Conference: “Practices of Copying and Imitation in Early Modern Architecture (1400-1700)” (15 & 16 June)

On 15-16 June 2023, Elizabeth Merrill (Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Ghent University) and Nele De Raedt (Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urbanism, UCLouvain) organise an international conference on “Practices of Copying and Imitation in Early Modern Architecture (1400-1700)” in the VANDENHOVE Centre for Architecture and Arts in Ghent. The keynote lecture will be given by prof. Maarten Delbeke (ETH Zurich).

Participation is free of charge, but registration is required. This is possible via the conference website:

You can find the program below.

Upcoming talk by Marius Buning: Printing privileges in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic

On 4 May (2pm, Library lab Magnel), Marius Buning will give a talk that may be of interest to GEMS members:

Controlling information flows: Printing privileges in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic

This paper presents an analysis of printing privileges in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. It investigates the impact these privileges had on the dissemination of information, the development of the Dutch printing industry, and the types of publications that were produced. Whereas privileges are often seen of legal means that were primarily important for the local market, this paper will show that the ‘local’ cannot be seen in isolation from intra- and pan-European connections. It thus ties in with a broader discussion of the relationship between knowledge and power in the early modern period, and provides a good starting point for understanding the framework and objectives of the ERC-funded project Before Copyright, which I am currently leading at the University of Oslo.


Marius Buning (Ph.D, European University Institute, 2013) is Associate Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Oslo, Norway. His research interests focus on the nature of intellectual property and the role of the state in shaping notions of scientific and technological progress. Since 2022, he is the PI of the ERC project “Before Copyright: Printing privileges and the politics of knowledge in early modern Europe”.

Upcoming event: “Inspired by…” presentations

For the “Inspired by…” event, GEMS has invited students to reflect on what or who inspires them in their research for their master’s thesis. The event will take place on the 25th of April, starting at 2pm, in the “Loveling” library lab of the Faculty Library (Rozier 44). Students will give twenty-minute presentations, after which there will be time for questions. This will be followed by a reception, starting around 5pm.

Here’s an overview of the presenters and their abstracts:

Cato Rooryck –  Questions of Reconciliation and Indigeneity in Contemporary Australian Adaptations of Macbeth and The Tempest            Responding to recent debates about the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as concerns about decolonizing the Western canon more broadly, my thesis will look at how contemporary Indigenous theatre practitioners in Australia engage with Macbeth and The Tempest. In doing so, it builds on the work of scholars such as Elizabeth Schafer (2003) and Emma Cox (2004, 2011), who have pointed to convergences between Shakespeare and Indigeneity in Australia – a phenomenon which international scholarship has failed to pay due attention to. More specifically, I will look at the role of the witches in Macbeth and Caliban and Ariel in The Tempest – which both pose a challenge for contemporary directors – in the negotiations of Indigenous identities in recent Australian adaptations. In my presentation, I will reflect on some insights and passages by Indigenous(-Australian) scholars and writers that have inspired me to combine my interest in Shakespeare, which goes back to my bachelor paper, with my interest in Indigenous studies, philosophies, and cultures. I will consider how my introduction to Aboriginal literature and scholarship by authors such as Kim Scott has challenged me to further my thinking about Shakespearean drama (and its role as the showpiece of the Western literary tradition – and its long history of exclusion) and its contemporary relevance. In particular, I will also discuss Kylie Bracknell’s Hecate (2020) – “the first adaptation of a complete Shakespearean work presented entirely in one Aboriginal language of Australia” (Bracknell et al. 2021), which was the first Aboriginal Shakespeare adaptation I encountered and is central to my thesis. 

Amber Kempynck – Warning: Complex Female Protagonist. Redefining Unlikability and Passivity as Feminist Resistance and Female Agency in Millennial Women’s Writing       In contemporary women’s writing, there is an influx of complex, “unlikable” female protagonists. This gives rise to two discourses: one about the genre these novels have established, namely “millennial fiction”, and another about the feminist thought they convey, called dissociative feminism. These discourses maintain that the female protagonists are unjustifiably passive and that their behavior is “damaging to the entire feminist movement” (Peyser). This thesis examines these discourses and shows through the analysis of four contemporary novels – Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends (2017), Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts (2020), and Lisa Taddeo’s Animal (2021) – that the female protagonists do have reasons for their nihilistic attitudes and are not passive but act with agency. In addition, the novels send a feminist message, as they resist normative femininity, highlight the female experience, and discuss taboo subjects related to womanhood. 

