Seminar (Atelier) May 17th – Jetze Touber and Tim Vergeer

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017, 1-3 PM. Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy, Magnel-wing, Room “Freddy Mortier”

Jetze Touber – Body stones in early modern culture

In this presentation I will discuss my research project on the early modern perception of stones growing inside the human body: the kidneys, bladder and gall bladder. The project investigates how such body stones were marked as divine or natural, organic or inorganic, meaningful or senseless objects between the late sixteenth and the early eighteenth centuries, a period of profound changes both in medicine, natural philosophy, and religion.

Tim Vergeer – Passion without restraint: Emotions in Hispano-Dutch theatre in the seventeenth century

In the seventeenth century, Spanish imported theatre was especially popular. The question is why? Unlike plays by the established playwrights Vondel, Hooft and Bredero, the Spanish repertoire was interspersed with turbulent emotions, or so-called ‘woelingen’. Spanish plays meant a refuge from an emotional repressive regime: the neo-stoic philosophy of Justus Lipsius and his students.


GEMS-members do not need to register for this meeting. Colleagues with an interest in the early modern period who are not a member of GEMS can join us too (after a short notice to:, because of the limited space in the reserved rooms).

Seminar (Atelier) April 19th – Youri Desplenter and Thomas Van der Goten

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, 2-4 PM. Faculty Library Arts & Philosophy, Magnel-wing, Room “Freddy Mortier”

Youri Desplenter – Dutch Bible Translations in the Manuscript Era: Provenance and Structures of Dissemination

From the Middle Dutch manuscripts with bible translations, we learn that these texts were not just translated ‘somewhere’, and then distributed and copied. Almost every single time such a translation was ‘copied’, it was revised, often to such an extent that it becomes unclear if we have to consider the new ‘copy’ as a textual witness of the old version, or as a new translation. To understand this way of handing down Middle Dutch bible translations, we need to have insight into the dynamics which influenced these texts. In this presentation, I will try to establish which were the centers where biblical texts were translated, when these were active, and who in other words determined who used which translation. As these centers have been coming to the surface only recently, the overall patterns – unlike those of printed bible translations – have not been clear until now.

 Thomas Van der Goten – A Revisionist, Genre-Theoretical and Historical Study of the British Ode in the Long Eighteenth Century, 1680-1830

In his presentation, Thomas will explore some of the outcomes of his current research project, which aims to produce a revisionist, genre-theoretical study of the British ode in the eighteenth century. Promoting an inclusive, quantitative as well as qualitative examination of canonical and non-canonical odes, the project seeks to offer a nuanced account of the range and variety of the genre, its engagement with literary tradition, and its place in the proliferating market for printed poetry.


GEMS-members do not need to register for this meeting. Colleagues with an interest in the early modern period who are not a member of GEMS can join us too (after a short notice to:, because of the limited space in the reserved rooms).

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 (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.