CFP: Imaginary Cities: Fictions of Urban Space in the Early Modern World (no deadline; 9/05-12/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Daniel Purdy
contact email: 

Imaginary Cities: Fictions of Urban Space in the Early Modern World

Cities have long held an imaginary significance=20
distinct from their material, every day=20
existence. In the early modern period, writers,=20
philosophers and visual artists evoked visions of=20
mythic and ideal metropolises, distant in time or=20
place, to comment upon the political and social=20
organization of their contemporary urban=20
environments. Fanciful descriptions of utopian=20
cities, often situated on the edge of the known=20
world, served as vehicles to critique the=20
corruption and squalor of sixteenth-century=20
towns. Tales of mythic cities spoke to the=20
fascination with powerful rulers, vast building=20
projects, and monumental power. Thomas More's=20
Utopia, Pieter Bruegel's Tower of Babel, and Jan=20
Mostaert's West Indies Landscape are just a few=20
examples of many depictions of the urban=20
fantastic in late medieval through Baroque times.=20
The Committee for Early Modern Studies (CEMS) at=20
the Pennsylvania State University is pleased to=20
announce a two-year research project to=20
investigate the utopian (and dystopian) city=20
within the human imagination, ca. 1400-1800.

Our project encompasses a series of lectures and=20
workshops between September 2005 and December=20
2006 to establish our topic's conceptual and=20
historical framework. These presentations lead=20
up to a three day symposium of selected=20
international scholars in April, 12-15, 2007, to=20
be followed by publication of the project's=20
papers. The Pennsylvania State University is=20
especially suited to such study because its=20
library is the site of the Arthur O. Lewis=20
collection of utopian literature, the finest of=20
its kind in the United States. Our hope is that=20
our lecture series and symposium will encourage=20
scholars to investigate the resources available=20
in the Lewis collection.

"Imaginary Cities" will concentrate on the=20
utopian or mythic metropolis as an idealized=20
representation of urban space. It will focus on=20
the cultural geography of the fantastic city in=20
the early modern period, exploring how writers=20
and artists of the time imagined that great=20
capitals were or should be. The Latin of Thomas=20
More's founding work established the=20
international tradition of utopian literature,=20
and we encourage papers that investigate the=20
global reach of the urban imaginary. Topics=20
might include the "City of Brass" described in=20
the Arabian Nights, the representation of Nimrod=20
in painting and literature, and the complex and=20
fundamental relationship between utopian thought=20
and colonial fantasies. Exhibitions of prints=20
and rare books in the Palmer Museum of Art and=20
the Paterno Library will accompany this project's=20
symposium, while scholarly workshops will allow=20
for consideration of how fantastic cities of the=20
early modern period continue to spark the=20
imagination of post-modern writers in confronting=20
the polyglot, multicultural m=E9lange of today's=20
urban areas.

To propose a paper, please send a 500 word=20
abstract and c.v. to Daniel Purdy, Associate=20
Professor of German ( or Charlotte=20
Houghton, Associate Professor of Art History=20
( for further information.

--Daniel PurdyAssociate Professor &Director of Graduate Studies,Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and LiteraturesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park, Pennsylvania 16802302A Burrowes814 865 1353 ========================================================== From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List Full Information at or write Jennifer Higginbotham: ==========================================================Received on Sun Sep 18 2005 - 12:30:50 EDT