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2017 Mediterranean Discussion Group

June 4, 2017

Each year at the American Academy in Rome, common themes emerge among Fellows' projects with wonderful serendipity.  This Fellowship year found several scholars and artists investigating the Mediterranean as a geographical and conceptual framework in different historical periods and from different perspectives. Jessica Maya Marglin, the National Endowment for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern Italian Studies, and Joseph Williams, the Phyllis W. G. Gordan/Lily Auchincloss/Samuel H. Kress Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in Medieval Studies, spearheaded the Mediterranean Discussion Group as a forum to share and develop new ideas.  

"The Mediterranean, a kaleidoscopic space of human interaction, is no less complex as a zone of discourse" Joe explains.  The Mediterranean Discussion Group is a weekly informal meeting, usually held over lunch, in which scholars and artists share questions about the Mediterranean, whether understood as a geographical unit, a constructed idea, or a political platform. Every week, a different member assigns readings and leads discussion about a problem that has emerged from his or her own work. These questions have ranged from historiography (eg. the merits and implications of the medieval "Commercial Revolution" narrative) to how we think about evidence (eg. the convergence of findings in the humanities and in the sciences).

The group has had the fortune to hold several sessions with Michael McCormick, the spring 2017 Lester K. Little Resident in Medieval Studies, who challenged members to reconsider their work outside the usual boundaries or methodologies of their discipline.  Through frank and open conversation, the Mediterranean Discussion Group is helping Fellows gain a better understanding of the different uses of the Mediterranean -- past, present or potential -- as a frame of reference.