CFP: Reading the Ancient Near East in Early Modern Europe, 22-23 November 2012, UCD and Marsh’s Library Dublin

Deadline: 15 July 2012

The significance of classical writing in early modern European culture hardly needs stating, and although the classical inheritance signalled by the periodising term ‘Renaissance’ has partially been obscured by the more proleptic terms of the ‘early modern’, scholars rightly continue to emphasise the contribution of particular classical authors, texts and models to European Renaissance writing and thought. The vast majority of the authors, texts and models currently studied, however, are those which take ancient Greece and/or Rome (or territories under their sometime control) as their primary focus or purview. Concurrently, assumptions of the fixity or autochthony of ‘Europe’ and the ‘European Renaissance’ have come under pressure from work that emphasises the cross-cultural exchanges, encounters and traffic between ‘Europe’ and ‘the East’ during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But in neglecting sixteenth and seventeenth-century European interests in classical writings on regions and states such as Persia, Assyria and Scythia, we are missing a vital piece of the puzzle.  Misrepresenting the range and modulations of early modern classical interests, we allow the putative orientalising dichotomy of a ‘barbarian’ Eastern Other to ‘Europe’ to remain a silent, toxic presence in scholarship of the early modern period. Settings such as Lydia, Persia, Scythia, Assyria or Cimmeria were as much a part of the early modern imagination as Rome, Troy, Carthage, Delphi or Latium. In his Defence of Ryme, Samuel Daniel reminded English readers that ‘We must not thinke, but that there were Scipioes, Cæsars, Catoes and Pompeies, born elsewhere then at Rome, the rest of the world hath euer had them in the same degree of naturethough not of state. And it is our weakenesse that makes vs mistake, or misconceiue in these delineations of men the true figure of their worth.’

This conference aims to restore the visibility and significance of classical writings on the ancient Near East in early modern European literary culture, to complicate our understanding of the ‘Renaissance’ values that emerged out of the engagement with the classical legacy, and to bridge the gap between the theoretical models of the contemporary and classical engagements between Europe and the East in the early modern period.

Plenary speakers include Neil Rhodes (University of St Andrew’s), Edith Hall (King’s College, London) and Noreen Humble (University of Calgary).

The conference will also see the launch of ‘Reading East: Irish Sources and Resources’, a website introducing and cataloguing a selection of the early printed book holdings of Dublin’s extraordinarily rich research libraries, including Marsh’s Library, the Chester Beatty Library, the Edward Worth Library, and the UCD and Trinity College Libraries.

We welcome papers on any aspect of the early modern response to the Near Eastern interests of classical antiquity, and particularly papers that examine texts held at Dublin research libraries.

Topics may include, but are not confined to, to the following:

  • The literary and political reception of authors such as Xenophon, Herodotus, Ctesias
  • Antiquarian interest in the ancient Near East
  • Classical writings in travel itineraries/writings
  • Sources, analogues and exemplars
  • Editions, translations and adaptations
  • The ancient Near East and the ‘republic of letters’
  • Ethnography and historiography of the ancient Near East
  • Theories of the ‘barbarian’
  • Representations of the ancient Near East and the New World

Please send abstracts of 300-400 words, together with a brief bio, to the organisers, Dr Jane Grogan (jane.grogan@ucd.ie) and Dr Marina Ansaldo (marina.ansaldo@ucd.ie) by 15 July 2012.

Both the conference and ‘Reading East: Irish Sources and Resources’ are supported by funding received from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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