Genevieve Caulfield

Genevieve’s research examines the centrality of anxieties about visual credibility to late medieval Christendom (c. 1200—c. 1450). Her PhD project analyses how scholars of optical theories thought about trust in relation to sight, and explores how different groups understood the trustworthiness of sight per se to be an issue in various debates in which Christian truth claims were at stake. From distinguishing between divine and demonic visionary experiences among the laity to the complicated theological debate about the timing of the blessed soul’s posthumous sight of God, a concern with the quality of sight in religious contexts cut across European society. Genevieve’s thesis argues that religious concerns drove innovations in optical theory as well as that optics altered the terms of religious debates.

Genevieve first encountered thirteenth-century optical science while researching her  MPhil dissertation, which examined how optical theories might have informed contemporary monastic experiences of cathedral architecture. Thanks to her Master’s training in HPSM, Genevieve is broadly interested in interdisciplinary approaches to history. Her thesis thus draws on an integrated approach to the history and philosophy of science, as well as the history of art and the history of religion.


Supervisor: Dr John Sabapathy

Working Title: Can we believe our own eyes? Optics, vision and cognition in late medieval religion

Expected completion date: 2023

Funding: LAHP (AHRC)