GEMS in portraits: Astrid Van Assche


Portrait of Julie d’Angennes by Claude Deruet, 1630

To kick off a whole new year of GEMS in portraits we sat down with Astrid Van Assche, doctoral researcher at the department of French Literature. Astrid’s PhD focusses on the early seventeenth-century salon culture and studies the gallant letters circulating in the Parisian Hôtel de Rambouillet. This subject is a continuation of research she conducted in her bachelor’s and master’s dissertations. After graduating in 2013 as a Master of Linguistics and Literature (French-Dutch), Astrid continued studying at Ghent University to obtain her teacher training degree. In 2014 her PhD proposal was accredited with a BOF scholarship.

Continue reading

Seminar (Atelier) February 15th – Teodoro Katinis and Michiel Van Dam

Wednesday February 15th, 2017. 14-16h. Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy, Magnel-wing, Room ‘Freddy Mortier’.

Registration is not required for GEMS-members. Non-members who wish to attend can sign-up with Kornee van der Haven.

Michiel Van Dam – Governing through history: Foucault, political reason and historical knowledge

During the eighteenth century, speaking about the past of the polity was often inevitably political, as the political culture of the late ancien régime had as its premise the unaltered preservation and continuity of its ancient institutions throughout history. To interpret the past – for example, by distributing agency, authority and legitimacy across a set of historical actors –, was to interpret the present itself. As such, historians studying the politics of the early modern past have usually focused on reconstructing the ideological claims made by the intellectual combatants, which were hidden beneath the façade of the truthful historical narrative. What I wish to discuss in this presentation, is the possibility of approaching the political history of eighteenth-century historiography in a different manner, one where the focus is not so much put on the past’s function in the formation of political identity or authority-claims. More specifically, I want to ask the question whether we can approach historical discourse through the framework of governmentality. In his lectures at the Collège de France at the end of the 1970’s, Michel Foucault (1926-1984) introduced the concept of ‘governmentality’, where he redirected his attention towards historical practices of “conducting conduct”. Starting from the early modern ‘art of government’ as a representative of a third mechanism of power (alongside sovereignty and discipline), Foucault was able to put in focus an original field of study, embodied by the intricate relation between the rise of the early modern state, increasingly secularized concerns with popular social conduct, and the political rationality which shaped the state’s response to such conduct. Not much scholarly attention has been given to the question of which forms of knowledge – apart from those discussed by Foucault himself, such as the political-economic theories of the French physiocrates – lent itself to eighteenth-century governmental analyses of conduct. It is my intention to investigate the role played by the past in such governmental discourses. By discussing a number of sources which originated in the Austrian Netherlands (1715-1794), I hope to show the fruitfulness of this concept for the study of the early modern politics of the past.

Teodoro Katinis – The Italian Medical Literature in Early Modern Europe (c.1500-c.1700): Authors, Texts, Public

This project’s main aim is to accomplish the first comprehensive analysis of the most widespread Italian medical works published and translated from 16th to 17th century. Any genre of medical literature may play a role in this project whose overall objective is twofold: 1) to provide an analysis of the rhetorical strategies and language that convey the contents of the most popular Italian works; 2) to examine how these works addressed the needs of a very broad public of any social class, gender, and age, anticipating the modern approach to the communication of scientific knowledge. Although the plague was the most urgent concern in the early modern age, the texts on plague were not the only ones to change in language, method, and content. Furthermore, several physicians also wrote works to improve the vernacular as a language for scientific knowledge. In the 16th and 17th century the most original Italian authors published their works in Venice from where the they spread through Europe thanks to the translation in English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Latin. Indeed, this project has also the ambition to recover the legacy of these works abroad.

Seminar (Inspired by…) December 14th – Steven Vanden Broecke inspired by… Michel de Certeau

Wednesday December 14th, 2016. 14-16h. Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy, Magnel-wing, Room ‘Freddy Mortier’.

Registration is not required for GEMS-members. Non-members who wish to attend can sign-up with Kornee van der Haven.

