Call for Papers
1 December 2011
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|International Conference at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne
(France), co-sponsored by CIRLEP (EA 4299) and PRISMES / Epistémè (EA
4398), 31 May-1 June 2012, organized by Christine Sukic.
Call for Papers
Heroic Bodies, Bodies of Flesh: Representing the Body in Early Modern
In her 1997 groundbreaking study L’Invention du corps: la représentation
de l’homme du Moyen Age à la fin du XIXe siècle, art historian Nadeije
Laneyrie-Dagen theorizes on "the invention of the human body”. This
phrase is particularly suited to the early modern period, especially
with the development of the study of anatomy: Vesalius’ Fabrica,
published the same year as Copernicus’ De revolutionibus (1543) can be
seen as a revolution reflecting the perception of the human body during
that period. Yet the Galenic theory of humours is still prevalent in the
vision of the body, probably because the idea of the melancholic body
is in keeping with the epistemological crisis that characterizes that
period and that affects all fields of thought, leading to a redefinition
of norms and categories. The numerous theories of passions published in
the 16th and 17th centuries, also attest to the vision of an instable
body, fraught with motion and volatility.
This conference hopes to assemble perspectives on the representation of
the human body in early modern life narratives. Biographies (or "lives”,
as they were generally called then) often claimed objectivity and even
historical truth about their subjects. The representation of the body is
particularly relevant in the creation of that alleged "truth”, as its
description in the text, sometimes illustrated by a portrait of the
subject, attempts to evidence a kind of proof.
This proof can take several forms. The body can reveal an uncommon
aspect of the subject, turning him / her into a heroic or saintly being.
In his "life” of Michelangelo (1568), Giorgio Vasari writes at length
of the artist’s funeral, which took place twenty-five days after his
death. The coffin was opened for a short while for everyone to look at
the body: "we found it so perfect in every part, and so free from any
noisome odour, that we were ready to believe that it was rather at rest
in a sweet and most peaceful sleep; and, besides that the features of
the face were exactly as in life (except that there was something of the
colour of death), it had no member that was marred or revealed any
corruption, and the head and cheeks were not otherwise to the touch than
as if he had passed away but a few hours before”. Michelangelo’s
inanimate body seems to have been transfigured, which is one of the
topoï of hagiography.
But the body of the subject can also be invested with a form of
physical, material truth, revealing this time a body of flesh. This is
John Dryden’s opinion in his "Life of Plutarch”, prefixed to the
translation of Plutarch’s Lives (1683). Dryden, using Bacon’s categories
of history ("Commentaries or Annals; History properly so called; and
Biographia, or the Lives of particular Men”) states that biography is "a
descent into minute circumstances, and trivial passages of life” and
adds: "here you are led into the private Lodgings of the Heroe: you see
him in his undress, and are made Familiar with his most private actions
and conversations […] ; you see the poor reasonable Animal, as naked as
ever nature made him; are made acquainted with his passions and his
follies, and find the Demy-God a Man”. The body of the subject appears
here to be symbolically naked, as a sign of intimacy with the reader and
the biographer. For Vasari, Michelangelo’s body is that of a saint; for
Dryden, the hero’s body is in fact that of a man.
We hope that the conference will also permit a reflection on the role
of the representation of the body in the development of the biographical
text in the early modern period.
We welcome papers based on
biographical texts such as: lives, "life and death”, hagiography,
panegyric, eulogy, funeral oration, biographies of poets, princes,
artists, criminals, historic characters, but also autobiographies. All
geographical areas of early modern Europe can be covered.
The official languages of the conference are English or French and
papers should not exceed 25 minutes. A selection of papers will be
published in Imaginaires, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal published by
the University of Reims. The 50-euro registration fee (30 euros for
postgraduates) will cover this publication, as well as the two lunches
and morning and afternoon coffee breaks.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words as an attached Word
document to Christine Sukic (email@example.com) with a short biographical note by 1 December 2011.
Centre Interdisciplinaire de Recherches sur les Langues Et la Pensée
Directeur : Thomas Nicklas
Université de Reims-Champagne Ardenne
Campus Croix Rouge
Rue François Mauriac
51096 Reims Cedex
Professeur de littérature anglaise à l’université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne