Ghostly Europe (16th-17th centuries): knowledge production and cultural anxieties

Event details


Wednesday 29 Jan 2014 to Thursday 30 Jan 2014

Submission Deadline

Tuesday 05 Mar 2013

Caroline Callard (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Stéphane Van Damme (EUI)

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words for papers lasting 30 minutes, and a brief biographical note (100 words) to for the attention of Caroline Callard and Stephane Van Damme. Deadline for submissions:  15 May 2013. The workshop will be in English, French and Italian.

Scientific Committee: Frederic Audren (Ecole de droit, SciencesPo), Sophie Houdard (Université de Paris III), Colin Jones (University of London, Queen Mary), Antoine Lilti (Centre de recherches historiques, EHESS), Antonella Romano (Institut Européen de Florence, History Department).

Ghostly Europe (16th-17th centuries): knowledge production and cultural anxieties

The Conference is organised by the European University Institute (Florence) and the Research Unit Centre Roland Mousnier (Université Paris-Sorbonne) and the LABEX (Ecrire une nouvelle histoire de l'Europe, Axe “Humanités”). It will be held at Florence. 

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to explore the ways in which the ghosts as a site for the expression of cultural anxieties within a range of literary and historical sources. It aims to consider the significance of the ghosts as a central motif in Early Modern European History, as well as the intersections between the fields of literature, Law, medicine and science which place the ghosts at the centre of debates surrounding visibility and invisibility in the age of the Scientific Revolution.

We welcome contributions from postgraduates and researchers working in the fields of literary studies, history, history of science, legal studies and sociology, and will consider submissions from related research areas. Possible areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

History of spectres and History of Knowledge

Leaving the classical approach in terms of belief, the conference aims at underlining the variety of knowledge which took seriously into account ghosts and spirits during the Early Modern Period (16th-18th centuries) such as theology, rhetoric, Law, politics, medicine, philosophy or natural philosophy in the wake of the works of Stuart Clark. These knowledge about ghosts are in competition with the rise of new rationalities, triggered a large controversy in the Republic of Letters and redrew the boundaries between visible and invisible worlds. In this perspective, the ghosts contributed to a phenomenology of the invisible, which characterized the Old regime.

The circulation of ghosts: A European History

The second aim of the conference is to focus the attention on the European dimension of the controversies. From French religious wars to Elisabethan England, from catholic Italy to the German Empire, the ghosts didn't share the same status by passing borders. The spectres draw a geography which is not only European but worldwide, as in the Pierre Le Loyer's Treatise where ghosts came from Brahmanic India or from Polar circle. Far from being limited to margins (ruins, cemeteries, forests), the circulations of ghosts revealed a wild Europe (B. Becker, J. Aubrey, J.B. Thiers).

From history of spectres to haunting history

The conference would like finally to address a last issue raised recently by literary studies and sociology about the 'social energy' of the ghosts (Stephen Greenblatt) or the social experience of the haunt (Avery Gordon, Michael Mayerfeld Bell), from specific settings: theatrical stages, battle fields, haunting houses, etc. Knowledge about ghosts are also situated knowledge which allow to analyse sensible experiences.