Dontay Givens, Hilary Term 2022 graduate, recently published an article on Comment Magazine, a Christian-based publication that observes all aspects of what they call “social architecture.” Givens’ article focuses on the black magus’ function within late medieval church history. Sometimes called Balthazar, the black magus receives mixed reactions due to association with the color black–namely, sin and death. Givens states, “The essay explores how the magus’ association with Africa became more apparent during the latter half of the 14th century and how by the 16th century, especially within the Flemish school.” The perception of blackness and its formative effects on the Christian church makes Givens’ article an interesting read.
Below is a brief interview SCIO conducted with Givens:
What are you currently doing (studies/work), and how did your time with SCIO influence where you are today?
“My research is geographically within French-, German-, and Dutch- speaking regions of Western Europe; focusing on the literary and artistic construction of black Africans within the pre-modern Low Countries (1250-1670). I pay special attention to the development of race, capitalism, and colonialism and its effect on, both fictive and informed, European constructions of Africans. I was first introduced to Moriaen, a 13th century Flemish text about a black knight, by Dr. Jonathan Thorpe while at SCIO. I wrote my seminar essay about the material effects of the theological associations of black with evil and sin, focusing on Moriaen and the King of Tars.”
If you could give any advice to current and future SCIO students, what would that be?
“Your path doesn’t have to be a traditional one. I grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago, I had never heard of Chaucer or Chrétien before college; I wanted to be a sociologist, I wanted to deal with material things, lived experiences. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I was introduced to medieval literature, my junior year that I was able to marry my sociological background with literature and art history. Fate is a strange thing. Don’t be afraid to go where the wind plants you, there’s a door at the end of each journey.”
What are your future plans?
“I’m currently preparing for grad school, I applied to 9 English PhDs and I’m hoping I hear some good news soon. I will also spend 8 weeks in the summer improving my French at the Middlebury Language Institute, so I can focus on learning Latin and Dutch whenever I get accepted into a program. I plan to teach. I would love to be able to give students the tools to analyze the importance of the development of race, capitalism, and colonialism and their effects on literature and artwork.”
SCIO offers its congratulations and best wishes to Givens. If you would like to read Givens’ article in its entirety, please click here: https://comment.org/both-flesh-and-fiction/?utm_campaign=2023-05-11,%20Dontay%20Givens&utm_content=248542804&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&hss_channel=fbp-142260190351&fbclid=IwAR2dQOpNzfR9rcj7fVaoDS5KWJBTxXRhu7-trF9o4aE3VP0TyMFMjFmUduY