GEMS Plans for the 2021-2022 Academic Year

Like many research groups, both at UGent and abroad, GEMS was forced to cancel and postpone a range of wonderful events across 2020 and 2021 featuring an array of speakers, scholars, students and visitors.

For the 2021-2022 academic year, though, GEMS is looking forward to planning both in-person and online events, including lectures, workshops, ateliers, “inspired by…” sessions, and book launches.

Interested in taking part?

If you are a Ph.D. student, postdoc, or visiting junior scholar at UGent or another institution, and are interested in participating, either as an attendee or a presenter, please be in contact with Delphine Calle ( and Chris Chan (

If you are an advanced-career researcher and would be interested in sharing your research at UGent, through a lecture, a work-in-progress workshop, or a seminar, please be in contact with Andrew Bricker ( 

We look forward to welcoming everyone back to GEMS in 2021-2022!


The GEMS Steering Committee

Upcoming GEMS Events

Both GEMS-members and other colleagues with an interest in the early modern period are invited to come to these meetings and to participate in the discussions. 

Academic year 2021-22

CANCELLED: Lecture by Annemie Leemans, “New Methodological Approaches in Leonardo Studies”

Unfortunately, due to illness, this lecture has been cancelled. We will inform you about a new date soon.

Date: 30 May 2022, 11h00

Place: Vergaderzaal 3.30 “Camelot” (Campus Boekentoren, 05.03 – Blandijnberg 2)

Popular imagination regards the early modern artist Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) as one of the most extraordinary human beings who ever lived. Researchers tend to agree with this statement and are potentially responsible for this line of thought. An extensive bibliography of 13.000 references has treated a wide scale of different topics and aspects related to Leonardo and his work. In this seminar I will demonstrate how I disentangle myths and how I propose new research methods regarding Leonardo da Vinci, a topic with a longstanding and respectable research tradition.

Annemie Leemans is an assistant professor at the University of Antwerp and is a Guest Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She is an art historian of the University of Bologna, where she specialized in the early modern history of portraiture, artistic networks and gender studies. She graduated from the Advanced Master in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at KU Leuven, where she worked on the artistic construction of the ideal human body in early modern visual arts. She obtained her joint PhD degree through the Erasmus Mundus degree TEEME (Text and Event in Early Modern Europe), at the University of Porto and the University of Kent, with a thesis on the early modern history of knowledge and book history. Leemans received several EU-funded scholarships and funding, among which the scholarship for the Erasmus Mundus joint PhD degree and the Compete 2020 funding, together with Portugal 2002 and FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Technologia) support, which led to the publication of her book, Contextualizing Practical Knowledge in Early Modern Europe (Peter Lang, 2020). Currently, Leemans is devoted to the study of Leonardo da Vinci. She is interested in the histories of medical and anatomical knowledge, healthcare and healthcare crises, privacy, artistic literature and networks, historiography, gender studies, art psychology and artists’ biography.

CANCELLED Belvedere lecture: Prof. Sven Dupré, “The Art and Nature of Glass. A Material in Early Modern History of Knowledge.”

Unfortunately, due to a national strike on 31 May, we had to decide to postpone the Belvedere Lecture 2022. We will soon inform you about a new date of the lecture.

Belvedere Lecture

New Perspectives on Early Modern Studies


Boekentoren (Rozier 9, 9000 Gent): Belvédère

Registration (before 27 May): 

The Belvedere Lecture is the Ghent annual lecture on early modern history and culture. It sheds light on the early modern period from a multi-disciplinary perspective. ‘Belvedere’ suggests a bird-eye view on early modern history, which is indeed one of the aims of this annual lecture: to invite international scholars in the field of early modern studies to present their research in the light of bigger questions early modernists are dealing with today.

‘Belvedere Lecture’ refers to the Belvedère of the Ghent famous Boekentoren (Book Tower), an iconic building designed in 1936 by Henry van de Velde. Belvedere is an architectural structure that was especially popular in the renaissance and baroque, but also in modern architecture. It not only refers to the idea of providing an scenic view on early modern history, but it also connects early modernity with modernity.

The Belvedere Lecture is a joint initiative of different research groups at Ghent University that have a connection with early modern history and culture: the Institute for Early Modern History, the Sarton Centre for History of Science, the Group for Early Modern Studies (GEMS), the Institute for Legal History, THALIA and RELICS


Prof. Sven Dupré (Utrecht University)

The Art and Nature of Glass

A Material in the Early Modern History of Knowledge

Today, glass is ubiquitous, from window glass to tableware, and from eyeglasses to glass fibres. I am currently writing a history of glass, and in this lecture, I will reflect on the opportunities of a focus on one material – glass – in writing the history of knowledge. Such a history cuts across the worlds of art, science, craft and technology, and across the various properties of glass as a material: its malleability when it is hot, its translucency and brilliant colours, its transparency which allows us to look through it, and its fragility and brittleness. One theme is how important imitation has been to the development of glass; not just the imitation of historical glass and techniques, but the imitation of nature. The visual qualities  of translucency, light and colour just mentioned were the most important elements in the description of gemstones as well as in the description of their imitations in several crafts, especially glass-making, since Antiquity. However, the other way around, the art of glass-making had a major impact on our knowledge of nature. In this lecture I will show how the making of glass is closely intertwined with the way we experience and know the world. Without glass we would live in a different world, and certainly understand it less.

