GEMS Seminar: MA students inspired by…

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018 (1.30-6 PM): Inspired by, with presentations by master students

Faculty of Library Arts & Philosophy, Blandijn building, Grote Vergaderzaal Engels

In April we will have a special session of our GEMS Seminar Inspired by… with Master students, who will present the first outcomes of their master thesis, reflecting also on those thinkers by whom they are inspired.


13:30: Kobe Gordts inspired by… Sarah Schechner

14:30: Lies Verbaere inspired by… Piero Floriani

15:30 Break

16:00: Jorn Hubo inspired by… Northrop Frye

17:00: Tom Laureys inspired by… Alan Sinfield

18:00: Reception


Kobe Gordts – Inspired by Sarah Schechner

Historical research on cometary science has received modest attention in the past twenty years, due to the excellent case studies it provides for research in the history of science and religion. One of the people who launched comets as objects of historical research is Sarah Schechner. She showed us how early modern scientists like Isaac Newton and Edmond Haley did not deny the divine character of these celestial objects, but in fact incorporated them in their own cosmological theories. Inspired by her work I will present my findings concerning the comet of 1652 as it has been described and interpreted by Arise Evans, William Lilly and Richard Fitzsmith. I put forward the thesis that comets can be perceived as a ‘liminal object’, flexible enough to mean different things within the same text but robust enough so it remains essentially the same object representing those different identities.


Lies Verbaere inspired by… Piero Floriani

This thesis discusses Torquato Tasso’s use of historiography in his epic poem the Gerusalemme liberata (1581), which describes the Christian army’s conquest of Jerusalem during the First Crusade (1095-1099). The army, under the guidance of Godfrey of Bouillon (1060-1100), is aided by Heaven and opposed by Saracens and demons.

Through a thorough reading of William of Tyre’s Historia Ierosolimitana (1184), Tasso’s principal source of the First Crusade, and the Liberata itself, my dissertation tries to ascertain whether something new can be said about Tasso’s modus operandi or whether new interpretations of his poem are possible. Instead of considering ‘random’ episodes that demonstrate William’s chronicle’s influence, the thesis tackles three themes: Christian and Muslim leadership, Pagan magic and Christian meraviglioso (marvellous), and conflict management.

My work attempts to find some motives of Tasso’s modus operandi through a coherent thematic narrative and through the examination of Tasso’s concrete choices. The finding of these motives is not only achieved by considering where Tasso follows William’s chronicle, but also by discerning his originality. In considering this originality, my thesis was inspired by Piero Floriani’s article, “Per una Gerusalemme commentata. Esercizio su cinque (sei…) ottave del poema tassiano” (2003). Both Tasso’s rewriting history and his originality constitute, after all, his poetical working method.

Jorn Hubo – Inspired by Northrop Frye

“Þe best boke of romaunce”, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight’s nuanced image of chivalry has made it a favourite for critical study. Yet, the poem is not only nuanced, it is also highly ambiguous. If read as a ‘classical romance’ in the tradition of Chrétien de Troyes and his disciples, the text presents us with many problematic elements; we encounter many ambiguities in form and content which in their turn lead to ambiguities in interpretation. Since simply stating SGGK is a romance appears to create a host of problems, it is the object of this study to problematize just exactly what sort of text the poem is. This generic exercise is especially relevant to SGGK since its author himself seems highly aware of the qualities and expectations certain kinds of texts, such as romances, bring with them and he appears to use these expectations as strategies to construct an intelligent text that engages with its audience.

This approach places my research squarely in the field of genre studies, a field which was not created but severely influenced by Canadian critic Northrop Frye. With Anatomy of Criticism (1957), he was the first to construct a nuanced system for engaging with the concept of literary genre. While by today’s standard, Frye would be – and has been – criticised for being too prescriptive, his thoughts on genre still influence and inspire many researchers, amongst which myself. Therefore, I will try to shed light on what exactly it is that makes Frye’s approach to genre so seminal.

Tom Laureys – Inspired by Alan Sinfield

In the first part of my presentation, I will shed some light on the scholarly importance of Alan Sinfield, a British literary critic who is listed as one of the standard-bearers of Cultural Materialism, a critical practice which is closely related to New Historicism. In the second part of my presentation I will focus on the research I am doing in my MA thesis, for which Sinfield’s book Faultlines (1992) serves as a huge source of inspiration. In the Anglo-Saxon world, New Historicism and Cultural Materialism have lost most of their newness and have become what Raymond Williams would call ‘residual’. In Dutch Renaissance studies however, these reading practices still do not seem to find entrance or even acceptance. The critical practice which still prevails in Dutch literary criticism is what Greenblatt would define as ‘Old Historicism’. In 2011, professor Pieters wrote an inspiring book in which he investigates which methodological assumptions have to change in order to be able to talk of a ‘Dutch New Historicism’. My research is in line with that of Pieters, since it is my aim to take the first tentative steps towards a concrete elaboration of a ‘Dutch Cultural Materialism’. To that purpose, I take the genre of the early modern Dutch revenge tragedy as my research object.


GEMS Seminar: Alexander Roose inspired by… Natalie Zemon Davis

Wednesday March 15th, 2017, 14-16h. Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, J. Plateaustraat 22. Meeting room ‘Simon Stevin’.

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

For this seminar we will read some chapters from The Return of Martin Guerre (if you would like to receive scans of the book, please contact Kornee).

Natalie Zemon Davis is a major Renaissance scholar and her book Return of Martin Guerre is an extraordinary reconstruction of an imposture in a sixteenth-century French village. Her essay epitomizes the micro-historical approach, but is also an analysis of the social conditions that produced this a bizarre affair.


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. There are categories of these meetings (see schedule on First there are the Ateliers during which GEMS-members or guests present their research projects, recent publications or ideas for future projects. Who is 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 ( 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. The work of at least three important thinkers will be at the fore in the following sessions of Inspired by…: Michel de Certeau (by Prof. Steven Vanden Broecke on December 14th, 2016), Natalie Zemon Davis (by Prof. Alexander Roose on March 15th, 2017) and Alan Sinfield (by Prof. Kornee van der Haven on June 7th, 2017).

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.