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.

GEMS Inspired by…

Michiel van Dam inspired by Philip Sheldrake

Spaces of Solidarity: History, the Urban and the Spiritual Practice of Everyday Life

Date: Wednesday, 4 March 2020, 14-16h
Place: Simon Stevin Room (Plateaustraat 22, Gent)

The work of Philip Sheldrake has become synonymous with innovative and interdisciplinary research in the field of (Christian) spirituality, with interventions coming in the domains of historiography, theology, philosophy, and social theory. Resolutely arguing for the crucial presence of spiritual practices in the sphere of everyday life, Sheldrake has opened up important new avenues of investigation for historians and social scientists looking to nuance the often rigid distinction made between religious contemplation and public life, between Christian interiority and social action. In this session, I will give a short analytic summary of Sheldrake’s recent contributions such as Explorations in Spirituality (2010) and The Spiritual City (2014), looking at the lessons we can derive from his interdisciplinary approach, his spiritual theology of social engagement, and his account of the modern-day, diverse city. I will end by reflecting on Sheldrake’s importance for my own current research project, an intellectual history of sociology as a ‘science of solidarity’, which investigates the secularizing effects of traditional notions of social assistance, as well as the potential of modern sources of faith-based solidarity for the superdiverse urban space of the 21st century.

Michiel Van Dam is postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp. In 2019 he defended his PhD-thesis at Ghent University: La révolution des temps. Revolutionary languages and politics of time in the Austrian Netherlands and the Dutch Republic (1780-1790)

Van lijkzang tot strijdlied

Studienamiddag over gebruiksfuncties van Nederlandstalige poëzie door de eeuwen heen (event in Dutch)

Tijdens deze studiemiddag staat publieks- en gebruikspoëzie centraal. Door de eeuwen heen heeft poëzie een sociale functie in de samenleving en in de publieke ruimte. In de lezingen presenteren specialisten in de historische en moderne Nederlandstalige literatuur hun onderzoek. Vervolgens gaan zij met elkaar en met het publiek in gesprek over de sociale gebruiksfunctie van poëzie vanaf de renaissance. Er wordt aandacht besteed aan lyriek en liedcultuur, het gelegenheidskarakter van poëzie (zoals hommage- en opdrachtgedichten) en aan rouwpoëzie. Dit gebeurt aan de hand van gevalstudies uit verschillende perioden van de Nederlandse literatuurgeschiedenis waarbij overeenkomsten en verschillen tussen literaire fenomenen van vroeger en vandaag aan bod komen.

Elke lezing vertrekt vanuit een specifieke casus:

  • Strijdliederen (Renée Vulto en Laurens Ham)
  • Lofdichten/hommages (Nina Geerdink en Carl de Strycker)
  • Funeraire gedichten (Kornee van der Haven en Bram Lambrecht)

Vrijdag 28 februari van 13u30 tot 17u00

Zaal De Blauwe Vogel, De Krook, M. Makebaplein 1, 9000 Gent

Inschrijven via deze link:

De studienamiddag is een samenwerking tussen de afdeling Nederlandse Literatuur, onderzoeksgroepen GEMS en POWEZIE (Universiteit Gent) en De Krook.

What was personhood?

Lecture by Kevin Curran (University of Lausanne)

Date: 23 October 2019,  5 – 6:30 pm

Place: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy (Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent), room 120.083

Guest lecture organized by the NARMESH research project in collaboration with prof. Andrew Bricker (UGent).

Curran flyer


Abstract: What did it mean to be a “person” in Renaissance England? We know there was a basic legal conception of personhood available at least since Magna Carta (1215), a baseline guarantee that no free man could be harmed save in accordance with the law of the land. The idea was, and still is, that humans possess some fundamental degree of liberty and that communities work better when that liberty is protected. But personhood does not simply enshrine liberty. More precisely, it instrumentalizes it through basic legal transactions such as litigation, property transfer, and contract. It also balances it off with a set of responsibilities and obligations. This means that personhood is never just about the individual subject and their freedom. Instead, personhood denotes a relationship to one’s lived environment; a form of liberty that only makes sense in a transactional context. Personhood describes an interface between self and world and provides scripts of consent, entitlement, and responsibility for managing that interface. With these insights in mind, this talk aims to recover the way in which Renaissance personhood was shaped by ideas about the material world, both human and nonhuman. It offers a reminder that one of the core legal fictions of liberal modernity, a legal fiction that we now tend to associate with Enlightenment notions of agency, subjectivity, and individuality, has other sources in the physical experiences, creaturely lives, and material encounters of the Renaissance.

