The power of imagination in the early modern period

full name / name of organization: 
Koen Vermeir (ISCC, CNRS, Paris)

The power of imagination in the early modern period

Paris, 6-8 December 2010

This conference will explore the history of both orthodox and heterodox traditions concerning the power of the imagination during the 16th-18th centuries. Against the traditional idea of a limited and passive imagination, certain authors proposed a powerful, active and creative imagination. Contrary to the Aristotelian paradigm, for instance, philosophers argued that the imagination not only rearranged images but could create them as well. Mathematicians likewise believed that the imagination was not just tautological, but able to generate new knowledge. According to some physicians, the imagination also had a psychosomatic force, causing illnesses such as melancholy or lycanthropy, and some even believed that this power created the stigmata of saints. At the time, it was broadly accepted that the imagination of a pregnant woman imprinted and changed the foetus in her womb, but some authors speculated further that the imagination could act also on external bodies. The ideas about a powerful imagination were very complex and rich but also highly contested in the early modern period, and these notions circulated widely between disciplines of philosophy, literature, the arts, mathematics, medicine, the sciences, and popular traditions, divination, witchcraft, demonology as well as religion. In order to better understand the different traditions of the imagination in the 16-18th centuries, it is necessary to bring together scholars from different areas to establish an interdisciplinary exchange, which is the explicit aim of the present conference.

Conference languages will be English and French

Submission deadline: 27 September 2010
Please include ABSTRACT (max 250 words) and CV

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