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.