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Interdisciplinary and Other CFPs for RSA 2018 New Orleans
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The Aesthetics of Suffering in Early Modern Europe

Posted By Sarah R. Kyle, Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Boccaccio described Florence in 1348 as a living tomb riddled with fear and hypocrisy where “the multitude of the deaths . . . was such that those who heard the tale . . . were struck dumb with amazement.”  His account of the incomprehensibility of the Black Death roughly coincides with the beginning of a seismic shift in the conceptualization of suffering.  Pre-modern European sensibilities generally regarded suffering, even its most extreme forms, as part of an inalterable divine order of redemption—nowhere more evident than in the ubiquitous image of the Crucifixion.  However, by the time of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 philosophers like Voltaire found it impossible to make sense of “evil” with reference to the plan of God.  Between the Black Death and the Lisbon earthquake, the human ability and responsibility to reshape nature radically increased, even though the response to suffering was still unstably compounded with the pious acceptance of suffering.  From “dance” or “triumph” of death imagery to illustrated parables, humanist iconographies of “soul care,” and physicians' regimens of physical and mental health, artists, writers, and philosophers navigated the space between meaningless and meaningful tragedy, depicting suffering in ways that reflected and shaped the shifting cultural ground that would eventually consolidate the modern concepts of nature, pain, and medicine.  This session invites papers that explore questions of how visual art created an aesthetics of suffering to explore the spaces between meaningless and meaningful tragedy.

Please send your proposal (150-word maximum), paper title, and a brief CV (300-word maximum) to Sarah Kyle (skyle@uco.edu) and Scott Samuelson (scott.samuelson@kirkwood.edu) by Friday, June 2, 2017.

Tags:  Art History  Devotion  early modern  history of medicine  humanism  interdisciplinary  magic  poetry and painting  punishment  Religion  ritualized responses  sensory experience 

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