Paper, Time and Oblivion in Premodern Europe

Monday 13 November 2017, 4.30PM

Speaker: John Gagné (University of Sydney)


This presentation proposes that Europe’s adoption of writing paper in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries came with a sensibility, one profoundly connected to paper’s materiality. All inscribable media carry within their very matter a relationship to time. Parchment had served for centuries to record indispensable information for the long term; wax tablets, by contrast, were often erased within hours or days. Paper was asked to perform both duties – it was a medium both for now and forever. This talk explores the tension between paper’s durability and disposability in the centuries between 1250 and 1650.

Location: BS/005 Bowland Auditorium