Call for Papers: Ad Vivum at the Courtauld Institute

Courtauld Institute of Art, London, organises a conference called Ad vivum?, which will take place on Thursday 20th and Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd November 2014.

Ad vivum and its vernacular cognates (al vivo, au vif, nach dem Leben, naer het leven, etc.) have been applied since the thirteenth century to depictions designated as from, to or after (the) life. This one and a half day event will explore the issues raised by this vocabulary in relation to visual materials produced and used in Europe before 1800, including portraiture, botanical, zoological, medical and topographical images, images of novel and newly discovered phenomena, and likenesses created through direct contact with the object being depicted, such as metal casts of animals.

See this [revised (July 29)] pdf for the Call for Papers. Courtauld Institute welcomes proposals for both 20-minute and 10-minute (maximum 1,000 word) papers. The deadline for proposals is 15 August 2014.

GEM: Amsterdam, therefore I am

And yet, as ambitious and single-minded as Descartes was in the pursuit of his philosophical projects, he was not the aloof, solitary, and misanthropic genius that his contemporary critics and some later commentators have made him out to be. Far from shutting himself off from human contact in order to carry out his researches in rural isolation, Descartes had a broad and diverse circle of personal and professional acquaintances – French and Dutch; Catholic and Protestant; philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, diplomats, and theologians.

Nadler_DescartesWith those words Steven Nadler concludes his latest book, The Philosopher, the Priest and the Painter. A portrait of Descartes. In this book, Nadler makes use of a painted portrait of Descartes (painted by Frans Hals or not – that is the question the book starts with) to shed some light on Descartes’s life in the Netherlands. By sketching out the different people and places that Nadler regards as conditions of possibility for the painted portrait of Descartes, Nadler gives us insight in who Descartes was and how Descartes conceived of himself. Especially interesting (I think) are the sections Nadler wrote about Golden Age cities Haarlem and Amsterdam, as relatively tolerant societies. Descartes considered for a long time Amsterdam the place where life was at its best. In a letter to a friend who was thinking about a quiet retreat in the countryside, he explains why he prefers the bigger city:

By contrast, in this great city where I am, there is no one, except myself, who is not engaged in commerce. Everyone is so consumed with the pursuit of his own profit that I could live my whole life without ever being seen by anyone. I go out walking every day among the confusion of a great many people, with as much liberty and quiet as you can find in your alleys; and I look at the people I see here not otherwise than as the trees found in your forests, or as the animals that pass through. Even the noise of their disturbances does not interrupt my reveries any more than would the sound of a small stream.

July 1st, 2014: Histories and Theories of Reading with Leah Price

On July 1st, GEMS welcomes Leah Price (Harvard) in the seminar series ‘Histories and Theories of Reading’. Leah Price is the author of How to do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton UP, 2012). The book will be the main topic of the conversation that Professor Price will have with a number of PhD-students. The meeting with Leah Price will take place in the morning of July 1st (9.30-13.00) in room 0.17 of the Blandijn-building (formerly known as 001b). The preparatory session of the meeting will take place on Tuesday June 24th, between 14.30 and 17.00 in room 0.30 of the Blandijnbuilding. More info on Leah Price’s work can be found at

July 7-10: GEMS members at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds

Several GEMS members will present papers at this year’s International Medieval Congress in Leeds, one of the world’s biggest conferences devoted to medieval studies, to be held on July 7th – 10th . Eva Vandemeulebroucke will speak about creating authorship in the Opera Omnia manuscripts of fourteenth-century Brabantine mystic Jan van Leeuwen. Ine Kiekens will elaborate on the role of Gotfried van Wevel, Van Leeuwen’s contemporary and compatriot, in the writing of a mystical treatise Vanden twaelf dogheden. Both talks will be given within the session dedicated to the authorship in Middle Dutch spiritual literature organized by prof. Youri Desplenter.
The Ghent Ten Commandments project will be represented by Marta Bigus, who will present the results of her research on the typology, dissemination and audiences of the fourteenth-century Middle Dutch Decalogue writings. The paper will be a part of the session devoted to the Ten Commandments in medieval vernaculars, which was launched on the initiative of prof. Youri Desplenter and Marta Bigus.
Samuel Mareel will speak about theatre performances in schools and monasteries in the sixteenth-century Low Countries. This paper will be presented within a series of talks focusing on New Communities of Interpretation in Europe in the period 1300-1550.
You can find the full programme of the conference on the website of the Leeds Institute for Medieval Studies.

May 15, 2014: Annual GEMS Lecture with Prof. Kathy Eden

On May 15 Professor Kathy Eden (Columbia University) will hold the sixth GEMS Lecture, entitled “Montaigne’s Acclaim”.

The lecture will start at 5 pm. Location: ‘Grote Vergaderzaal Engels‘, third floor, Blandijn.

Kathy Eden specializes in renaissance humanism, history of rhetoric, hermeneutics, ancient literary theory, and history of classical scholarship. Eden studies the history of rhetorical and poetic theory in antiquity, including late antiquity, and the Renaissance, within the larger context of intellectual history and with an emphasis on the problems of reception. Her books include Poetic and Legal Fiction in The Aristotelian Tradition (1986), Hermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition: Chapters in the Ancient Legacy and its Humanist Reception (1997), and Friends Hold All Things in Common: Tradition, Intellectual Property and the ‘Adages’ of Erasmus (2001). In her latest book, Renaissance Rediscovery of Intimacy (2012) she explores the way ancient epistolary theory and practice were understood and imitated in the European Renaissance. Eden draws chiefly upon Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca – but also upon Plato, Demetrius, Quintilian, and many others – to show how the classical genre of the “familiar” letter emerged centuries later in the intimate styles of Petrarch, Erasmus, and Montaigne.

Everyone is invited to attend Professor Eden’s lecture. Please confirm your attendance by sending an email to Britt Grootes.

May 8 and 16, 2014: ‘Histories and Theories of Reading’ with Kathy Eden

Our fourth lecturer in the Doctoral Schools seminar series ‘Histories and Theories of Reading‘ is Kathy Eden (Columbia University). Kathy Eden specializes in renaissance humanism, history of rhetoric, hermeneutics, ancient literary theory, and history of classical scholarship.

The seminar with Kathy Eden is open to all Doctoral Students (to register, send an email to
There are two sessions: a reading session on May 8 (3PM-5PM), during which we discuss the work of Kathy Eden (from the reading list), and prepare some questions (all under supervision of Jürgen Pieters). The second session is the session with Kathy Eden, which will take place at May 16 (9.30AM-1PM). Both sessions will take place in Vergaderlokaal ‘Mortier’ in the Faculty Library.

Forthcoming GEMS-publication

Forthcoming from Verloren publishers:
Jaap Gruppelaar & Jürgen Pieters (eds.), ‘Un certain Holandois’. Coornhert en de vragen van zijn tijd, Hilversum: Verloren, 2014. A collection of articles, by current and former Gems-members (Bussels, Pieters, Rogiest), on one of the iconic figures of the Dutch Early Modern Period, Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert. For more information and the table of contents see:

The book is the result of a GEMS-project and conference on Coornhert.