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Past Conferences


(Re)Building Networks is an interdisciplinary dialogue on the nature, interest, and potential of networks both as a practice and as an analytical concept. Networks are widely recognized as modes of professional collaboration as well as objets of scientific inquiry. This two-day symposium brought together scholars in a wide range of fields to exchange research on medieval and early modern networks within and across disciplines, social classes, and national boundaries. We also examined the various methods by which contemporary researchers identify and analyze networks.  

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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.




Transformative Literacies: A Medieval and Early Modern Symposium (April 2013)




Where do we go to get what we want? Mandeville to the kingdom of Prester John, the Littlewits to Bartholomew Fair, Antony to Alexandria, Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold: the fulfillment of desire, or the negation of an interior lack, is frequently a plotted movement from here to there. “Geographies of Desire” seeks papers that explore how desires are mapped across spatial planes; how do spaces such as markets, shrines, bedrooms, and courts produce material, spiritual, erotic, and political desires?
Geography is produced by an invested interest in the world, such that the mapping out of one’s desires is a precondition for mapping out the world. The desire for geographies both literal and figurative results from having outgrown local, national, imperial, and earthbound spaces. And yet, satisfaction often eludes us: the geography of desire pursues a sense of completion but risks corruption in the process.
Geography assimilates space and erases conceptual difference between separate worlds within the confines of a controllable physical representation. But even as the fog lifts from the exterior world, a strange desire keeps pulling us toward things monstrous and divine. How, then, does the geography of desire upset or reinforce the economic, political, erotic, and cosmological centers of our universes? How do literature, the visual arts, travel narratives, histories, religious writings, natural philosophy, and theater imagine these geographies? How and why do we imagine ourselves into the personal, cultural, ecological, and political spaces of others?
This two-day interdisciplinary conference fostered insightful and vigorous conversation on this topic through an innovative format that included graduate paper panels, roundtables, and plenary sessions with local scholars.




This conference explored how conceptions of the blood—one of the four bodily fluids known as humors in the early modern period—permeate discourses of human difference from 1500 to 1900. “Bloodwork” began with the assumption that the concept of “race” is still under construction and that our understanding of the term would profit through an engagement with its long, evolving, history. Specifically, it asked how fluid transactions of the body have been used in different eras and different cultures to justify existing social arrangements.