What do literary compositional practices have in common with the processes of technical invention and the plastic arts? How is ‘invention’ translated between page (text, diagram) and material reality (models and machines), and vice versa? When such processes prove problematic, where does authority, or authorship, lie? As in previous sessions, the workshop will consist of brief presentations and open interdisciplinary discussion, bringing together scholars from a range of early modern fields to exchange perspectives on primary/archival material and investigate shared methodological challenges.
Vittoria Fallanca (Pembroke College), ‘Wayward Lines: Disegno between techne and ars‘ Olivia Smith (Wolfson College), ‘Models of Leonardo da Vinci’s machines: an exhibition in Venice’ Ion Mihailescu (EPFL-Lausanne), ‘Within one’s grasp: Robert Hooke building Christopher Wren’s weather-clock’
Wes Williams is the Director of TORCH, Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford, and also a Fellow in Modern Languages at St Edmund Hall. His main research interests are in the field of Renaissance studies; the critical study of genre and subjectivity; and the intersection of theory and practice in the literary, political, religious, and professional cultures of the early modern period. He also works on contemporary theory and film. Alongside award-winning work writing and directing for the theatre, he has also contributed to a number of radio broadcasts and films. His first book – Pilgrimage and Narrative in the French Renaissance: ‘The Undiscovered Country’ (OUP, 1999) – was the first full-length study of the place of the Jerusalem pilgrimage in European Renaissance culture. He continues to work on narratives of travel and encounter, displacement and diaspora throughout the early modern period. His second major study, Monsters and their Meanings in Early Modern Culture; Mighty Magic (OUP, 2012) explores the cultural, medical, and theological significance of monsters from Rabelais to Racine — by way of Montaigne, Shakespeare, Titian, Pascal, Corneille, and a host of others. Political monsters (from Nero to the present) are a focus of his most recent work in this field. He is currently writing a short Life of Rabelais, an account of the strange case of Magdeleine d’Auvermont, and a study of the long, enduring history of ‘voluntary servitude’.
Jérôme Baudry is Assistant Professor of History of Science and Technology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), where he leads a team of passionate researchers. He also curates the EPFL’s Collection of scientific instruments.
His research interests include the histories of intellectual property and of technical drawing, and the history and sociology of public participation in science. He is keen on experimenting with non-traditional methods in history, from digital humanities to the reconstruction of past experiments and artifacts.
He is currently working to complete a book-length study of the rise of intellectual property in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France.
Supernumerary Fellow, Wolfson College & Faculty of History I examine intersections between practical arts, technology and natural philosophy during the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries. As a specialist on the working methods and intellectual interests of artist/engineers, I study cross-disciplinary investigative and inventive approaches in the histories of ideas, science and technology. Much of this work focuses on European material culture, though often in connection with global, transcultural developments. Examining the transmission and development of knowledge, I work mainly with early notebooks, manuscripts, informative objects and built environments that help assess trajectories of innovative engagements. Although I focus on early modern Italy, my research has extended beyond core subjects to developments of the following courses: the science of art, history of medicine, history of collecting, princely courts, the Grand Tour, British history, architectural history, historiography, philosophy, transcultural objects, South Asian visual culture, illuminated manuscripts, paradoxes in visual culture, and modern art. I have also worked on a broad range of exhibitions, focusing in recent years on the work and reception of Leonardo da Vinci. https://www.history.ox.ac.uk/people/dr-matthew-landrus
Michael teaches the History of Political Thought and Political Theory at Worcester College, University of Oxford. He is an intellectual historian with interests in 18th, 19th, and 20th century French philosophy, and French political, social, and economic thought. He has written widely on French liberalism, French Romantic Socialism, and contemporary French thought. He is author of Tocqueville, Democracy and Social Reform (2003), a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title, and The Postmodernism Reader: Foundational Texts (2004).
