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Fall 2014 Interdisciplinary Conference

Nature, according to  the critic Raymond Williams, is quite possibly “the most difficult word in the English language.” The genealogy of nature’s complexities—semantic, philological, epistemological, ontological—were the subject of this two-day conference that brought into dialogue historians of science, philosophy, art, and literature. How did early writers and artists and other thinkers know and encounter nature? What practices made nature legible? What ethics were thought to arise out of the environment? By what metaphors and strategies did pre-modern people represent the sensible world of matter? This event considered a wide variety of cultural productions in the medieval and early modern periods, seeking to have rethought the relation between fields of knowledge and to bridge the widening gap between the humanities and the sciences in our own universities.

Friday, October 24, 2014
Tawes Hall, University of Maryland, College Park

Second Floor Lobby

Breakfast and Registration


Ulrich Recital Hall

Welcome and Introductions


Ulrich Recital Hall

Man, Animal, and Nature
Moderator: Erica Fudge (University of Strathclyde)

Joanna Picciotto (UC, Berkeley)
"Godfrey Goodman and the Devotional Life of Animals"

Amelia Worsley (Amherst College)
"Milton and the Vegetarians"

Stephen Campbell (Johns Hopkins University)
"Titian's Animals"


Second Floor Lobby

Coffee Break


Ulrich Recital Hall

Material Natures
Moderator: Andrea Frisch (University of Maryland)

Jessica L. Wolfe (UNC, Chapel Hill)
"On the Assimilating Fancy"

Drew Daniel (Johns Hopkins University)
"On the Putrefaction of the Spirit"

Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington University)
"The Nature of Stone"


Second Floor Lobby



1:30pm-3:00pm (Concurrent Sessions)

Roundtable: Nature and the Nonhuman
Art-Sociology Building, Room 4213 (Michelle Smith Collabortory)

Moderator: Jeffrey Griswold (University of Maryland)

Danielle Allor (Rutgers University)
"'What Folwith After?': Living Purpose in Lydgate's The Horse, the Goose, and the Sheep"

Lynne Bruckner (Chatham University)
"Nature, Husbandry Manuals, and the Human Humus"

Monica Ehrlich (University of Virginia)
"Saint Gilles and His Doe/Mother: Feeling Animals and Proto-Environmentalism"

Sarah Sprouse (Texas Tech University)
"The Associative Branches of the Irish Barnacle: Gerald of Wales and the Natural World"

William Rhodes (University of Virginia)
"Working Knowledge: Agrarian Husbandry and the Labor of Reform"

Rob Wakeman (University of Maryland)
"What figure might I finde within my head’: Anatomizing Deer in Gascoigne’s Poetry and Hunting Treatises"

Roundtable: What is Nature/Natural?
Tawes Hall, Room 2115

Moderator: Maggie Ellen Ray (University of Maryland)

Lauren Albright (University of Maryland)
"The Ekphrastically Problematic Representation of Alan of Lille’s Lady Nature"

Casey Bieda (George Washington University)
"Let the ground keep’: The dark, the old, the wild, and ‘the Below’ in Beowulf"

Bernard D. Cooperman (University of Maryland)
"Conceiving, Displaying, and Regulating the Jewish body: Were Italian Jews ‘natural’ during the Renaissance?"

Anne Giller-Wilde (University of Maryland)
"The Suspended State of Nature in Diego de San Pedro’s Cárcel de amor: Between the locus amoenus and the locus horribilis"

Dorothea Heitsch (UNC, Chapel Hill)
"The Soulness Nature of Early Modern Women"


Second Floor Lobby

Coffee Break


Ulrich Recital Hall

States of Nature
Moderator: Amanda Bailey (University of Maryland)

David Carroll Simon (University of Chicago)
"Idylls of the Mind"

David Norbrook (University of Oxford)
"States of Nature: Atheism and Politics in the Seventeenth Century"


Second Floor Lobby



Second Floor Lobby

Maryland Palestrina Choir


First Floor Lobby

Conference Dinner



Saturday, October 25, 2014
Tawes Hall, University of Maryland, College Park


Second Floor Lobby



Room 1100

Seen and Unseen: The Cosmos and Image of Nature
Moderator: Anthony Colantuono (University of Maryland)

Francesco G. Sacco (Warbourg Institute, University of London)
"The Sylva and the Largo pelago: Images of Nature in the Experimental Philosophy"

Alexandra Challenger (Florida State University)
"Visualizing the Cosmos: The Authority of Images in Apian’s Cosmographicus Liber"

Michael Sappol (National Library of Medicine)
"On Visualizing the Unseen"


Second Floor Lobby

Coffee Break


10:45am-12:15pm (Concurrent Sessions)

Biopolitical Natures
Room 2115

Moderator: Rob Wakeman (University of Maryland)

Robert Stanton (Boston College)
"Natural Naming: Isidore of Seville’s Biopolitical Order"       

Vin Nardizzi (University of British Columbia)
"Donne's Adverbial Environs"

Joseph Campana (Rice University)
"The Steady Drone of Industry: Bees, Biopower, and Early Modern Cultures of Energy”


Decoding Nature's Body
Room 1105

Moderator: Jonathan P. Allen (University of Maryland)

Matthew Melvin-Koushki (University of South Carolina)
"World As (Arabic) Text: Decoding and Recoding the Cosmos in Early Modern Islamicate Lettrism" 

Andrew Schonebaum (University of Maryland)
"Medicine King and Monkey King: Vernacular Medicine in China ca. 1592"

Andrew Kettler (University of South Carolina)
“‘'Delightful a Fragrance’: Olfactory Aesthetics in Early America”


Second Floor Lobby



Room 1100

Siting Modernity/Remaking the Landscape
Moderator: Kellie Robertson (University of Maryland)

Kelly Cook (University of Maryland)
“Charles Estienne’s Praedium Rusticum and the Reforming Landscape"

Sarah Cantor (Dumbarton Oaks)
“Bringing Science into the Landscape: Gaspard Dughet and Claude Lorrain in the Roman Countryside

Claire Eager (University of Virginia)
“‘Make Me a Mandrake’: Invasive Species in Donne's Hortus Conclusus"

Ron Jelaco (McGill University)
“‘Earth Pushing Upwards, Sky Pushing Downwards’: Considering the Paris Observatory and Its Placement on Earth"


Second Floor Lobby

Coffee Break


Room 1100

Closing Dialogue: Nature and the Anthropocene
Moderator: Gerard Passannante (University of Maryland)

Alan Mikhail (Yale University)
"Early Modern Climate Change as Global History: An Example from Ottoman Iceland"

Closing Dialogue
with Michael Witmore (Folger Shakespeare Library)


Second Floor Lobby






Thank you to all who attended and made this such an extraordinary event!

The conference was organized by Chris Maffuccio, Gerard Passannante, and Kellie Robertson, with the help of Jonathan P. Allen, Jeffrey Griswold, Maggie Ellen Ray, and Rob Wakeman. Thanks to Karen Nelson for her advice and support.

We gratefully acknowledge our University of Maryland sponsors: the Graduate School, the College of Arts & Humanities Center for Synergy, the English Department's Center for Literary and Comparative Studies, the History Department's Miller Center for History Studies, the Graduate Student Government, the Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Studies, the Center for Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Council on the Environment, MITH, the Department of Philosophy, and the Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture.