GEMS Seminar: Atelier with Merit Hondelink (Elizabeth Vandeweghe will respond)

What’s for dinner? Early modern food consumption analysed using cesspit samples and culinary texts

Date: Thursday, 21 November 2019, 12 AM – 1 PM

Place: Simon Stevin Room (Plateaustraat 22, Gent):

21nov_Whats for dinner

We cannot live on air and sunshine alone, the human body needs food and fluids to survive. It needs it now, it needed it in the past. But what did our ancestors’ diet consist of? When we want to find out what people ate in the past, we have to look at their refuse. Not only their kitchen waste, but also their excrements. Archaeologists find these waste-products in a variety of archaeological contexts, such as hearths, middens, pits, landfills, trash deposits and, for Medieval and Early Modern urban areas, cesspits. Cesspits are constructed to contain cess or human excrements, and as a secondary filling these pits often also contain kitchen waste, household rubbish and garden waste. Within this research project, cesspits form the primary context of analysis. Bio-archaeological samples are studied to understand what people ate. However, not everything we eat is conserved: organic remains do decay due to pre- and post-depositional processes. Additionally, they rarely tell us how a food product was consumed. Studying historical culinary texts, such as cookbooks and kitchen account books, helps to better understand the range of what was available for consumption. These documents provide lists of foodstuffs purchased and prepared that might be absent in the archaeological record. However, they only offer a glimpse of what was eaten, as cookbooks represent what was potentially consumed by the higher social classes and account books often only list (dried) bulk goods, excluding the fresh produce bought at the market. Each research discipline has it biases. Combining the results of bio-archaeological and culinary historical research is therefore a must. They complement each other and provide a more nuanced picture not only of what Early Modern citizens ate and how it changed through time, but also of the socio-economic positions of the consumer.


Merit Hondelink, a PhD-candidate at University of Groningen/Antwerp University, is a trained archaeologist, specialised in archaeobotany (the study of plant remains present in archaeological sites). Her research focuses on the changes in food preparation and consumption by Delft citizens in the course of the Early Modern period, between 1500-1800. She wants to know if and how the daily diet changed in the course of these centuries and how this reflects social stratifications within a city. Did the intensifying global trade and the influence of foreign food fashions effect what food was consumed and how it was prepared? Or did people stick to what was known and continued to eat what had been available for decades or even centuries? Merit studies these past food practices by analysing archaeobotanical samples from cesspits and studying historical documents (cookbooks and institutional account books). Additionally, she brings an experimental approach to her research. She recreates historical recipes to study the differences in kitchen and consumption waste and to better understand which biases occur after the deposition of food remains.


Elizabeth Vandeweghe

Department of Art, Music and Theater Sciences Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 41, Technicum Blok 4, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

After getting my master’s degree in Art History in 2004 (University Ghent), I worked for seven years in the exhibitions department of the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels (BOZAR), where I was responsible for all publications of the exhibitions, such as Het Verboden Rijk (2007), The World of Lucas Cranach (2010). In 2012, I started working as an assistant at UGent, Department Art, Theatre and Music Sciences, while working independently for cultural institutions such as the Centrum Rubenianum and the Centre for Fine Arts. As a part time assistant to Prof. dr. Martens and Prof. dr. Jonckheere, I further developed my knowledge of and interest in the arts in the Low Countries, in particular in the 16th and 17th century. Since September 2015, I am enrolled as a PhD candidate under the title “The Art Historical Meaning of Culinary Representations in the Visual Arts of the Early Modern Low Countries” (working title), with a joint Phd at the University of Verona.

Image reference: Adriaen van Utrecht, Pronkstilleven (1644). Holding Institution: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (NL)

GEMS Seminars 2019-2020 (1st semester)

This academic year we will launch a new series of GEMS meetings (see the schedule below and the attached overview). 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. Our website will be regularly updated with detailed information about each meeting (

Seminars are mostly scheduled on Wednesdays (2 – 4 PM) or Thursdays (12 AM – 1 PM). They take place in the Simon Stevin meeting room (Plateaustraat 22, heading left through glass doors and then on the left):


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 (

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

Call for New Members, Proposals and Ideas

The Group for Early Modern Studies (GEMS) at Ghent University is currently recruiting new members, both inside and outside of the UGhent community, and is interested in hearing both formal and informal expressions of interest for how you might want to participate in our upcoming events. GEMS strives for an inclusive community of scholars at all stages of their careers and from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (please see below for our Mission Statement). GEMS hosts a variety of talks, workshops and gatherings, including traditional lectures; works-in-progress ateliers; book launches; and “inspired by…” sessions, in which one member leads a discussion around a given theorist, text or object that has been central to his or her thinking as a scholar and/or teacher. We remain open, however, to other ideas and approaches. We would be especially pleased to hear expressions of interest from junior scholars working on early modern topics from different disciplinary perspectives who might be interested in discussing and presenting their research. 

Please send an email, containing a bit about yourself, your research interests, and how you might like to participate or contribute (e.g., through an abstract or informal proposal), to Prof. Andrew Bricker (Dept. of Literary Studies, UGent: by Monday, 28 October 2019.

GEMS Mission Statement
The research carried out in the Group for Early Modern Studies is marked by its focus on the early modern period, by its interdisciplinary engagements, and by a shared concern for methodological reflection. Central in this respect is the historical tension that we perceive between the early modern phenomena that we study and the late-modern framework guiding our research questions and methodologies. The historical relationship between the past and the way we address it (a relationship that works in both directions) is one of the central concerns of GEMS. We welcome senior and junior scholars at Ghent University and from other institutions. Junior researchers play an important role both in shaping the group’s direction and by participating in its activities.

Like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter!

‘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 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
Continue reading

JOLCEL festive launch

Date: September 20, 2019, 16:00 – 19:30

Place: Faculty Library of Arts and Philosophy (Rozier 44, 9000 Gent), Atrium


The Journal of Latin Cosmopolitanism and European Literatures (JOLCEL) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, focusing on Latin and other cosmopolitan languages within European literary history. The first issue and more information can be found at

To mark the launch of JOLCEL, Catherine Conybeare (Bryn Mawr College) will be giving an inaugural lecture entitled ‘”Improve This Thought”: Latin Literature and Cosmopolitan Marginalia’. Her lecture will be followed by a reception with music and testimonials by Ghent University colleagues about the importance of the Latin tradition in their past and current research and educational activities.



* 4 – 4.30 pm: presentation of JOLCEL

* 4.30 – 5.30 pm: inaugural lecture

* 5.30 – 7.30 pm: reception with music and testimonials


We hope to see you there!

Best wishes,


The JOLCEL editorial board & RELICS executive board



Poster JOLCEL Launch

In the picture: Brandt’s De Veinzende Torquatus (1645), Providentially Assigned Stadtholders and the Politics of Rational Deception by Tom Laureys

GEMS researchers are frequently publishing new articles, books, book chapters, edited volumes and blogs. In ‘in the picture’ we put a spotlight on a recent publication of one of our members.

Tom Laureys, “‘I, Who Used to Serve as Jupiter’s Lightning on Earth’: Geeraerdt Brandt’s De Veinzende Torquatus (1645), Providentially Assigned Stadtholders and the Politics of Rational Deception” in Dutch Crossing. Journal of Low Countries Studies (2019).

In this article, I show that Geeraerdt Brandt’s popular Dutch revenge tragedy De veinzende Torquatus (‘The feigning Torquatus’, 1645) engages with the political debates concerning the rightful succession of monarchs based on primogeniture, and – be it in a grotesque, even parodic way – the Calvinistic belief that the Dutch stadtholders were God’s providential instruments, assigned to guide His chosen people. Moreover, I show that the play offers a confrontation between two conflicting conceptions of power. The play’s eponymous protagonist holds what I call an intellectual (idealistic) conception of power, in which man’s rational faculty, including his capacity for rational deception, is all-decisive. This vision, though, clashes with the more physical (materialistic) conceptualization of power which Torquatus’s antagonist Noron upholds. I’m pretty proud about this publication, since it is my first A1 article and the manuscript was accepted by the reviewers without further remarks. The review process took about five months, but I was astonished by the speed with which the actual production took place. Within a couple of days, the article was available online. Soon it will be allocated to a specific issue in print.

In the picture: “Enhancing the Research on Sophistry in the Renaissance” by Teodoro Katinis

GEMS researchers are frequently publishing new articles, books, book chapters, edited volumes and blogs. In ‘in the picture’ we put a spotlight on a recent publication of one of our members.

Teodoro Katinis, “Enhancing the Research on Sophistry in the Renaissance” in T. Katinis (ed.), The Sophistic Renaissance: Authors, Texts, Interpretations, in Philosophical Readings XI.2 (2019), special issue, 58-62.

“My contribution introduces the first collection of essays ever published on the legacy of ancient sophists in the Latin and vernacular Renaissance, and considers possible research developments in the field over the next years. This collection is the final result of a conference held at Ca’ Foscari University (Venice 2016) that I organized at the end of my Marie Curie fellowship to gather international experts to discuss a very understudied subject: the rebirth of sophistry in early modern Europe. This Philosophical Readings special issue, which is an open-access online publication, can interest scholars and students from several fields, including intellectual history, classical reception studies, neo-Latin and romance languages literature, and history of philosophy, among others. I hope this work  will encourage young researches and colleagues to further the investigation of the fascinating way in which the ‘villains’ of the ancient culture (according to Plato and Aristotle) became a subject of debate and fundamental reference from 15th to 17th-century to discuss skepticism, relativism and the power of rhetoric.” 

Research Day – GEMS

Date: Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Location: Simon Stevin Room (morning) and Jozef Plateau Room (afternoon). Jozef-Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent

On 29 May, GEMS will organize its second Research Day. During that day, we will discuss together some topical questions concerning European research agendas, applications and international cooperation between research groups, wit special attention for European projects and networks in the field of early modern studies. Anyone who is interested in these issues is invited to take part in the morning and/or afternoon program of this research day, with a presentation by Bram Van Oostveldt about his ERC-project application in the morning and three sessions in the afternoon, two about ERC applications and projects and one about international research collaborations and networks.

PLEASE REGISTER for this research day by conforming your attendance to: . Please indicate in your message if you would like to take part in the morning program, the afternoon program, or both, and if you would like to join us for lunch.


Continue reading