GEMS in Portraits: Jonas Roelens

While all GEMS activities have been postponed in these strange times, research and teaching continues. In the middle of marking exams, Jonas Roelens found the time to answer some questions for our GEMS in Portraits series. He is by no means a background character of GEMS, his victory in the 2019 PhD Cup has brought him a lot of fame. We are of course very proud to have him as a GEMS member. Jonas completed his PhD on sodomy in the late medieval and early modern Southern Low Countries in 2018 and currently teaches at the KASK/HoGent and will take up a position to teach gender history at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. What’s more, he has just been awarded a FWO postdoc mandate, which enables him to continue his research at the UGent history department. Let’s hear what inspires this ambitious researcher.

How did your interest in your research arise?
Honestly, there are a lot of coincidences involved in the fact that I am doing research into early modern sodomy. About a decade ago, I was desperately looking for a subject for my bachelor paper. As a student, I quite liked the ‘big city life’ Ghent had to offer and, consequently, I had postponed the decision about my research topic to the very last minute. The night before the deadline, my eye caught Germain Greer’s coffee table book The Boy, about the fleeting beauty of boys throughout the ages. Rather impulsively, I decided to write a paper about homoeroticism in Italian Renaissance art. Never have I been more grateful for my tendency to procrastinate than that day. Besides coffee table books, a complete field of research about same-sex desires in the past unfolded before my eyes. The paper led to a thesis about the impact of two sodomy trials on the formation of an urban memory in early modern Ghent and that thesis eventually led to my PhD dissertation. 

Detail from ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch (c.1490-1500). Museo del Prado, P002823.

Do you consider your research to be interdisciplinary?
From its onset, the field of gender studies has indeed been a very interdisciplinary field of research, so naturally, I also try to pursue this in my own research. In my PhD for instance, I not only wanted to chart the number of sodomy trials in the early modern Southern Netherlands, I also wanted to analyse the urban perception of sodomy. To do so, I collected a wide corpus of sources, ranging from legal documents such as witness reports, interrogations, sentences, accounts etc, to religious treatises, song texts, urban chronicles, engravings, demonological texts and so on. I have tried to write a broad cultural history, applying methods derived from the fields of gender history, legal history, urban history, art history, the history of literature, et cetera.

Have you ever experienced an eureka moment in your research?
I distinctly remember my very first eureka moment, but that was back in the days when I was still writing my master’s thesis. I found an intriguing manuscript in the Ghent University Library describing the execution of several mendicants in 1578. I stormed out the reading room to call my partner: ‘I’ve found something, brilliant!’ Throughout the years, I more or less revived that initial sensation whenever I found a new trial record. But every single time, after a few minutes it dawned on me that ‘Eureka’ is perhaps an inappropriate term because these archival finds deal with actual human beings that were horribly punished for their sexual desires.

What is the most inspiring study you have read recently?
For the past year and a half, I have mainly been teaching a various range of classes at different universities. This involves a lot of work, but after years of focussing on one specific topic, it is also very stimulating to immerse oneself in different themes in a short period of time. Therefore, I decided to catch up on some of the classics in the field of cultural history. Peter Burke’s ‘The Fabrication of Louis XIV’, which focusses on the strategy deployed to create a public image of Louis XIV remains relevant to students today because it allows students to compare how politicians today are constantly creating their public image. In the field of gender history, I really enjoyed the special issue of Transgender Studies Quarterly (vol. 5. no. 4, 2018) because it focusses on ‘transhistory’, an emerging subdiscipline in the field of gender history. In my opinion, courses in gender history still tend to focus too much on the binary opposition between male and female without taking into account that, both nowadays and in the past, people were aware of a much broader spectrum of gender identities.

by Renée Vulto

GEMS in portraits: Yannice De Bruyn

Busy times (ahead) for Yannice De Bruyn. Finishing a PhD while being a young mother isn’t particularly a walk in the park. Therefore, I was very pleased that she still could find the time for a chat via Skype. Yannice works as a PhD student in the Departments of Literary Studies of the UGent and the VUB (through a joint PhD). She is part of the Dutch-Belgian ITEMP cooperation, in which two PhD students and four promotors are involved. ITEMP stands for ‘Imagineering violence, techniques of early modern performativity in the Northern and Southern Netherlands (1630-1690)’ (see The aim of the project is to investigate how violence was represented in the early modern Low Countries. In her PhD, Yannice focuses on the ‘how and why’ of the representation of violence in the theatre, particularly by means of four case studies of siege plays. Through the concept of ‘imagineering’, a combination of ‘imagining’ and ‘engineering’, she shows that the representation and imagination of siege were always in interaction. There was no ‘reality’ of siege independent of how it was depicted onstage and throughout other media. Its performance in the theatre shaped the audience’s perception and created expectations that in their turn shaped other representations of the subject. Yannice is now in the final phase of her PhD, which she hopes to have defended by the end of the ongoing academic year. The right moment to shoot some of the questions she actually helped to invent a couple of years ago.

Romeyn de Hooghe – engraving for Govard Bidloo’s De France Wreetheyt, tot Bodegrave, en Swammerdam (1672)
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GEMS in portraits: Christophe Madelein

Last Thursday, I had my very own Madelein moment, although not in the way Marcel had it in À la recherche du temps perdu. I got the opportunity to sit down with Christophe Madelein for an interview and some coffees at Vooruit. Christophe did both his PhD and his Postdoc at Ghent University. He also worked as a guest professor at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and the Arteveldehogeschool Gent, and was Brueghel Chair at the University of Pennsylvania. Although Christophe is currently unaffiliated, he is still very busy doing research, especially on the poetry of Hubert Korneliszoon Poot. Moreover, he is one of the editors of the Jaarboek Achttiende Eeuw and a jury member for the study group’s thesis prize. We talked about theatre, his book discussion club in Lokeren, and our shared interest in providentialism. And of course, I also had some by now familiar questions to ask.

