GEMS Plans for the 2020-2021 Academic Year

Like many research groups, both at UGent and abroad, GEMS was forced this past spring to cancel and postpone a range of wonderful events featuring an array of speakers, scholars, students and visitors. We did so with both sadness and regret. 

For this coming academic year, our plan is to focus on the members of our GEMS community who most need our support and who might benefit most from our intellectual community: our Ph.D. students and postdocs here at UGent. We will be organizing a range of online events, some of which will be private brainstorming and feedback sessions for junior scholars to workshop their evolving research; other online events, also featuring our Ph.D. students and postdocs, will be public and accessible to GEMS members, the UGent community and outside scholars. These online events will be listed both on the GEMS website ( and on our FaceBook page ( 

This summer we will begin organizing these online events to take place during the 2020-2021 academic year. If you are a Ph.D. student, postdoc, or visiting junior scholar at UGent and interested in participating, either as an attendee or a presenter, please be in contact with Renée Vulto ( and Delphine Calle (

Hopefully, in the 2021-2022 academic year, GEMS will be able to resume its wide array of in-person events, including lectures, workshops, ateliers, “inspired by…” sessions, and book launches. If you are interested in sharing your research during the 2021-2022 academic year, please send an email to Andrew Bricker (

Till, hopefully, very soon again!


The GEMS Steering Committee


Due to the measures taken in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to postpone all planned events for the rest of the academic year (including our Research Day). In this, we follow the guidelines of Ghent University.  Keep an eye on this website and our social media to hear about the plans for next year!

We hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy during this challenging time.

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 2019/2020

Thursday, March 19th, 2 – 4 PM POSTPONED Joint Seminar with Sarton Centre
Gwendoline de Mûelenaere (UGent),Between Words and Images: Disseminating Science in Early Modern Education in the Southern Netherlands
Matteo Valleriani (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science),The Sphaera Corpus and Computational Humanitates

Monday, April 27th, 12 AM – 1 PM – !!!!!!!!CANCELLED!!!!!! Atelier with Manushag Powell, Hunting for Women in the Periodical Archives

Wednesday, May 20th,  10AM – 5 PM – Research Day: Early Modern Studies Outside the University – lectures and panels one the connections between academia and the cultural field

Tuesday, May 26th, 12 AM – 1 PMAtelier with Carlotta Striolo, The role of the Court of Brussels in shaping Titian’s reception in the Netherlands

Poster GEMS events 2019-2020 – Semester 2

The GEMS Seminars provide the opportunity to members of our research group and other scholars with an interest in the early modern period to meet and discuss current research issues. In the schedule (see menu) you will find two categories of these meetings. First there are the Ateliers during which GEMS-members or guests present their research projects, recent publications or ideas for future projects. Secondly we will have three meetings this academic year with specialists of the early modern period who will introduce to you the work of a famous scholar by whom they are inspired in their own scholarly work (Inspired by…). People who are interested to spotlight his or her current or future research projects during one of these meetings are cordially invited to get in contact with the organization (

Anti-Court Sentiments in Early Modern Italy, by Paola Ugolini (18 May 2021)

Anti-Court Sentiments in Early Modern Italy

by Paola Ugolini (University at Buffalo, SUNY)

Date: Tuesday, 18 May 2021, 16:00-17:00

Zoom link 

Meeting ID: 994 3305 0223
Passcode: SErWwar4


In this talk I will present my recent publication, The Court and Its Critics (University of Toronto Press, 2020) and my attempts to re-assess the long-neglected genre of works against courts and courtiers. Critiques of courts and courtiers were for a long time considered nothing more than futile outlets, composed by employing recurring sets of meaningless topoi. I argue instead that anti-courtly discourse furnished a platform for discussing some of the most pressing questions of Renaissance Italian society, such as subjectivity and self-fashioning, gender and identity, social mobility, the possible role for the intellectual in the political and social spheres, and a sense of anxiety related to foreign occupation of the Italian peninsula.