Michael’s interest in 18th and 19th century French thought extends to a wide range of topics including the interface between science, technology, and political, social and economic thought. He is interested in competing conceptions of humanity’s relationship with/to nature, and is animated by questions pertaining to how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientists, inventors, engineers, economists, and political and social thinkers understood humanity’s relationship to nature, and engaged with issues around industrialisation and its impact on the natural environment. Michael’s research examines how the work of scientists and engineers feeds into how political and economic theorists engaged with questions around how industrial pollution, industrial hazards, and environmental degradation impacted on social and political life. His recent work explores strands of nineteenth-century French political economy that are sensitive to environmental concerns, strands that are fashioned around an idea of environmental sustainability. Ideas of the circular economy are of particular interest to him. These ideas find a fascinating and novel expression in the work of Pierre (1797-1871) and Jules Leroux (1805-1883). And Michael is, with Ludovic Frobert (CNRS-ENS-Lyon), writing on the life and works of these two socialists.
Michael has over the last ten years been interested in the group of romantic socialists known as the Saint-Simonians, followers of Henri Saint-Simon (1760-1825). He has written extensively on Saint-Simonianism, and, in particular, one of the movement’s leading thinkers, Michel Chevalier (1806-1879). He is writing an intellectual biography of Chevalier.
Michael is also interested in the relationship between knowledge, science, and political and social practices. He is co-organiser with Ludovic Frobert (CNRS-ENS-Lyon), Thomas Bouchet (Centre Walras, Université de Lausanne) and Marie Thebaud-Sorger (CNRS-CentreAlexandre Koyré, EHESS) of the Encyclopédie Nouvelle project (http://triangle.ens-lyon.fr/spip.php?rubrique794), an interdisciplinary project that examines the role and impact of Pierre Leroux (1797-1871) and Jean Reynaud’s (1806-1863) Encyclopédie Nouvelle. The project consists of an international network of scholars. Its workshops examine how socialist and republican considerations were at the forefront of the epistemological, methodological, and moral concerns of the Encyclopédie’s entries. The project explores how the very locus of knowledge itself was a politically contested domain.
How is knowledge or experience of nature mediated by gesture, bodily or otherwise? In this workshop, three short, informal papers, and an overarching interdisciplinary conversation between speakers and participants, will explore the roles of gesture (understood as encompassing a range of writerly, bodily, and otherwise social forms of communication) in shaping and communicating various forms of knowledge in the early modern period and beyond.
Viktoria von Hoffmann (F.R.S.-FNRS) / University of Liège) ‘The Expert Touch: Feeling Substances in Holy Anatomies’
Yelda Nasifoglu (Oxford) ‘Inscribing motion on paper: Robert Hooke’s drawing of the conical pendulum’
Michael Drolet (Oxford) ‘Touching is Compulsory: Labour and Collective Experience in Saint-Simonism’
Convenors : Jenny Oliver (Oxford), Marie Thébaud-Sorger (CNRS/MFO).
A meeting of the interdisciplinary Early Modern reading group: Writing Technology/the technology of writing
24 April 2019
St John’s College, 10am-1pm
Convenors: Jennifer Oliver, St John’s and Marie-Thébaud-Sorger, MFO with Frederique Ait Touati, CNRS/CRAL
This meeting will fully inaugurate our ‘Performance’ theme, with our guest speaker, Frédérique Aït-Touati (CNRS/CRAL, Paris), presenting work from her current project on seventeenth-century ‘theatres of the earth’: the presentation will focus on the links between scenography and machine-plays, Descartes’s Météores (Meteorology), and his concept of the res extensa.
10am: Main presentation and discussion on Descartes’s Météores (Meteorology)
12 noon: Presentation of Frédérique Aït-Touati’s newly released book, Terra Forma, manuel de cartographies potentielles:
Making, writing, pointing, demonstrating, feeling, representing… hands work hard in early modern texts. This workshop, one in a series of interdisciplinary sessions, will consider the intersecting uses and meanings of hands in different writerly contexts. From ‘writing as reaching’ in Renaissance poetry to the pragmatics and material history of scientific and technical textual composition in the Enlightenment, we will continue to explore the language and imagery of grasping, handling, and manipulating in the early modern period.
