The Power of Objects [Th Oct 30]

On page 175, Bynum states that matter, while being “locatable, divisible, temporal, changeable”, can be, in the medieval mind, redeemed by God so that “corruptible matter must be-impossibly, inconceivably, paradoxically-capable of incorruption”. How does this idea fit in with some of our earlier views on materiality, such as hybridity? What is your sense of how Bynum’s evidence in the chapter supports or complicates our ideas of the power of objects?

4 thoughts on “The Power of Objects [Th Oct 30]

  1. From what I remember about “hybridity”, I would say that this chapter definitely aligned with it by joining “material” to “divine”, although Bynum might have claimed that it was not a hybrid but only “divine”. She spent quite a bit of time focusing on how objects transformed from material into something else. I think this complicates many of our other ideas of object ecology in many ways because it is dependent on humans . Miracles, visions, and animation were all tied to humanity or its relationship with God, and, thus, difficult to isolate. It was interesting to me how Bynum mentioned both believers in relics and those who hated them as attributing “divine” power to the material (whether “divine” as inspired by God or “divine” as satanic or heretical. Bynum notes that divine power was believed to have been able to be transferred into objects by quoting Geiler von Kaisersberg on page 160, “If someone blesses something [that is, water] and attributes it to God, then you can drive out the evil spirit with it”.

  2. Latour notion of “hybrids” focuses on how no object is in pure form, all things are not just themselves; they are always a part of something else and therefore they change and cause change over time. Bynum’s chapter entitled “The Power of Objects,” incorporates this idea in the holy relics examples and the theory and activity surrounding them. Like Kaleb stated, Bynum spends quite a large deal of time looking at how these things and objects are transformed into something else, which many times is dependent on the human aspects. In the example of Johannes Bremer on beginning on page 165, Bynum describes the three types of holy objects in this “hierarchial classification in Bremer’s questio magistralis [which] depends on the degree to which, and the method by which, the divine and the material make contact.” Interestingly on the ranking the objects that touched Christ himself are lower, whereas the highest is the Eucharist (the one in which humanity and divinity unite in Christ (167). The mxing and hybridity of the two aspects, human and divine, are what drives the importance and strength of the objects as holy relics. The two go hand in hand.

  3. I think that the “hybridity” of holy objects, owned or created by saints or transformed by God, from the ordinary into the extraodinary. It’s through the assemblage of the material and the human, then transformed into something else by God, it is the transmutation of something that can be changed, being changed into something that divine. If we were go by the medieval definition of “divine”, it means that it has become still and cannot change. But also used a teaching object, those objects were used to teach that objects were signs of God taking an interest in the human, and how in the rituals and the ordinary, the divine can be found.

  4. Latour’s notion of hybridity, from what I gathered, is the combination of humanity and material, such as a whale with a tracking device, frozen embryo, etc. It seems that Bennet’s idea of divinity is similar to this in the sense that it takes material and combines it with some other force (in this case, the divine). I like Kaleb’s idea of her focus on transformations, however. Instead of melding together into a half material/half divine power hybrid, there’s a focus on a complete transformation that relies on human interaction, ideology and pure godly power.

    The human aspect is important. As previously pointed out, human ideology during the middle ages are the driving forces behind the power of these objects. Bennet writes that “everyone condemned everyone else for misunderstanding how the divine intersected with the material, but no one denied that it did” (165). All these conflicting ideas inscribe a huge number of powers to the objects in question.

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