Call for papers: Slavery in the cultural imagination

Call for Papers 

Slavery in the Cultural Imagination 

Voices of Dissent in the Neerlandophone Space, 17th-21st Century 

Confirmed keynotes 

Prof Hasana Sharp, McGill University 

Prof Marlene Daut, University of Virginia 

The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH), and Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON) are co-convening a two-day conference on the cultural imagination of slavery. The conference will be held on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 October 2021 at the universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht. The aims and motivations for the conference can be found below. We warmly invite contributions to this conference. If you are interested in participating, please send a title, an abstract of 250-300 words, and a short bio (under 100 words) to by 15 June 2021. We are currently approaching a publisher for the publication of an edited volume based on conference proceedings. If you would be interested to participate in this volume, please, indicate this in your response. 

The members of the organising committee are Dr Saskia Pieterse (Utrecht University), Dr Marrigje Paijmans (University of Amsterdam), and Dr Karwan Fatah Black (Leiden University). 

More information: see the attached Call for Papers

Joyous Entries and Local Lordship in the Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands, by Klaas Van Gelder

Joyous Entries and Local Lordship in the Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands

by Klaas Van Gelder (Rijksarchief Gent/Universiteit Gent)

Date: Thursday, 6 May 2021, 16:00-17:00

Zoom link 

Meeting ID: 998 7752 4043

Passcode: cq3uhS16


This presentation analyses a set of 80 seigneurial joyous entries ranging from 1433 until 1793. Princely joyous entries and inaugurations have received incessant scholarly attention ever since the Cultural Turn and the resulting understanding of ritual and ceremony as forms of communication and symbolic negotiation. In several parts of medieval and early modern Europe, similar solemnities also took place in villages and small towns on the level of the seigneury. This was also the case in the Burgundian and Habsburg Netherlands, with a particularly strong tradition in Brabant. Local lords and ladies held joyous entries in their seigneuries, issued liberty charters, swore to uphold local rights and privileges, celebrated masses and Te Deums, enjoyed banquets with local dignitaries, and plunged the village or town in a festive atmosphere. This article argues that these solemnities were structural components of the seigneurial landscape, and carried legal and political meaning. They are also gauges for power relations between the lord, local office-holders and villagers, although the collected data only allows us to draw preliminary conclusions about how these power relations developed over time.

“New Books in Dialogue”: Early modern Italian studies – 26 February (The Early Modern Research Workshop, University of Buffalo)

The Early Modern Research Workshop at the University at Buffalo is inaugurating a “New Books in Dialogue” series, which brings together UB faculty and colleagues at other institutions who have newly published or soon-to-be-published books to discuss their works.

Please join us (on Zoom)​ on Friday, February 26 at 3:00pm Eastern Time / 9:00pm Central European Time for a conversation with:

Eva Del Soldato (Associate Professor of Romance Languages, University of Pennsylvania), author of Early Modern Aristotle. On the Making and Unmaking of Authority (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020)

Eugenio Refini (Associate Professor of Italian, New York University), author of The Vernacular Aristotle: Translation as Reception in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

Paola Ugolini (Associate Professor of Italian, UB), author of The Court and Its Critics. Anti-Court Sentiments in Early Modern Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2020)

We would like to bring more scholars together to discuss their work in areas related to Early Modern Studies (broadly defined). If interested, please send an abstract of your book and information on possible co-presenters and their books to:
Ndubueze Mbah
Marla Segol
Paola Ugolini

Please find here below the Zoom link for this event:

Paola Ugolini is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: New Books in Dialogue: Early Modern Italian Studies — Del Soldato, Refini, Ugolini

Time: Feb 26, 2021 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 957 0971 1271

Passcode: 528953

One tap mobile

+16699009128,,95709711271#,,,,*528953# US (San Jose)

+12532158782,,95709711271#,,,,*528953# US (Tacoma)

Dial by your location

        +1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)

        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)

        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)

        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

        +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)

Meeting ID: 957 0971 1271

Passcode: 528953

Find your local number:

Join by SIP

Join by H.323 (US West) (US East) (India Mumbai) (India Hyderabad) (Amsterdam Netherlands) (Germany) (Australia Sydney) (Australia Melbourne) (Singapore) (Brazil) (Canada Toronto) (Canada Vancouver) (Japan Tokyo) (Japan Osaka)

Meeting ID: 957 0971 1271

Passcode: 528953

GEMS talk by Marco Faini (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice): “Doubt as a Form of Sociability in Renaissance Italy” (15 February)

GEMS talk by Marco Faini (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice): “Doubt as a Form of Sociability in Renaissance Italy”

This talk was recorded. You can find the video on Youtube:

Date: Monday 15 February 2021, 15:00-16:00

Place: Zoom:

Meeting ID: 978 2143 5998

Passcode: 6YwGX&Qk


 Late sixteenth- and early seventeenth century authors such as Montaigne, Descartes, Shakespeare, and John Donne described doubt as an unsettling and disquieting condition, often experienced in the seclusion of one’s chamber. As such, doubt was often perceived as a corrosive power, able to dissolve at the same time the world as one is accustomed to knowing it, and the very idea of one’s self. I will argue instead that in the first half of the sixteenth century doubt could be, and indeed was, a social experience. While scholars have often explored doubt within heterodox circles, doubt could be part of other, more complex social experiences. Academies, real or virtual, games of chance, books of ‘doubts’ fostered forms of sociability that brought together, at least potentially, men and women from all walks all life. A polysemic word, ‘doubt’ could elicit diverse intellectual and emotional responses, thus proving an unexpected, even reassuring form of social entertainment.

Partnership between GEMS and the Edinburgh Early Modern Network: first event on Early Modern Oral Cultures and Communities

We are delighted to announce a partnership between GEMS and the Edinburgh Early Modern Network. This partnership will be a lasting bond of critical investigation, collaboration and friendship between our two vibrant communities in Gent and Edinburgh. 

As one of the first events of what will surely be the start of a long friendship and collaboration, on Tuesday the 9th February at 5.15pm (Edinburgh) / 6.15pm (Ghent), we are thrilled to bring together two scholars Renée Vulto and Nathan Hood for two 20-minute papers on the theme of Early Modern Oral Cultures and Communities

Dr Nathan Hood is a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh. His paper is entitled ‘Songs of the Heart: The Emotional Power of Psalm-Singing in Scottish Protestantism 1560-1640’. 

Renée Vulto is a doctoral researcher at UGent. Her paper will be on ‘Singing the Revolution: Celebratory Songs in the Batavian Republic (1795-1799)’.

You can register through the EEMN eventbrite:



Workshop: Revisiting Revenge. New Perspectives for the Study of Revenge Tragedies (late 16th–early 18th century)

Ghent University (Belgium), 16-17 September 2021

Keynote speaker: Prof. Russ Leo (Princeton University)

In the early modern period, revenge tragedies and related Senecan plays dealing with revenge flooded the European theatres, especially in England (The Spanish Tragedy, Titus Andronicus, The Revenger’s Tragedy, Hamlet), but also in the Dutch Republic (Wraeckgierigers treur-spel, Aran en Titus, De veinzende Torquatus, Medea) and Germany (Ermordete Majestät, Rache zu Gibeon, Cleopatra). Because of the plays’ abundant display of horror, audiences flocked to them in large numbers, rendering the revenge tragedy the most popular dramatic genre of its time. Yet, revenge tragedies have for a long time only reluctantly been allowed to join the established canon of classical works, since they were considered gross, decadent, gratuitous, sensationalist and markedly commerce-oriented plays. Only in the past few decades, literary scholars have attempted to adjust this one-sided image of the genre by suggesting that revenge plays informed (aspects of) the cultural-historical force field that helped shape them.