To be situated amongst the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, Michel de Certeau started developing his cultural-historical philosophy out of a profound interest for historiography. Himself a historian, he never lost sight of the existential ambivalence of his profession. Reality as it ‘really happened’ is forever out of sight for Certeau, and is only accessible by means of interpretation. Even if the latter “carries more falseness than truth.” Interpretation, narrative, discourse – writing about history is making history. It is a fundamentally political act. The raw reality of the experience past or present, is illegible without a pre-existing frame of interpretation, submission is a prerequisite for knowledge. Like Foucault’s, Certeau’s philosophy revolves around the axiom that discourse is antecedent to individual perception.

During this GEMS seminar Certeau’s erudite and sometimes densely written essays will be elucidated by Steven Vanden Broecke. Steven will trace his fascination for the French Jesuit philosopher, whose work is as relevant today as when it was written. For historians and social scientists in general and for early modernists in particular, considering the substantial share of writings on the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Christian mystics.

GEMS in portraits: Stijn Bussels

schrieck Our next interviewee is Stijn Bussels. After obtaining his MA in theatre studies at Ghent University, Stijn wrote a PhD that he reworked and published as The Antwerp Entry of Prince Philip in 1549. Rhetoric, Performance and Power (Rodolpi, 2012). His postdoctoral research resulted in The Animated Image. Roman Theory on Naturalism, Vividness and Divine Power (Akademie Verlag/LUP, 2012). Stijn is currently affiliated to the University of Leiden as an assistant professor, and is also leading the ERC project Elevated Minds. The sublime in the public arts in seventeenth-century Paris and Amsterdam. He has published widely on theatre and spectacle in the early modern Netherlands.

Continue reading

Seminar (Atelier) November 16th – Frederik Buylaert and Anne Laure Van Bruaene

Wednesday November 16th, 2016. Faculty Library Arts & Philosohpy, Magnel-wing, Room “Freddy Mortier”

Non-members who wish to attend can sign-up with Kornee van der Haven: GEMS-members don’t have to register.

Frederik Buylaert: Lordship and the Rise of States in Western Europe, 1300-1600

This project pursues a new interpretation of state formation in Western Europe between 1300 and 1600. This period is considered as the key phase in the genesis of the modern state, as various polities now centralized fiscal and military resources under their command. While there is debate whether this was primarily a top-down process carried by princes, or a bottom-up process carried by popular representation, scholars agree that state building was exclusively a process of centralization. This assumption must be questioned, as recent studies have raised awkward questions that cannot be answered by the current paradigm. The research hypothesis is that the emerging states of Western Europe could only acquire sufficient support among established elites if they also decentralized much of their legal authority through a process in which princes created a growing number of privately owned seigneuries as “states-within-states” for the benefit of elites who in return contributed to state building. This project will study the interplay between states and seigneurial elites in five regions – Flanders, Guelders, Normandy, Languedoc and Warwickshire – to test whether fiscal and military centralization was facilitated by a progressively confederal organization of government. Together, the case studies cover four key variables that shaped the relations between princes and power elites in different combinations all over Europe. It concerns different trajectories in 1) state formation, 2) urbanization, 3) the socio-economic organization of rural society and 4) ideological dissent. As a result, the comparisons between the case studies will yield an analytical framework to chart and to explain path-dependency. Inversely, this research project is also interested in exploring the social context of this process, through a focused study of what lordship meant to contemporaries. For this purpose, special attention is paid to literary sources in which lordship figures large in issues of self-representation.


Anne-Laure Van Bruaene: Golden Ages. City and Society in the Low Countries, 1100-1600

Between 1100 and 1600 the Low Countries were amongst the most urbanized regions of Europe. Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Tournai, Ghent and many other cities developed into vibrant economic and cultural centers. The urban “middling groups” played a central role: these small producers and shopkeepers, organized in craft guilds, turned the Low Countries into a unique region. The new synthesis “Golden Ages”, written by a number of Belgian specialists and based on more than 25 years of intensive research, analyzes the characteristics of this urban society from different perspectives: economy, social life, politics, civic religion, urban space, material culture and knowledge. The focus is not on one city but on the whole network of large cities and small towns.

Seminar (Atelier) October 12th – Samuel Mareel and Alexander Roose

Samuel Mareel and Alexander Roose will be the first speakers in Ateliers, a new initiative by GEMS in which members or guests present their research projects, recent publications or ideas for future projects.  The Ateliers take place on Wednesdays (check the schedule here) from 14-16h. Non-members who wish to attend can sign-up with Kornee van der Haven:

Samuel Mareel: Roep om rechtvaardigheid

Van 23 maart tot en met 24 juni 2018 organiseren Musea & Erfgoed Mechelen en het Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen de tentoonstelling Roep om rechtvaardigheid. Kunst en rechtspraak in de Bourgondische Nederlanden. Deze tentoonstelling onderzoekt de rol van kunst in het spreken van recht en het nadenken over recht en rechtvaardigheid tijdens de ‘lange’ Bourgondische periode (midden vijftiende tot midden zeventiende eeuw). In deze presentatie vertelt Samuel Mareel iets over de inhoudelijke en praktische uitwerking van de tentoonstelling, van de ontwikkeling van het concept en de keuze van de werken tot het organiseren van de bruiklenen, het opzetten van een scenografie en het maken van een catalogus.

Alexander Roose: Montaigne op de bühne, Montaigne in een nieuw boek.

Vorig jaar ging Montaigne in première. Koen De Sutter zette Montaigne op scène, in een tekst van Alexander Roose. Het stuk werd een succes: het werd bejubeld in De Standaard en De Morgen, het wordt in oktober hernomen in Leuven, Antwerpen, Eindhoven en straks in een Franse versie aan de KVS in Brussel. Hoe zet je een filosoof op scène en waarom voelt een literatuurwetenschapper überhaupt de noodzaak om dat te doen? Wat is verband tussen het stuk Montaigne en De Vrolijke Wetenschap. Zoeken, denken en leven met Michel de Montaigne, het boek dat op 5 oktober bij Polis verschijnt?

Location: Faculteitsbibliotheek, vleugel Magnel, vergaderruimte ‘Mortier’.

GEMS in portraits: Anne-Laure Van Bruaene

Picture 032

For this first interview of the academic year, we chose to leave for the History Department to talk with professor Anne-Laure van Bruaene. Anne-Laure obtained her PhD in History with a dissertation on the chambers of rhetoric and urban culture in the Southern Netherlands (1400-1650). She now teaches (and has widely published on) early modern and urban history at Ghent University. She is part of the Belgian-Dutch interuniversity network “City and Society in the Low Countries (ca. 1200 – ca. 1850)”, a project which is now reaching its final research phase. In 2006 she was the laureate of the William Nelson Prize (Renaissance Society of America) for the best article in Renaissance Quarterly. One day back from her sabbatical, Anne-Laure sits lively at her desk when we enter to level our questions.

Continue reading

Academic award for GEMS-member Sarah Adams

Title page Monzongo, of de koningklyke slaaf (Van Winter 1774). Slave Zambiza attacks commander Alvarado.

Title page Monzongo, of de koningklyke slaaf (Van Winter 1774). Slave Zambiza attacks commander Alvarado.

GEMS-member Sarah Adams is awarded the biennial prize of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (Society of Dutch Literature) for the best master thesis on Dutch literature. Sarah examined the power of antislavery theatre in the Dutch abolitionist discussion around 1800 (supervisor: Kornee van der Haven). With this master dissertation, she graduated in Historical Linguistics and Literature at Ghent University (2015). Sarah is preparing a PhD-proposal on antislavery theatre in the Netherlands in the period of 1775-1825.

For the official notice:


GEMS in portraits: Britt Dams

MapaRIograndeThe third person we want to portray is Britt Dams. In February 2016, Britt obtained her doctoral degree with a dissertation on the description of Dutch Brazil (1624-1654). Currently, she is teaching a course on the history of Brazil at the Catholic University of Leuven. And in Ghent, Britt is still working as a French and Portuguese language instructor at the University Language Centre of Ghent University. Britt is a passionate storyteller, who knows just how to convince people to go travelling throughout Latin America.


Continue reading