Wes Williams

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

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.

Matthew Landrus

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 Drolet

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.

‘Preparing the Elements’

Thursday 12th November

Illustration from 
Les Veillées du couvent, ou Le Noviciat d’amourby Mercier de Compiègne, (1793)

(Images: Albrecht Dürer, ‘Melancolia I’ (1514)

Jennifer Oliver (Oxford),

“Stony (and watery) minds and bodies in Michel de Montaigne’s Essays and travels”


‘Elena Sorochina (Oxford),

“Elemental beings of the air – sylphs and sylphides – in eighteenth-century French literature”

General discussion

Early Modern Masks

Wednesday 30 September

La methode curative des playes, et fractures de la teste humaine. : Avec les pourtraits des instruments necessaires pour la curation d’icelles. / Par M. Ambroise Paré. Wellcome Collection

This informal workshop discussion will explore early modern masks, real and figurative, and their roles in mediating or frustrating various forms of ‘transmission’

Rachel Hindmarsh (Trinity, Oxford), Ambroise Paré’s Suturing: Masking the Human/Material Boundaryand

Marie Thébaud-Sorger (CNRS, MFO/CAK), A ‘two-faced’ device : the socio-materiality of protective masks since the 18th Century

Respirateur anti-méphitique inventé par Pilâtre de Rozier, ext. Observations sur la Plysique…de l’Abbé Rozier, 1786. source Gallica, Bnf

‘Sketch, model, machine: invention and authorship across the early modern arts’

Thursday, 14 November 2019

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’

PERFORMANCE (I)

Design for a theater set created by Giacomo Torelli da Fano for the ballet ‘Les Noces de Thétis’, from ‘Décorations et machines aprestées aux nopces de Tétis, Ballet Royal’, 1654 _METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART/PUBLIC DOMAIN

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:

http://s-o-c.fr/index.php/object/terraforma/

 

 

Hands & Performance ‘Gestures of writing: hands and minds’

11 March 2019

11am-3pm, Maison Française d’Oxford

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. 

Programme:

11am: Welcome 

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’

1pm:    Lunch

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

3pm  discussion future direction of the workshop

 

Viktoria von Hoffman

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.

Marie Thebaud-Sorger

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.

 

 

Jennifer Oliver

Departmental Lecturer in French, Worcester College, Oxford

jennifer.oliver@worc.ox.ac.uk

My research is centred on sixteenth-century French literature, culture, and thought. My first book, Shipwreck in French Renaissance Writing: The Direful Spectacle (Oxford University Press, 2019) examines the importance of narratives of shipwreck in the period, reading fictional and allegorical ‘naufrages’ alongside the eyewitness accounts of travel writers in order to explore the relationship between the material and the metaphorical.

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).

Writing Technology/The technology of Writing

Ce carnet rend compte de l’activité d’un groupe de recherche basé à Oxford, composé de chercheurs en littérature moderne et d’historiens des techniques et sciences principalement de la faculté d’Oxford et du CNRS (Maison Française d’Oxford). Il vise à créer un espace faisant dialoguer les points de vues et les expertises sur l’écriture des techniques et les techniques d’écriture, en favorisant une série de rencontres interdisciplinaires basées sur la lecture croisée de sources primaires – textes fictionnels et non fictionnels, archives manuscrites, images- relatives aux savoirs techniques et aux inventions.

Les historiens des techniques et de la littérature de la période moderne sont en effet souvent confrontés à des problématiques similaires bien qu’approchant les matériaux textuels d’une manière différente. À partir de sources semblables ces lectures croisées instaurent un dialogue fructueux par leurs perspectives complémentaires. D’un côté les historiens de la période moderne travaillent sur le récit des inventions, les formes narratives des traités technique ou textes prescriptifs (manuscrits ou imprimés) qui font des figures littéraires des outils de rhétorique puissants, ou renvoient implicitement à des mots clés ou à des lieux commun profondément enracinés dans la culture commune. D’un autre côté, les chercheurs en littérature ont besoin contextualiser les textes dans un ensemble plus large incluant les écrits techniques contemporains qui peuvent opérer comme modèle ou référence. Les intérêts et les problèmes communs se dégagent : la mince frontière entre la fiction et la réalité, la difficulté d’établir l’importance d’un texte au sein d’une hiérarchie littéraire, le rôle de l’imaginaire, la notion et la narration de la figure du génie, les stratégies éditoriales multiples de l’inventeur comme auteur et vice versa, de l’auteur comme inventeur, ainsi que les usages des technologies littéraires telles que les analogies et métaphores, mais aussi la prise en compte des supports matériels, des formats, des esquisses et dessins.

L’objet de ces échanges qui alternent ateliers informels et petites journées d’études vise à constituer un corpus de sources et une bibliographie qui seront disponibles sur ce carnet. Il met à disposition les résultats (résumés, textes) de ces discussions qui visent à établir une méthodologie commune à travers le repérage et le travail de concert sur un certains nombre de thèmes transversaux (tels que « les mains », « la performance », « les éléments de la nature »…). Dédié aux chercheurs du groupe (à Oxford et dans les pays anglo-saxons, en France et en Suisse) il vise également une communauté plus large de chercheurs en littérature et en histoire intéressés à l’articulation entre opérations matérielles et travail intellectuel, aux savoirs pratiques et aux techniques d’écriture.