Bearing this suggestion in mind, we would like to invite scholars working on the subject to submit case studies exploring the ways in which European revenge plays participate in contemporary political, religious, philosophical, legal, economic and gender discourses, in order to make clear the genre’s broader cultural relevance – both in terms of its historical moment and of our analysis of that moment. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between revenge plays and the Christian (Catholic/Protestant) discourse on revenge. How do revenge tragedies interrogate the biblical message not to take revenge yourself, but to leave it to the Lord? And more generally, how do these plays interrogate divine providence as such?
  • The political topicality of early modern revenge drama: how did English revenge plays help shape the discourse concerning e.g. the unstable dynastic position of the Tudors? How did Dutch ‘wraaktragedies’ participate in the fierce discussions about the position of the stadtholder in the Dutch Republic? And how do German revenge plays relate to Ferdinand II’s attempt to impose imperial absolutism?
  • The relationship between revenge plays and gender. Early modern revenge plays feature both male and female stage avengers. Are there substantial differences in how female stage revengers avenge themselves compared to their male counterparts? And how do these differences inform our understanding of early modern gender roles?
  • Revenge plays and their relation to the system of legal justice in early modern Europe. With most stage revengers taking recourse to ‘a kind of wild justice’ (Francis Bacon), in what way does revenge drama provide an interrogation of the legal system of its time?
  • The dramatic representation of revenge itself. How is revenge depicted in the early modern revenge play? And how does dramatic revenge relate to other depictions of revenge in related art forms, like the opera seria?

We also invite participants to reflect in their presentations more explicitly on the arbitrariness of the classification of the revenge tragedy as a genre as such. We look forward to receiving your abstracts, and to a productive meeting in September.


  • The workshop will take place in Ghent on 16 and 17 September 2021 (precise location TBA).
  • Proposals for a twenty-minute presentation (given in English) are expected by March 1st, 2021 and should be sent to Proposals should include your name, academic affiliation and a brief curriculum vitae.
  • Submissions are expected as Word documents (max. 300 words).
  • Notification of acceptance will be provided by April 1st, 2021.
  • The programme will be finalized by May 1st, 2021.
  • A selection of contributions will be published in a peer-reviewed volume to be submitted to an international publisher.
  • We hope that you will support our efforts by notifying your colleagues and students about the conference. You are most welcome to contact the organisers for further details.
  • All this information can also be found on our website: (which will soon be online).

This conference is an initiative of the research groups GEMS ( and THALIA (, and is part of the BOF-funded research project Radical Revenge? Revenge tragedy and providential thinking in the Dutch Republic 1638-1678.

Organising committee:

Tom Laureys, PhD candidate (

Prof. dr. Kornee van der Haven (

Prof. dr. Jürgen Pieters (

Scientific committee:

Prof. dr. Ton Hoenselaars (Universiteit Utrecht)

Prof. dr. Karel Vanhaesebrouck (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Prof. dr. Andrew Bricker (Ghent University)

Prof. dr. Inge Arteel (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Prof. dr. Bram Van Oostveldt (Universiteit Gent)

Dr. Laurens De Vos (Universiteit van Amsterdam)

GEMS in portraits: Sarah Adams

Last Tuesday, I sat down (at a safe distance) with Sarah Adams to talk about the research she has been conducting during the last couple of years as a PhD candidate in Dutch literature. Sarah’s research deals with abolitionist/ameliorist theatre plays written and staged between 1770 and 1810 in the Netherlands, which critically address colonial slavery in the Asian and Atlantic orbits. The aim of the project is to reveal how market-led and racist ideologies are running across her corpus of abolitionist plays. By structuring her research around three classic blackface characters which are traditionally being discerned in theatre historiography (the suffering object, the contented fool and the vengeful rebel), Sarah shows that abolitionist theatre ultimately tried to safeguard a white male subjectivity. As a matter of fact, it was a pretty special day for Sarah: just a moment before our meeting, she received the first printed copy of her doctoral thesis Repertories of Slavery, which she is about to defend publicly come December 10th.

Portrait of Toussaint Louverture, chromolithograph published by George de Baptiste (ca. 1870). Washington D.C.: Library of Congress [LC-DIG-pga-05834].

How did your interests in your research arise?

