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Renaissance/Western Medieval Lecture Series | Francisco Prado-Vilar

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 -
5:30pm to 7:00pm
Oshman Hall, McMurtry Building

Free and open to the public

Nostos: The Poetics of Matter and the Transfiguration of Myth in Medieval Sculpture

“It is nostos that you seek, O radiant Odysseus,” said the prophet Tiresias to the Greek hero in Homer's  epic poem of return. Taking nostos as both a theme and a critical concept for the study of Nachleben der Antike (Afterlife of Antiquity) this lecture proposes a journey punctuated by a series of encounters with a selected group of masterpieces of medieval sculpture that have remained until recently inscrutable in their meaning, and largely overlooked despite their brilliant plastic execution. In the course of an analysis that involves critical engagements with the thought of authors as varied as Fulgentius the Mythographer and Aby Warburg, Dante and James Joyce, these works will reveal themselves as essential case studies to delve into the complexities of the processes of survival and reawakening of classical literary and figural imagery in the Middle Ages, including iconographic transformations, and the poiesis of their embodiment through gesture, memory and the material imagination. This trans-historical nostos culminates in the Portal of Glory of the Cathedral of Santiago, which will be here analyzed in light of the new discoveries produced during the ongoing restoration project.

Francisco Prado-Vilar is Scientific Director of the Andrew W. Mellon Program for the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and Director of Art and Culture at Harvard’s Real Colegio Complutense (RCC). His research and publications focus on diverse aspects of the arts of medieval and early Modern Europe, covering topics of wide chronological, thematic, and methodological range, including the afterlife of Antiquity from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance; Romanesque and Gothic monumental programs; intercultural relations among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Gothic period; the interface of private suffering, devotional painting, and national trauma in Hispano-Flemish painting; or the interconnections between medievalism and modernity. Among his most recent publications is the edited volume The Portal of Glory: Architecture, Matter, and Vision.

Image: King David (ca. 1188), Portal of Glory, Santiago Cathedral.  ©Fundación Catedral de Santiago. Photo: Margen.

VISITOR INFORMATION: Oshman Hall is located in the McMurtry Building on Stanford’s campus, at 355 Roth Way. Visitor parking is free after 4pm on weekdays, except by the oval. Alternatively, take the Caltrain to Palo Alto Transit Center and hop on the free Stanford Marguerite Shuttle.

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