CfP: Eerste gezamenlijke Jaarcongres van de Werkgroepen Zeventiende Eeuw & Achttiende Eeuw


“Emoties hebben we allemaal en soms is er sprake van een conflict. Dat kan een conflict zijn tussen emoties of conflicten die emoties veroorzaken. In dit eerste gezamenlijke jaarcongres van de Werkgroep Zeventiende Eeuw en de Werkgroep Achttiende Eeuw op vrijdag 26 augustus 2022 willen we verkennen hoe mensen individueel of in groep in de vroegmoderne tijd omgingen met emoties, of dat nu conflicterende emoties waren of emoties in conflictsituaties.

Abstracts van circa 300 woorden kunnen worden ingestuurd tot 1 mei 2022 naar het algemene mailadres: Lezingen duren 15 minuten zodat er voldoende tijd overblijft voor discussie. Het is ook mogelijk om een abstract voor een panel in te sturen. Bijdragen zijn bij voorkeur in het Nederlands, maar Engels is ook toegestaan.”

Lecture by Jolene Zigarovich (NIAS; U Northern Iowa), “Matriarchal economies: women inheriting from women in eighteenth-century wills, courts, and fiction”

Date: 16 May 2022, 11.00h

Location: Simon Stevin (Plateaustraat 22 – Vergaderzaal 0.1)

While acknowledging that a gendered economy was clearly harmful to women, my talk explores the fact that women can regard property in a similar fashion as men, and that in eighteenth-century wills and courts women do find forms of economic agency. Despite the legal tradition of primogeniture in eighteenth-century English culture, women did in fact inherit money, land, and property. Further interrogating issues involved with primogeniture, my talk will illuminate the little examined practice of female-to-female inheritance. Novels in the period depict several women who inherit, distribute, or are gifted money and property from other women, as seen in Frances Burney’s Evelina and Cecilia, Charlotte Smith’s The Old Manor House and Emmeline, and Charlotte Lennox’s Henrietta. But how rare was this cultural practice? Are these fictional cases imaginative fantasies of female economic independence and power? Utilizing regional case studies of wills and courts, this talk will examine how matriarchal economies emerged in wills where women wielded their power by directing their own inheritances to deserving daughters and female relatives. I argue that fiction will react to legal developments restricting heiresses’ rights by propelling the heiress from the margins of legal discourse to the center of novel plots. By comparing the types of female relatives and friends involved, as well as the types of property willed and inherited, I magnify and complicate women’s roles in the transmission of property, claiming that in both actual and fictional cases women’s financial legacies and bequests could successfully navigate patriarchal economic structures that often disenfranchised them.

Jolene Zigarovich is associate professor of English in the Department of Languages & Literatures at the University of Northern Iowa. She is the author of Writing Death and Absence in the Victorian Novel: Engraved Narratives, and she is editor of Sex and Death in Eighteenth-Century Literature as well as TransGothic in Literature and Culture. Her monograph Death and the Body in the Eighteenth-Century Novel had the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and is forthcoming in 2022 at the University of Pennsylvania Press. In Spring 2021 she was a visiting research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh and is currently a fellow for the academic year at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Amsterdam. Her talk stems from her current work in progress tentatively titled Legal Bodies: Women, Economies, and the Law in Eighteenth-Century Fiction.

Lecture by Michele Wells (KUL): “Elckerlijc (1495) Revisited: Translating the Conflict between Medieval Penance & Plenary Indulgences in Everyman (c. 1525) and Everybody (2017).”

Date: April 20, 4-5.30pm

Place: Simon Stevin room (UGent Campus Boekentoren)

On April 20, from 4-5.30 pm, Michele Wells (University of Leiden/KU Leuven) will present her work in a lecture titled “Elckerlijc (1495) Revisited: Translating the Conflict between Medieval Penance & Plenary Indulgences in Everyman (c. 1525) and Everybody (2017)”. Her presentation will take place in the Simon Stevin Room on the UGhent Campus Boekentoren.