Bio: Kevin Curran is Professor of Early Modern Literature at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and editor of the book series “Edinburgh Critical Studies in Shakespeare and Philosophy.” He is the author of Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies: Law and Distributed Selfhood (Northwestern University Press, 2017) and Marriage, Performance, and Politics at the Jacobean Court (Ashgate, 2009). He is the editor of Shakespeare and Judgment (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) and Renaissance Personhood: Materiality, Taxonomy, Process (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming Dec. 2019), and co-editor of a special issue of the journal Criticism on “Shakespeare and Phenomenology” (2012). In 2017, Curran was named Distinguished International Visiting Fellow at the Center for the History Of Emotions in Australia. He is also the founder and Director of the Lausanne Shakespeare Festival.

Contacts: NARMESH

‘The Country-Round’: Dance, Theater, and the Emergence of England’s Political Parties.

Lecture by prof. Seth Stewart Williams (Columbia University).

Date: Wednesday, 16 October 2019, 4-5 PM. 
Location: Plateau-room, Jozef Plateaustraat 22, Ghent


De buitenpartij

This talk explores how politicized choreographic material from seventeenth-century masques and plays circulated beyond courts and theaters in manuscript verse miscellanies and printed music. It argues that as the textual ephemera of theater culture reached rural communities, where it was reanimated in household performances, it cultivated sensorial political affiliations during the very decades when England’s factions crystallized into its first political parties.
Seth Stewart Williams is assistant professor in the Department of Dance at Barnard College of Columbia University, and affiliate faculty of the Barnard English Department and the Columbia PhD Program in Theatre and Performance. His research focuses on the interrelation of dance and literature, especially in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He was a 2019 Scholar-in-Residence at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and is at present a Long-Term Fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library. He received his PhD in English literature from Columbia in 2017. In an earlier performance career, he appeared with the dance companies of Seán Curran, Donald McKayle, Mark Morris, and with the New York Baroque Dance Company.

This lecture is organised by THALIA (Interplay of Theatre, Literature & Media in Performance), Literary Studies Department (English) and GEMS (Group for Early Modern Studies)

Illustration: David Vinckboons, De buitenpartij (ca. 1610). Holding Institution: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

GEMS Lecture 2019 with Professor Hiro Hirai (Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Radboud University, Netherlands)

Galen in the Medical Context of the Scientific Revolution

Date: Monday, 29 April 2019
Time: 4 – 6 PM
Location: Plateauzaal (Jozef Plateaustraat 22, Gent)

Galen (129–ca. 216) left a significant number of writings, over 100 treatises in a modern edition, which represent some 12 percent of ancient Greek literature. Although Galenism dominated the tradition of Western medicine, knowledge of his writings was relatively limited during the Middle Ages. The substantial body of these writings was made available in Europe thanks to the Aldine Greek edition (Venice, 1525), followed by a flood of Latin translations. In my paper, I will examine the impact of some key texts of Galen at the threshold of early modern science and philosophy. To this end I will focus on the particular use of Galen’s writings and teachings by Jean Fernel (1497–1558) of Paris, one of the most influential physicians of the Renaissance, and other physician-philosophers who were his contemporaries and followers in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.


Image references:
1. Nicolas de Larmessin, Portrait of Jean François Fernel. Engraving. Holding Institution: Smithsonian Libraries (Washington, DC);
2. Title page of Galen’s Aldine Greek edition (Venice 1525).

Bernd Roling (Freie Universität, Berlin), “Return From the Dead: The Raising of Lazarus in Early Modern Biblical Commentaries and Natural Philosophy”

Public lecture

Time: 22 November 2018, h. 16:30

Location: KANTL (Koningstraat 18, Ghent)

Roling poster

The lecture will be the keynote of the international conference “Coordinating the two books“.

Image reference: Mattia Preti, The raising of Lazarus, 1650s. Oil on canvas. Holding institution: Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica, Rome.

GEMS Lecture 2018 with Professor Craig Martin (Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice)

Astrological Debates in Italian Renaissance Commentaries on Aristotle’s Meteorology

Date: Friday, 5 October 2018
Time: 4 PM
Location: Room 100.072 Blandijnberg 2, Gent

Astrologia, Giulio Bonasone, naar Rafaël, 1544From the time of Albertus Magnus, medieval commentators on Aristotle regularly used a passage from Meteorology 1.2 as evidence that the stars and planets influence and even govern terrestrial events. Many of these commentators integrated their readings of this work with the view that planetary conjunctions were causes of significant changes in human affairs. By the end of the sixteenth century, Italian Aristotelian commentators and astrologers alike deemed this passage as authoritative for the integration of astrology with natural philosophy. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, however, criticized this reading, contending that Aristotle never used the science of the stars to explain meteorological phenomena. While some Italian commentators, such as Pietro Pomponazzi dismissed Pico’s contentions, by the middle of the sixteenth century many reevaluated the medieval integration. This reevaluation culminated in Cesare Cremonini, who put forth an extensive critique of astrology in which he argued against the idea of occult causation and celestial influence, as he tried to rid Aristotelianism of its medieval legacy.

Admission to this public lecture is free, but pre-registration is recommended for anyone who is not a member of GEMS – please send a message to:

Image: Astrologia (1544) by Giulio Bonasone after Raphael. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.