Hubert Kornelisz. Poot – Op de hoge watervloed, omtrent het einde des jaars MDCCXVII
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GEMS in portraits: Annemieke Romein

If there is someone who is not afraid to cross geographical and disciplinary borders, it’s Annemieke Romein, whose research on legislation texts in the seventeenth century has not only brought her from the Netherlands to Ghent, it also took her to Germany, Switzerland, and from the archives to the digital humanities. Annemieke completed her studies and PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam and is currently a NWO Rubicon-fellow working at the UGhent Department of History. Additionally, she is Researcher-in-Residence at the National Library (KB) in The Hague working with digital humanities methods to improve the searchability of early modern legislation texts. Over a coffee in the Vooruit, we discussed how vital it is to conduct comparative research, and how energizing interdisciplinary work can be.

Handwritten ‘vorstelijke ordonnantie’ from Flanders ca. 1619 (RAG_GW8_RvV_772)
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GEMS in portraits: Delphine Calle

After defending her PhD on love and passion in the work of Jean Racine in the summer of 2018, GEMS-member Delphine Calle has set course for a year at Rutgers University, New Jersey. She came back to Ghent for the Christmas holidays, so I had the chance to meet her for an interview over a Pain perdu coffee. We talked about bureaucracy, modern art, Thanksgiving and her postdoc project proposal about non-peer friendship in 17th-century France: Friendship across divides. A literary exploration of friendship and equality in 17th-century France.


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GEMS in portraits: Andrew Bricker

This week, I sat down with Andrew Bricker to talk about his research, his work at UGent and his forthcoming book about satire and defamation law; we ended up talking a lot about our shared astonishment at Belgian traffic behaviour and the things we have come to love about Ghent. As an assistant professor in English Literature, Andrew is an expert on satire from the early modern period, but his interests extend to material culture and cognitive approaches to reading. After having studied and worked in Toronto, Prague, Stanford, Montreal and Vancouver, Andrew finally settled in Ghent last year. Now he is sharing his excitement about “old books” with Flemish students (“who are really great, but don’t talk very much – yet when they do talk they have very interesting things to say!”), working on his book Libel and Lampoon: Satire in the Courts, 1670-1792, and learning Dutch (which goes “heel goed!”) while exploring Belgium on his bike on the weekends.  Continue reading

GEMS in portraits: Thomas Donald Jacobs

GEMS in portraits Thomas Donald JacobsLast week, I had a pleasant and interesting meeting with Thomas Donald Jacobs from the History Department at Ghent University. Thomas is a doctoral student and a teaching and research assistant. He specializes in Early Modern European discourses about the Americas, as well as the politics and diplomacy of that era. His particular interests lie in border-crossing, the negotiation and representation of Jewish and Native American identity, Charles V’s policies towards New Christians, and Anglo-Hispanic relations during the mid-seventeenth century. In April, he co-organized the 39th American Indian Workshop “Arrows of Time: Narrating the Past and Present” together with GEMS member Michael Limberger, and Fien Lauwaerts. The conference was a success and caused “just the right amount of controversy”.

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GEMS in portraits: Nele De Raedt

Untitled-1-page-001The first GEMS in portraits of 2018 is with Nele De Raedt, assistant and doctoral researcher at the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning. Nele is now in the final phase of her PhD, writing a dissertation on palace architecture in fifteenth-century Italy under the supervision of Maarten Delbeke and Anne-Françoise Morel. More specifically, the focus of her project concerns practices of violence (defilement, confiscation, destruction) of these palaces, as well as the possible interactions between this culture of violence against buildings and contemporary architectural theory. From January 2015 to June 2016, Nele worked as a research fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut in the research group on Ethics and Architecture. At Ghent University, she enjoys the combination of research and teaching. Recently, she also taught a course in art history as a guest teacher at the KASK School of Fine Arts.

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GEMS in portraits: Youri Desplenter

IMGP0085.jpgFor our autumn interview, GEMS had the chance to talk with Youri Desplenter. Although in fact a medievalist, he is closely involved with GEMS because of the intricate connection between the two periods. Youri’s specialty is Middle Dutch religious and moral-didactic literature, and the relation between vernacular and Latin literature in the Middle Ages. After finishing his dissertation on the translations of Latin hymns and sequences, he did a postdoctoral research on the translations of the Psalms, and on the writings of Jan van Leeuwen († 1378). As a professor of Dutch medieval literature, Youri is also a popular teacher.

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GEMS in portraits: Thomas Van der Goten

Frost Fair portrait of Anne 1716
We close the summer of 2017 with a portrait of Thomas Van der Goten, who recently received his PhD with a thesis on the eighteenth-century English ode. His dissertation offered a revisionist and genre-theoretical study of a large body of odes, providing a nuanced account of the range and variety of the genre, its engagement with literary tradition, and its place in the proliferating market for printed poetry. His interests range from classical as well as early modern and Romantic literature, over lyric poetry, to print culture, material culture, book history, and the history of reading. As a passionate dix-huitiemist, he is currently working on a postdoc application on the poetry of occasions in eighteenth-century Britain. GEMS wishes him the best of luck!

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