Skip to:

Renaissances Conference: Between Experience and Experiment



Friday, April 25, 2008 - 11:00am


Renaissances Conference: Between Experience and Experiment

location: Building 460, Room 426

Too often, topics in early modern studies are understood only as the starting point of a conception, notion, or institution which will take its fullest development in later centuries. Be it the emergence of modernity, of nation-states, or notions of selfhood and interiority, the Renaissance is viewed as the provisional origin of a development which surpasses and cancels it. Without denying the pivotal role of the early modern period in long-term evolutions, the Renaissance is more than a mere transition between the medieval and the modern. It is also a place for experiments, essais, and idiosyncratic developments.

Early modern scientists and artists frequently experimented with forms, thoughts, and activities which were altogether new and might have no future. Grammatical reforms, inventions of arcane spelling systems, soon-to-be outdated literary forms, scientific ‘discoveries’ later proved false, doomed superstitions, and illegitimate interpretations were tried out, abandoned or transformed. What did they—and what do we—learn from their failed experiments, abandoned utopias, and other short-lived innovations? What are the forces of resistance to experimentation, and conversely, what ideological fault lines are outlined by the debates which surrounded certain experiments?

This topic, which has implications for literature, history, the history of science and medicine, musicology, cultural studies, economics, and art history, will bring into dialogue the different disciplines of early modern studies. We will also encourage “experimental” approaches: methods or ideas which take risks or represent work in progress.


    Transmitting Experience

    “Chivalric Epistemologies and the Scientific Revolution”
    Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (University of Texas at Austin)

    “Rethinking the Scientific Renaissance: An Untapped Form of Cultural Transmission”
    George Saliba (Columbia University)

    “Race and Drug Testing in the Atlantic World”
    Londa Schiebinger (Stanford University)

    Lunch Break

    Faith, Fiction, Artifice

    “’Artificial Men’: Alchemy, Transusbstantiation and the Homunculus”
    Mary Baine Campbell (Brandeis University)

    “In the Name of Atheism”
    George Hoffman (University of Michigan)

    “Renaissance Prose and the Tragicomedy of Humanism”
    Rayna Kalas (Cornell University)

    Essaying Montaigne: An Interdisciplinary Discussion of Montaigne's 'On Experience'

    Timothy Hampton (University of California, Berkeley), French and Comparative Literature
    Krista Lawlor (Stanford University), Philosophy
    Anthony A. Long (University of California, Berkeley), Classics

    For a PDF copy of 'On Experience,' please email Jenna Lay.

    Wine and Cheese Reception

Co-sponsored by the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Stanford, the Stanford Humanities Center, the Patrick Suppes Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Science and Technology, the French Culture Workshop, the Religious Studies Department, and the Philosophy and Literature program.