Jennifer Jahner F'19, F'11

Jennifer  Jahner
California Institute of Technology

ACLS Fellowship Program 2019
Assistant Professor
California Institute of Technology
The Medieval Experimental Imagination: Scientific and Literary Method in Later Medieval England

The concept of the experiment possessed a far wider semantic range in the medieval period than it does today, as it embraced methods of testing propositions, forms of sensory apperception, proven medical recipes, and various occult or privileged artisanal practices. This project draws on the history of medicine and science, as well as book history, to argue that medieval vernacular literature proved to be a vital testing ground for the emergent discourse of experimentation. Exploring the role of "experimenta" in medieval manuscript production from the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, this project shows how methods of vernacular poetic composition both absorbed and shaped contemporary natural philosophical debates over the status of experiential knowledge.

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2011
Doctoral Candidate
University of Pennsylvania
Sacra Jura: Literature, Law, and Piety in the Era of Magna Carta

This project traces the dual legacies of the year 1215, which saw the initial drafting of both Magna Carta and the canons of the Fourth Lateran Council. The first of these documents came to embody a quasi-sacred vision of English secular liberties; the second spurred a vast expansion of lay and clerical literacy in the service of pastoral care. In positioning these cultural movements concomitantly, this dissertation examines the logic of “liberty” within late medieval English literature, showing the ways in which the discourses of legal exceptionalism and communalism so central to genres like romance and hagiography also helped to meld pietistic and secular political vocabularies—to marry the language of penitence and self-abnegation to arguments for common interest, institutional rights, and reform.