“In 2013, I studied at Newcastle University as a part of an Erasmus programme. There I followed a course called ‘Writing the New World’, which was taught by Professor Matthew Grenby. In one of the lectures, we discussed The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789), an autobiographic account of a formerly enslaved Nigerian man who was manumitted and brought to Europe, where he committed himself to the abolitionist cause in the British parliament. I was absolutely fascinated by his story. In my BA thesis, I went on to investigate the abolitionist discourse of eighteenth-century Dutch texts. Remarkably, I didn’t find any autobiographical accounts like that of Equiano, but mostly theatre plays, like Kraspoekol, of de slaaverny and Monzongo, of de koningklyke slaaf. Contrary to England, postcolonial studies in the Netherlands (and Belgium) still make up a kind of wasteland yet to cultivate.”

Do you consider your work interdisciplinary?

“Yes, I do. My research is discourse-oriented and centres on white self-representation, but also on power relations and racialized oppression. I guess discourse analyses are by definition interdisciplinary. To give an example: in my chapter on the character of the contented fool, I delve into early modern uses of blackface in the theatre. In it, I show how the history of blackface in the early modern theatre is intertwined with shifting ideas concerning race, science and capitalism. In this sense, I set up a dialogue between literary and non-literary texts, like political and scientific treatises.”

Have you ever experienced a Eureka moment in your research?

Absolutelyin the Fall of 2019, I had an experience of what you might call ‘archival satisfaction’. In a book by Eberhard Rebling about ballets in the Amsterdam schouwburg, published in 1950, I came across a drawing by François Joseph Pfeiffer, who was the schouwburg’s costume designer around 1800. The drawing showed the costume for two enslaved sub-Saharan African characters, with a blackened complexion and stereotypical attributes like a tambourine and a spear. Rebling’s book indicated that the drawing was kept in the Amsterdam Six Collection. Yet despite searching this entire collection, I couldn’t find Pfeiffer’s design and the staff assumed the drawing had been sold to a private person. More than a year had gone by, when I visited the TIN (Theater Instituut Nederland, now Allard Pierson). Although the entire TIN-collection had been digitized, and the drawing wasn’t there, a staff member managed to find the drawing at the bottom of a cardboard box which had been mislaid. This drawing is very important to me, since it is the closest we can get to the actual appearance of Africanized and enslaved characters on the early modern Dutch stage.”

What is the most inspiring study you have ever read?

“That must be Silencing the Past (1995) by the Haitian historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot, who has dedicated his whole career to investigating how historiography and the acquisition of knowledge are related to power. According to Trouillot, historiography is a vast collection of ‘mentions and silences’. These silences are neither natural nor neutral; they are always actively created by dominant voices in society. Trouillot demonstrates this by means of the historiography of the 1791 Haitian Revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. In a couple of days, the rebel leader Toussaint Louverture managed to mobilize tens of thousands of free and enslaved people of colour against the French coloniser, which would eventually result in the foundation of the first black, independent republic in the Caribbean in 1804. Trouillot shows that from the beginning on, the European metropoles framed the Haitian Revolution as an isolated case, which was completely depoliticized, criminalized and banalized. This was, of course, a strategy to make slave-led resistance to colonial subjection consonant with the white dominant order—Africans and their descendants were held in an unnegotiable subservient position and for them to envision freedom was ‘unthinkable,’ to use Trouillot’s term. Only recently, the Revolution of 1791 has been recognized as a crucial moment in modern history, which is reflected in the fact that more and more researchers include the Haitian Revolution into their account of the so-called ‘Age of Revolution’. Silencing the Past is an accessible study and makes researchers aware of the fact that they as well are inevitably mentioning some voices, while silencing others.” 

And the most recent one?

De Slavernij in Oost en West. Het Amsterdam onderzoek, a volume edited by Pepijn Brandon, Guno Jones, Nancy Jouwe and Matthias van Rossum). It appeared only a couple of days ago and came about at the request of the Amsterdam city council, which will take the book as a point of reference in its decision on whether or not to offer formal apologies for the city’s colonial past. The conclusion of the editors is that Amsterdam was involved in the institution of slavery on a global scale and for a long period of time, and that this past continues to affect modern-day Amsterdam. The speech delivered by mayor Femke Halsema at the book presentation on September 29, 2020, was actually hopeful, so I expect there will be apologies in the near future. This book is of utmost importance in the campaign to raise public awareness of the country’s colonial past.”

— Tom Laureys