Inaugural meeting

Image: from Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, Maison Française d’Oxford



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 :10  Jenny 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 :50  Marie 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 :20 Jessica Stacey (Oxford, Queen’s),  ‘Rivarol. De la philosophie moderne 

3 :30 Break 

3 :45 Discussion 

4 :45 Future planning 



Cite this blog post
jenhelenoliver (2019, February 18). Inaugural meeting. Writing Technology/The technology of Writing. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

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