature VirtueJoin us, belatedly, to celebrate and launch Med-Ren’s own Tomas Zahora’s recent book, Nature, Virtue and the Limits of Encyclopedic Knowledge on Friday 28 August at 11am. For details, see our events page.

From the publisher’s website:

An exploration of the encyclopaedias produced by Alexander Neckham (1157-1217) and the role they played in the intellectual culture of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Can – and should – an encyclopaedia be a repository of all knowledge? Does the idea of total encyclopaedic knowledge constitute a boon for readers, or is it a labyrinthine nightmare? This book explores the pleasures and paradoxes of encyclopaedism, viewed through the interpretative lenses of the works of Alexander Neckam (1157-1217), an English Augustinian canon and scholar. Neckam wrote not just one but two encyclopaedias: the prose De naturis rerum (‘On the natures of things’) and the verse Laus sapientie divine (‘Praise of divine wisdom’). Poised between the end of the ‘renaissance’ of the twelfth century and the scholasticism-inspired thirteenth century, Neckam invites us into an unfamiliar universe in which encyclopaedias are intentionally incomplete, and in which warnings about the vanity of knowledge coexist with vivid descriptions of new technological inventions. This strange union is facilitated by the exegetical method of tropology or moral reading. Through analogy, vivid imagery, and constant recourse to ethics, Neckam’s encyclopaedias aim to educate their readers until they leave the text behind and engage in a reading of the world in a quest for knowledge, experiencing not only its pleasure and beauty, but also its inherent power.