Fifteen Years After the Discovery of a ‘New Traherne’: Future Directions for Traherne Studies, December 14-15, 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Selwyn College, University of Cambridge
contact email: 
ceg47@cam.ac.uk

Thomas Traherne (c.1637-1674) was a polymath with a distinctive theological vision. He wrote extensively, but remains a relatively obscure figure in seventeenth-century studies. Traditionally misunderstood as a figure somewhat out of his time, he is frequently considered within the contexts of medieval mysticism or post-Enlightenment Romanticism, when in fact he was strongly engaged with the thought of his age. Traherne read, noted and wrote upon a great variety of subjects – philosophical, theological, literary and scientific – perhaps remarkably considering his geographical circumstances and the relative privacy of his life. His works are grounded in many influences and reveal a great openness as to what writings, ancient and modern, could offer inspiration and guidance. This is a writer that believed, rather emphatically, that it would be possible both to discover and to communicate to others the intrinsic nature of “ALL THINGS”.

The aim of this symposium is to address the interdisciplinarity of Traherne’s work, with the hope of encouraging future interdisciplinary collaboration in Traherne studies. We are particularly interested in bringing together the endeavours of literary criticism – which cover an early and persistent association between Traherne and the metaphysical poets, the historicising of Traherne and a more recent interest in the manuscript evidence – with the fields of theology and philosophy, in which Traherne has been considered as a Christian mystic, an Anglican founding-father, a spiritual brother to the Cambridge Platonists, or a unique theological thinker with relevance to broader discussions on the practice of theology.

This will be the first academic symposium on Traherne since the discovery of the new manuscripts in 1996/7. The works of the Lambeth Palace MS (Inducements to Retiredness, A Sober View of Dr Twisse, Seeds of Eternity and The Kingdom of God) and the unfinished biblical epic, The Ceremonial Law, have opened up previously unknown aspects of Traherne’s thought and shone new light on the more well-known poems, Centuries, Thanksgivings and Select Meditations. We especially welcome papers that focus on the content of the Lambeth MS and The Ceremonial Law, and work that considers ways of responding to the overall question of the symposium: what is the way forward for Traherne studies?

Possible topics for papers might include, but are not limited, to:

Identifying Thomas Traherne:
Thomas Traherne as Poet, Theologian, Mystic, Heretic, Career Cleric, Platonist, Aristotelian, Anglican... How do we situate Traherne in his time? Is it still appropriate to associate him with the Romantics, or the metaphysical poets? How do we arbitrate between competing pictures of Traherne?

Influences on Traherne:
The Cambridge Platonists, the Royal Society, Thomas Hobbes, Francis Bacon, the church fathers

Material Texts:
The formation and editing of the manuscripts

Interdisciplinary approaches to Traherne:
Traherne as poetic-theologian / theological-poet

New approaches to Traherne:
Traherne and music, Traherne and art, Traherne and poetry, Traherne and ecology

We invite proposals for 20-25 minute papers – please send an abstract of 300 words, along with a short biographical statement, to Cassie Gorman (ceg47@cam.ac.uk) and Beth Dodd (esd26@cam.ac.uk). The deadline for abstracts is August 17th, 2012. We will inform applicants about acceptance by the end of August.

cfp categories: 
cultural_studies_and_historical_approaches
ecocriticism_and_environmental_studies
interdisciplinary
international_conferences
poetry
religion
renaissance