11.10: Matthew Landrus, (Wolfson College and History Faculty, Oxford):
‘Hands in the Abu Dhabi Salvator Mundi’
11.40: Olivia Tolley (St Catherine’s College and Modern Languages Faculty, Oxford): ‘Grasping in the dark: writing as reaching in Scève’s Délie (1544)’
12.20: John Christie (History Faculty, Oxford):
‘Performance and gesture in the poetry of Anna Letitia Barbauld’
1.40: Marie Thebaud-Sorger (CNRS, Paris, and Maison Française d’Oxford):
‘“Smart hands”: a brief historiographical outline’ ( C. Jacob, éd. Lieux de savoirs 2. Les mains de l’intellect)
2.20: Rachel Hindmarsh (Trinity College and Modern Languages Faculty, Oxford):
“Groping hands, curing hands in Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel“
Research Associate from the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS), affiliated to the University of Liège.
Viktoria’s research interests cover the social and cultural history of the lower senses (taste and touch) in early modern Europe. She has published extensively on the history of taste, including two monographs on taste (Goûter le monde. Une histoire culturelle du goût à l’époque moderne, 2013, and From Gluttony to Enlightenment. The World of Taste in Early Modern Europe, 2016) and one co-edited volume on disgust (Le Dégoût, Histoire, langage, esthétique et politique d’une émotion plurielle, with M. Delville and A. Norris, 2015). She is now engaged in a new project that explores the history of touch through the lens of Italian Renaissance anatomy.
Her current research aims to uncover the rich variety of discourses and practices involving touch as an instrument to produce knowledge about the body in early modern medicine. Using a varied collection of theoretical medical texts, along with printed and archival documents more closely linked to the day to day uses of touch in healing practices – such as records of autopsies and dissections, observations for diagnosis, diaries, letters, and notebooks kept by medical students – The Anatomy of Touch examines the ways in which the sense of touch was theorized in the past, as well as the part played by haptic experience and technologies of touch in the early modern study of nature.
Visiting Researcher at the Maison Française d’Oxford
Marie is Associate Professor (Research) at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), based in Paris at the ‘Centre for the History of Science and Technology–Alexandre Koyré’ at the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences). From September 2017, she has been overseeing the History and History of Science & Technology Programme at the Maison Française d’Oxford, where she intends to foster interdisciplinary exchanges and cross-cutting approaches, especially promoting a material approach to the sciences, focusing on sites of knowledge and the articulations between intellectual and material practices.
Marie is a cultural historian of technology. Her current research project, ‘Economies of improvement. Public sphere, micro-invention and industrial Enlightenment’ is grounded in a comparative study of inventive practices in Europe throughout the 18th century. She is particularly interested in the staging of technical inventions in various social settings and media: prints, drawing, projects, models, scientific tests and experiments, demonstrations, and performances. Before completing her PhD, she received a diploma in theatrical set design (ENSATT) and gained some background in theatre practice, set design, and stage direction. This drew her attention in her early academic research to the staging of early modern urban flight, (‘scénographie de l’envol’) in Ballooning in the Age of Enlightenment (her first monograph, L’aérostation au temps des Lumières, 2009, received the Académie française Louis Casteix Prize in 2010), as well to amateur appropriative practices that contributed to the building-up of a collective knowledge and understanding of invention (using periodicals, ephemera, how-to leaflets, treatises etc.).
