Jonathan Morton specialises in medieval literature with a particular interest in the interrelation between philosophy and art (broadly understood) and in literature’s mediation between knowledge and desire. After working as a schoolteacher in London he completed a doctoral thesis at Oxford, which was the foundation for his recently published monograph, The ‘Roman de la rose’ in its Philosophical Context: Art, Nature, and Ethics (Oxford: OUP, 2018). He has carried out research fellowships at New College, Oxford and King’s College London and is in Berlin for a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship working at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte before taking up a position as Assistant Professor in French at Tulane University in New Orleans.

He has published articles on the Romance of the Rose and on medieval bestiaries and edited a collection entitled Medieval Thought Experiments: Poetry, Hypothesis, and Experience in the European Middle Ages (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018) with Philip Knox and ICI fellow Daniel Reeve. He is currently interested especially in machines as models for thought and in the relationship between poetry and engineering in medieval science and science fiction.

Ingenium: Poetry and Engineering in the High Middle Ages
ICI Affiliate Project 2018

This project is a cultural history of ingenuity in the High Middle Ages (1100-1350). It is about how ingenuity, the invention of art and machinery, was conceived and represented as a fundamental part of what it means to be human. Crucially, it is about how the representation of invention, in visual art and especially in literature, played a key role in the development of medieval philosophy, science, and technology. Thinking takes place both when artists and craftsmen made artefacts and machines and when the audiences and users interpreted artistic fictions or handled machines.

Such thinking is related to experience: we can see the world differently through machine-aided observation, for example; we learn about the world and own minds through our experience of responding to a work of art. The use of machines can also produce models for understanding the mechanics of nature. While this project’s main corpus comprises works of allegory, romance, and visual art more commonly studied by literary scholars and art historians, it is, then, fundamentally related to the history of philosophy and the history of science.