Saturday, July 09, 2011

Ekaica: Archiving Ernst Kantorowicz

Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz died on the 8th September 1963 at his home at 22, Alexander Street, Princeton, New Jersey. His work continues to be influential within the fields of medieval and Byzantine intellectual history, political thought, and imagery. In recent years it  - or more properly an influential part of it, The King’s Two Bodies - has steadily entered the scholarly canons of less immediately ‘medieval’ or pre-modern fields. The last few years in particular have seen his models of medieval and early modern thinking about royal power discussed by students of literature, critical theory and political philosophy; ‘Kantorowicz’ the thinker has been brought into sustained conversation with Foucault, Schmitt, and Benjamin, amongst others. The influential studies of Alain Boureau and, particularly, Giorgio Agamben (Homo Sacer, State of Exception) have been crucial to this process, and the increase in the number of scholars across the disciplines engaging with Kantorowicz’s published work.  Quite what Kantorowicz the meticulous and nuanced scholar might have made of the instrumentalized (and over-simplifed) 'Kantorowicz’ encountered in some of this recent work is a question to ponder, perhaps, not least in the context of the notion of the ‘king’s two bodies’ itself.

Leslie Mitchell’s recent biography of Bowra shed some additional light on Kantorowicz the man and his close friendship with its subject Maurice Bowra: A Life (Oxford, 2010). An even more robustly concrete Ernst Kantorowicz can be seen in the ‘Ekaica’ Professor Ralph Giesey, his friend and former pupil, has generously made available on his personal website

Kantorowicz’s papers are held at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. The Kantorowicz Collection includes letters, draft chapters and reviews, personal documentation, materials on the Berkeley loyalty-oath controversy, unpublished lectures and papers, including ‘Charles the Bald and the Natales of the King’, ‘Synthronos’, ‘Roma and the Coal’, and several other pieces listed in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 17 (1963), p. 118 as ‘abandoned’ at uncorrected proof stage after Kantorowicz’s death. The Leo Baeck Institute has digitized virtually all the Collection (photographs are, however, largely excluded). It, too, can now freely be viewed online, here. Do note, however, that the Institute has set some firm and wholly understandable restrictions: ‘Lectures are not to be published, but can be quoted.’ 

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