Colloquium on the 'Legacy of the Will'

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Organised by The Early Modern Seminar in Scotland (EMSIS) in conjunction with the School of Humanities at Strathclyde University.
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Will's semantic slipperiness fascinated the Renaissance: in all manner of English and Scots texts of the period we find 'Will too boote, and Will in over-plus'. The structural conceit of the opening line of John Donne's poem, 'The Will' exemplifies a key thematic construct to be found in much early modern literature and a prevalent intellectual thread in the culture from which this literature emerges. Donne's poem - this willed enactment of the speaker's last will and testament to the world he will shortly leave behind in death - encapsulates the polyvocal qualities of the human 'will' and all that it signifies. The rich intellectual legacy of the European Renaissance that we, as critics and researchers, struggle to understand is constructed from the physical and literary legacies that writers such as Donne, Erasmus, Calvin, Elizabeth I, Marlowe, Middleton and others have bequeathed us. It is from these legacies of authorial 'will' that our very idea of what represents or constitutes the early modern period has been shaped.

This colloquium will explore the extraordinary malleability of the 'will' and its various semantic permutations in the context of such issues as subjectivity, power, logic, desire, freedom, volition, wit, wisdom, theology and metaphysics. One of its main purposes is to to investigate what power and significatory force the 'will' possesses, its limitations and the consequences of its lack of a stable or fixed location, viewed in the context of the aesthetic, political,theological and philosophical traditions that informed early modern literature.

We would welcome 20 minute papers on the early modern 'will' followed by 10 minutes for questions. Various facets of the 'will' that might be investigated are listed below, though this is not intended to exclude other perspectives on this topic.

Will as desire or volition: wilfulness, will as voluntas, will as membrum pundendum (male or female), possession of one's will, excessive willing, transgressive will.

Theological and philosophical wills: freedom of the will, the negation or undoing of the will, will as futurity, theological debates on the relationship between the 'will' and fate or predestination; volition and animality.

Literary and legal wills: the exercise or abdication of authorial will or intentionality, will as testament, framing legal wills, the interplay between'will' and 'wit'; w/Will as a proper name and authoritative mark.

You are invited to submit an abstract of not more than 250 words by 14th February, 2011, to You will be notified whether your paper has been accepted by 21st February.