Professor awarded Fulbright to study in Cyprus
Dr. Charles Bolyard, associate professor of philosophy and religion, will spend the fall 2013 semester studying the work of the obscure medieval English philosopher Henry of Harclay.
If you’ve never heard of Henry of Harclay, you’re not alone. In the pantheon of philosophers, the medieval English theorist dwells in relative obscurity. Even scholars of the intellectual history of the late 13th and early 14th centuries tend only to focus on a few towering figures such as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus.
Beginning this fall, Dr. Charles Bolyard, associate professor of philosophy and religion at James Madison University, hopes to shed some light on Henry of Harclay’s writings and influence courtesy of the Fulbright Scholar Program. Bolyard has received a research grant to study under Dr. Christopher Schabel, one of the world’s foremost Harclay scholars, at the University of Cyprus in the fall 2013 semester. Schabel has an extensive collection of microfilm and digital medieval manuscripts.
Harclay’s work focuses on what philosophers call relations and their connection with ideas and our understanding of the world. “The question is, are these relations really there or are they made up?” Bolyard said. For example, if we describe one thing as being larger than another thing, is that a property of one of those things, of both, or of neither? Many philosophers and theologians of the medieval period applied relations to Christianity’s notion of the Holy Trinity — God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit — to determine whether it was metaphysically defensible, he said.
Over the past several years, Bolyard has developed a strong interest in Harclay and presented his findings at international conferences in Toronto and Freising, Germany. The Fulbright award will allow him to build on this research. Bolyard expects to be able to produce one or two papers for publication in professional journals by the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
Beyond his primary focus on Harclay, Bolyard plans to visit historical and cultural sites in Cyprus to gain a better understanding of the ancient island country and to aid his teaching at JMU. In addition to exploring the interplay between medieval philosophy and the philosophy of the Ancient Greek, Helenistic and Early Modern periods, Bolyard and a colleague, Dr. Roger Thelwell, associate professor of mathematics, lead a summer study-abroad trip focusing on the Ancient Greek world.
In 2012-13, JMU was recognized as one of the top producers of Fulbright Scholars among master’s institutions, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.