Michele Wells holds a Master in Theater and Performance Studies from Stanford University (2021) and is the founder of Theater for Humanity (2014), which facilitates reconciliation in response to the conflict between police officers and formerly incarcerated persons. In preparation for her PhD project, she will join the Department of History at KU Leuven in the Fall of 2022. In both her research and theater practice, she examines the intersection of theater and reconciliation across history with a focus on the lives of 15th-century dramatic and religious texts. In her talk, Wells will shed new light on the Medieval Dutch morality play Elckerlijc—performed in 1496 at the Antwerp Landjuweel—and the play’s argument for confession in the context of the rise of the use of plenary indulgences in the process of colonization in the pre-reformation era. These indulgences bolstered the wealth of Antwerp which was the wealthiest city in Europe at the time of Elckerlijc’s performance. Wells will also compare the Antwerp print with the English 1525 translation Everyman and describe how the translation obscures the argument in the original text regarding confession. Her talk will conclude by discussing Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins 2017 adaptation Everybody, which targets Whiteness to reveal the theatricality of race and presented race as a structure that must be dismantled for true redemption to take place, and the 2020 Stanford TAPS’s production of Everybody, in which Wells herself played the character of “Love”.

History of the Emotions Spring School: ‘Emotions and/as Politics, Economy, Community and Self’: 28 March – 1 April 2022

Goede en verkeerde hartstochten, anoniem, naar Otto van Veen, 1590 – 1632

This spring school is organised by GEMS, UGent Doctoral School AHL and the Huizinga Institute. It stimulates contacts and exchange between Dutch and Flemish junior scholars in the field of cultural history. The course will mainly focus on the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, but students working on Antiquity or the Modern Period can attend as well.

This course is about the History of the Emotions, a flourishing research field that connects different disciplines within the humanities. At least five of these disciplines will be represented in this course: cultural history, economic history, political history, literary studies and art history. The aim of the course is not to provide an introduction in the field but to deepen the participants’ knowledge of four topical angles through which emotions in history can be studied.

The history of the emotions has long been on the investigation of emotional norms, regimes, and communities, with the pioneering work of scholars such as Barbara Rosenwein and William Reddy. Ten years ago, Monique Scheer introduced the idea of ‘doing emotions’, paying more attention to the performative aspect of emotional language, as well as cognitive processes and the idea of embodied knowledge. Other scholars focused explicitly on the role of emotions in processes of knowledge acquisition, and on emotions as a form of knowledge. More recently, special attention has also been paid to the interrelationship of economy and affect (Leemans & Goldgar) and to affective experience in relationship with interculturality and processes of social bonding and embeddedness, i.e. the closeness of interpersonal relationships (Verberckmoes). The political management of emotions as it was studied by William Reddy and Ute Frevert has become a topic of interest for scholars who are interested in powerful emotions in historical emotional regimes or he opposite of that (as studied by scholars like Xine Yaoh): a history of feeling nothing or unfeeling (Pahl). Also the role of literary fiction gets to the fore in recent studies, like in regard to fictional characters as emotional selves (Brandsma & Larrington).

This course takes te aforementioned four recent lines of research and the concepts associated with them as a starting point: economy, politics, community and self. Four specialists will reflect from their scholarly background (cultural history, economic history, political history, literary studies, art history) on how they define and apply the above-mentioned concepts in their own research. An accompanying reading list gives rise to further reflection and discussion with the participants. This will offer students a steppingstone to think these concepts through in relation to their own work. Through short pitches the attending PhD students will reflect on the possibilities and difficulties of working with the same concepts in their own research projects. More informal talks about the history of the emotions will be possible during two thematic walks through Ghent, combined with a visit of one of the city’s heritage institutions. Doing so, the participants will also become acquainted with ongoing research at Ghent University about the history of the emotions, which will be linked to urban history for this occasion.

Tentative programme
Session I: Walk through Ghent: Medieval literature & emotions. Guide: Youri Desplenter (Ghent University)

Session II: Politics of Emotions. Lecturer: Kerstin Maria Pahl (Berlin)

Session III: Politics of Emotions. Lecturer: Kerstin Maria Pahl (Berlin)

Session IV: Affective Economy (I). Lecturer: Inger Leemans (VU Amsterdam)

Session V: Affective Economy (II). Lecturer: Inger Leemans (VU Amsterdam)

Session VI: Walk through Ghent: Emotions and Iconoclasm in 1560). Guide: Kornee van der Haven (Ghent University)

Session VII: Emotional Communities and Embeddedness. Lecturer: Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven)

Session VIII: Literary Fiction and the Emotional Self. Lecturer: Frank Brandsma (Utrecht University)

Session IX: Emotional Selves & Embeddedness. Lecturer: Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven) & Frank Brandsma (Utrecht University)

Registration is free of charge for members of the Huizinga Institute- and the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law of Ghent University.

PhD candidates from Flemish universities may send an email to to register.