Call for Papers: Locating the Ancient World in Early Modern Subversive Thought

12th-14th April 2018, Newcastle University

Dichotomies have long been used to define the intellectual developments of early modern Europe – reason and faith; authority and subversion; science and humanism; radicalism and tradition; heterodoxy and orthodoxy — with classical thought usually located on the side of tradition, a behemoth of learning which inhibited man’s reason and his ability to learn through observation. Such unilinear accounts of the progression to modernity have been subjected to increasingly numerous challenges in the last two decades, as scholars have sought to demonstrate that the ideas which drove Europe towards the Enlightenment were far more complex and multi-layered than suggested by the traditional narratives.

The aim of this conference is to expand on this revived appreciation of the classical influence in early modernity by looking specifically at the role played by the ancient world in that sphere from which it has most usually been excluded: subversive literature.  The idea that the texts, philosophies, and exempla of the ancient world might have served as significant tools for those who sought to undermine and challenge political, religious and cultural authority stands in direct opposition to the traditional role assigned to the classics in this period. Emphasising an interdisciplinary approach, this conference will draw scholars together to build a coherent picture of how the classical tradition functioned as a tool for subversion, illuminating a previously neglected aspect of the ancient world in the early modern thought.

The keynote speakers will be Peter Harrison (University of Queensland) and Marianne Pade (Danish Academy at Rome).

We are inviting abstracts for papers of thirty minutes on topics including, but not limited to:

  • Ancient philosophical involvement in epistemological challenges to traditional understandings of knowledge and belief
  • Ancient theories of natural philosophy in the debates concerning God and the universe in both religion and science
  • The contribution of ancient texts to the arguments for natural religion, and against magic, miracles, and the supernatural
  • Classical rhetoric and literary forms as models for argumentation in subversive treatises, polemics, pamphlets, poetry, and other literary genres
  • Ancient religion in the construction of arguments in favour of toleration, and the establishment of a civil religion
  • The function of ancient examples in radical political ideologies, including republicanism, democracy, and theories of resistance and revolution
  • Classical scholarship as a tool for subversion, and print culture as a sphere facilitating this function of the classics

If you would like to offer a paper for the conference, please submit an abstract of 300 words to katherine.east@ncl.ac.uk by 9th February 2018. See https://locatingsubversion.wordpress.com/ for further information.

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Michael Hunter in Newcastle

On Wednesday 4th October, Professor Michael Hunter will be giving a seminar at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology entitled ‘The Deists and the Decline of Magic’, at 4 pm in Armstrong 1.05, as the guest of the Early Modern Civil Religion group, and the Ideas and Beliefs Research Strand.

On Thursday 5th October, at 10.30 am, in Armstrong 3.39, Professor Hunter will then lead a session of the EMCR reading group, in which we will discuss a text by Archibald Pitcairne: Michael Hunter, ‘Pitcairneana: An Atheist Text by Archibald Pitcairne’, The Historical Journal, 59.2 (2016), pp. 595-621.

All are very welcome to attend both events!

Please email katherine.east@ncl.ac.uk if you have any questions.

Workshop: Registration Open

Registration is now open for the Early Modern Civil Religion Workshop, taking place at Newcastle University on Thursday 14th September 2017.  Speakers at this event will include Mark Goldie (Cambridge) and Luisa Simonutti (ISPF).  If you would like to attend, please email katherine.east@ncl.ac.uk by Friday 8th September.  Please see the event’s dedicated page for further details.