Elisabeth Goemaere – Postcolonial Studies and Medieval Anglo-Irish Literature      ““Do They Not Still Acknowledge That Submission?”: Figurations of the Irish ‘Other’ in Early-Colonial British Literature. My MA thesis explores the use of ethnic and gendered stereotypes in English literature during two significant periods of Ireland’s early history as a colony: the arrival of the Normans (c. 1169) and the Elizabethan Conquest (c. 1534-1603). The thesis examines how British writers used stereotypes to justify the Anglo-Norman civilising mission, and to metaphorically express both Anglo-Norman and Irish colonisation-related distress. Gender anxieties are prevalent in these texts, and sexual differences occur as a metaphor for political, ethnic, and religious distinctions. The thesis uses medieval accounts of Ireland to explore how Irish inhabitants were demonised through tropes of savagery, monstrosity, and sexual deviance. My study aims to contribute to our understanding of conquest, identity, and societal change in the Middle Ages and suggests that questioning medieval figurations of the Irish Other leads to a more accurate portrayal of one of Britain’s first colonies. Inspiration: postcolonial studies. Overall, my analysis focuses on rhetorical devices that reflected upon and actively shaped medieval Britain, such as debasing the other, (re)negotiating one’s own identity, and affirming or adopting the white man’s burden. These mechanisms have often been considered in postcolonial studies, which is my main framework. The Anglo-Irish contact can be regarded in colonial terms, and the resulting tensions can hence be understood through concepts as Homi Bhabha’s mimicry and hybridity, Franz Fanon’s take on alienation, and Achille Mbembe’s necropolitics. Mainly this study field has prompted me to rethink my own (limited) knowledge of medieval Britain and its reflection in contemporary literature.”

Milan Francis – Decolonizing colonial history: The Túpac Amaru Revolution and the Silencing of indigenous culture      A recent restoration of a Christ painting “El Señor de los Temblores” revealed its original content: an indigenous noblewoman proudly dressed in traditional Incaic dress. The painting dates to the late 18th century and was overpainted in the aftermath of the Túpac Amaru Revolution (1780-83), the largest indigenous revolution in Andean colonial history, hiding its ‘potentially subversive’ message. The original content, its erasure, and its recent restoration tell the story of power and production of colonial history. This story also represents the process of Silencing that has characterized historiography on the Atlantic Age of Revolutions since its inception. Inspired by Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s now classic study on the Haitian Revolution, which demonstrated how the Silencing of this other non-European revolution did not reflect its unimportance or irrelevance, but rather, a denial of its radical implications. Likewise, the Silencing of of the Túpac Amaru Revolution is no coincidence, and can be traced back to the cultural genocide imposed on indigenous people after it was defeated: prohibiting indigenous clothing, language, traditions and art. If this prohibition tells us anything, it is the importance of material and visual culture in the study of this indigenous revolution, and indigenous culture more broadly. By incorporating decolonial theory, this thesis will attempt to study this indigenous revolution on its own terms: by complementing written sources with a focus on visual culture and public spectacle. By integrating indigenous forms of knowledge, this project will explore the possibility of (anti-)colonial history beyond its Silencing of indigenous culture. 

Keeping Flowers Between the Pages: Upcoming Talk by Jessie Wei-Hsuan Chen

Keeping Flowers Between the Pages: “Preserving” Rare and Curious Flowers through Florilegium Images in the Seventeenth Century

On 27 April (2-4pm), Jessie Wei-Hsuan Chen (Utrecht University) will give a talk on the pictorial genre of  florilegium. The talk, which is co-organized by GEMS and Sarton Centre, will take place in the Magnel library lab (LWBIB, Rozier 44).


GEMS members might be interested in the following lecture series on materiality in the history and theory of architecture.

Remaining lectures:

1 March 2023: Fabio Barry (Warburg Institute, London), Painting in Stone: Reloaded?

+ workshop on 2 March 2023: “Monumenting”: Poetry and Architecture

26 April 2023: Réjean Legault (University of Quebec, Montreal), Brutalism and the Materialities of Postwar Architecture

+ workshop on 27 April: The Idea of Brutalism in Postwar Architecture

To register email:

More info on time and place below:

GEMS lecture and conversation with Annemie Leemans (UAntwerpen): “New Methodological Approaches in Leonardo Studies”

Date: Thursday, 8 December 2022, 1-2pm

Location: Vergaderzaal 2.23 Panopticon, 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 and are potentially responsible for this line of thought. An extensive bibliography of 13,000 references has treated a wide variety of different topics and aspects related to Leonardo and his work. In this seminar, I disentangle the myths and propose new research methods regarding Leonardo da Vinci, a topic with a long 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 who studied at 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 has received several EU-funded scholarships and grants, including a 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.

Guest lecture with Prof. Marissa Nicosia (Penn State Abington): “Seasonal Tastes: Timing Recipes in Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies (1653).” 

Location: Camelot Meeting Room (3rd Floor), Blandijnberg 2 

Time: Monday, 14 November 2022, 11am 

“Reading poetry alongside how-to literature my project Seasonal Tastes explores England’s intertwined literary and recipe cultures to consider flavor time poetics and climate in the early modern period. By taking poetic and practical discussions of the seasons as its central focus this study intervenes in recent debates in literary studies food studies and the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies. This talk will provide an overview of Seasonal Tastes and as a case study consider the temporality of Margaret Cavendish’s recipe poems within the larger context of early modern recipe manuscripts.”

Marissa Nicosia is Associate Professor of Renaissance Literature, in English, at Penn State Abington, and co-editor of Making Milton: Print, Authorship, Afterlives (Oxford University Press, 2021). Her current project is “Historical Futures: Imagining Time in the Early Modern Chronicle Play,” which argues that plays construct speculative futures when they report narratives about the national past. Drawing on the methods of historical formalism and critical bibliography, this study reveals the metaphoric and material ways that chronicle plays participate in debates about temporality and politics in the early modern period.

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”.