Conscience as Craft: Michael of Northgate's Experimental Temper

Jennifer A. Jahner


Monday, February 13, 2023 12:00 pm EST

Dabney Hall, Room 110
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA 91125

Abstract: Michael of Northgate, monk of St. Augustine's, Canterbury (fl. c. 1340), enjoys a reputation within both history of science and late medieval religious studies as a notable scribe and translator. Despite his pronounced interest in both homiletic and scientific materials, however, Michael of Northgate's full corpus has never been in examined in conjunction. This paper seeks to do so, demonstrating the underlying currents that bring Michael's interests in astrology, astronomy, and magic together with his precocious, idiosyncratic effort at translating confessional material into English. The paper argues for understanding Michael's scribal activities as components of an interrelated "experimental" project, invested in spanning the distance between self-knowledge and knowledge of the natural world. In particular, it shows how conscience, or inwyt, finds a ready analogue in the language and logic of craft experimentation, in which homiletic self-examination serves to "temper" the spirit through trial, repetition, and the subtle adjustment of rhetorical admixtures.
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