Focusing on the socio-materiality of technical devices in the 18th century, she has been exploring the nature of ‘air’ and gases, pursuing more broadly a reflexion on the perception of the natural elements in the context of the beginnings of industrialisation, where European societies underwent profound changes. This shift affected their environment and their pursuit of the mastery of the nature, where performative techniques were seen as a mean to achieve impossible actions (transforming the toxic atmosphere into breathable air, mastering fire and heat, illuminating the night, overcoming gravity…)
Therefore she has been following a research path directed towards materialities and mediations, trying to articulate a material history of knowledge with the history of material knowledge, at the crossroads of technical and chemical operations. Beyond the working group initiated with Jenny Oliver, Writing technology/The technology of writing, in phase with new historiographical inputs –such as the ‘mindful hand’, artisanal epistemology and an approach to technical writings as a means to reduce arts and practices into theory since the early modern period – her research has also included critical reflections on methodologies, using material objects as well as restaging, re-enactments, and digital reconstructions, as various means to gain new understandings of historic knowledge production. She led a collective working group in Paris in 2015-2017 (Ateliers Campus Condorcet Grant): ‘La reconstitution – processus heuristique et/ou objet de médiation ?’ and, following a study day held in April 2018 in Oxford entitled ‘Performing and Knowing. Experimental and Sensory Approaches’, is convening a new seminar series with Charlotte Bigg and Rafael Mandressi at the EHESS: “Performance et savoirs : lectures, relectures, perspectives critiques”.
My new project is concerned with how French writers of the sixteenth century (including Rabelais, Ronsard, Montaigne, and Agrippa d’Aubigné) contemplated the connections and tensions between poetics, technology, and the natural environment. A first article on the subject, ‘Rabelais’s Engins: War Machines, Analogy, and the Anxiety of Invention in the Quart Livre’, was published in Early Modern French Studies (December 2016), and more recently a chapter on the ‘dark ecology’ of poetry of the French civil wars appeared in Early Modern Écologies, eds. Pauline Goul and Phillip John Usher (University of Amsterdam Press, 2020).
INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACHES IN LITERATURE AND THE HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY
Historians of technology and researchers in literature(s) of the early modern period are often faced with similar issues, albeit while approaching texts in different ways. Coming to the same or similar material from these complementary perspectives, they have much to learn from one another.
On the one hand, historians of early modern technology may be working on narrative accounts of inventions, treaties and practical writings – manuscript or printed – which use literary figures as powerful tools: rhetoric, (key)words, and commonplaces deeply rooted in a wider literary culture. On the other hand, researchers in early modern literature might seek to contextualise their texts in a wider setting, including technical writings of the time, which could have operated as patterns or references.
Both ‘groups’ of researchers have interests and problems in common: the thin boundaries between fiction and reality, the difficulty of establishing the position or importance of a text within various forms of hierarchy, the role of the imaginary, the notion and narration of the ‘genius’ and the various editorial strategies of the inventor-as-author and author-as-inventor, as well as the uses of (literary) technologies such as analogical figures, metaphors, sketches, and drawings.
The aim of this workshop is to provide a preliminary space for dialogue by bringing together various points of view and areas of expertise on both the writing of technology and the technology of writing. We hope to inaugurate a series of interdisciplinary cross-readings of fictional and non-fictional texts dealing with early modern techniques and inventions. Among the wide range of issues that could be investigated, this first meeting will begin in practical fashion, by inviting each researcher to put forward some of the primary material they are working on (whether manuscript or printed, though in English translation where practicable), to be pre-circulated and then discussed collectively. We then hope to collectively sketch out topics that might be further and fruitfully explored in future workshops and/or seminars.
2 :10Jenny Oliver (St John’s College, Oxford), ‘Diabolic invention? The Gaster episode of Rabelais’s Quart Livre ’
2 :20 Koen Vermeir (CNRS, Paris), ‘Technology and the technique of writing the arts (Ramist texts )’
2 :30 Vittoria Fallanca (Pembroke College, Oxford), ‘ Montaigne’s Journal de voyage‘
2 :40 Olivia Smith (Wolfson College, Oxford), « Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World (1666) »
2 :50Marie Thébaud-Sorger (CNRS, MFO), ‘Efficient technology: writing, drawing, and describing inventions overcoming the dramas of nature ’
3 :00 Caroline Warman (Jesus College, Oxford) ‘The Senses as Tools: Diderot and the Ideologues ’
3 :10 Jérôme Baudry (University of Geneva), ‘Inscribing Inventions at the Paris Academy of Sciences, 1750-1850’
3 :20Jessica Stacey (Oxford, Queen’s), ‘Rivarol. De la philosophie moderne ‘