What is an Image in Medieval and Early Modern England? SAMEMES-5, Zurich, 9-11th September 2016

full name / name of organization: 
Antoinina Bevan Zlatar, Olga Timofeeva / University of Zurich
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What is an Image in Medieval and Early Modern England?

Swiss Association of Medieval and Early Modern English Studies

Fifth Biennial Conference

Zurich, 9-11th September 2016

Confirmed Plenary Speakers

Prof. Brian Cummings (University of York)
Prof. Andrew Morrall (Bard Graduate Center, New York)
Prof. Alexandra Walsham (University of Cambridge)
Prof. Nicolette Zeeman (University of Cambridge)

It has been argued that we live in a world saturated by visual images, that culture has undergone a 'pictorial turn'. This premise has prompted researchers in the humanities and social sciences to theorize the visual image, documenting its function and status relative to other media, tracing the history of its power and the attempts to disempower it. We might think of the work of David Freedberg (The Power of Images, 1989), Bruno Latour (Iconoclash, 2002), W.J.T. Mitchell (What do pictures want? 2004), or James Elkins (What is an image? 2011). This conference aims to extend this scholarship in two interrelated ways, firstly by focusing on the image in a particular period and location, namely in medieval and early modern England, and secondly by exploring the status of the visual image in relation to texts.

In the Latin West, it was in the late medieval and early modern periods that religious images would be subject to particular pressure, notably in the first half of the sixteenth century when reformers in Strasbourg, Zurich and Geneva would denounce them as idolatrous, and Catholics would reinstate them. But it was in England that the debate on images was particularly protracted, first expressed in Lollard resistance to depictions of the divine, and then in the iconomachy and full-blown iconoclasm of the Reformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As a consequence, the relationship between the so-called sister arts of pictura and poesis, image and word, would be problematized.

Yet, the story of the inexorable demise of the religious image in late medieval and early modern England and the concomitant 'iconophobia' of its people is being revised. Evidence suggests that there was a far more variegated iconic landscape in post-Reformation England and that the status of the religious image was inflected by its medium, location, and subject matter. Moreover, such images formed and were in turn formed by images produced in new secular media across a range of disciplines.
What, for example, did the new print culture do to the status of the visual image embedded in a text on a page? What happens to textual images–pictures made exclusively of words–when they are visualized through costumed actors in a church, or on a pageant-cart, or on the new commercial stage? How far did new tools for looking at the natural world–telescopes, microscopes–change theories of vision? Where in the hierarchy of the senses was sight now?

Call for papers and panels:

We invite 20-minute papers on topics including (but not limited to) the following:

image theory (Lollard; Protestant; Catholic; Renaissance; Laudian)

image practice (material artefacts; effect of function, medium, size, colour, location; subject matter)

images and idolatry

images and iconoclasm

mental images (art of memory; meditation; poetics)

textual images (metaphors; similes; enargia; ekphrasis; picture poems)

texts and images (emblems; images embedded in texts; illustrations; manuscript and print culture)

linguistic iconicity and images

image, voice, sign, and signification in the philosophy of language

words and images in performance (liturgical and secular medieval drama; staging plays in the new playhouses; history of gesture)

theories of vision (emission v. intro-mission; impact of New Science)

sight in the hierarchy of the senses

Deadline: 15th March 2016
Please send abstracts (c. 200-400 words) and a short bio (max. 100 words) to a.bevan.zlatar@es.uzh.ch

As with all previous SAMEMES conferences, a selection of the papers presented at the conference will be edited by the conference organizers and published as part of the series Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature (SPELL) in 2017.
Social programme

Friday 9th September, Zunfthaus zur Saffran

As a way of exploring what occurs when word images move from page to stage, and from medieval to post-Reformation England, the conference will stage a performance of the Fall episode from a Mystery play alongside Book IX of John Milton's Paradise Lost. This unique staging of the Fall will be directed by Elisabeth Dutton, Prof. of Medieval English Literature at the University of Fribourg and director of the Edox project (Early Drama at Oxford; edox.org.uk).

Sunday morning 11th September (optional):

Guided tour of medieval and early modern Zurich by Thomas Gamma.
Visit to medieval sculpture collection at the Landesmuseum Zürich.

On behalf of SAMEMES:

Dr Antoinina Bevan Zlatar, Swiss National Science Foundation Research Associate
Dr Olga Timofeeva, Assistant Professor for English Historical Linguistics
English Department
University of Zurich