82 episodes

Graduate Group - Things: Material Cultures of the Long 18th Century

Things Seminar Cambridge University

    • History

Graduate Group - Things: Material Cultures of the Long 18th Century

    Things - 13 June 2018 - Re-examining the Renaissance Object

    Things - 13 June 2018 - Re-examining the Renaissance Object

    Dr Jane Partner (Cambridge)
    Dr Irene Galandra Cooper (CRASSH, Cambridge)


    Dr Jane Partner
    Reading the Early Modern Body: The Case Study of Textual Jewellery

    This paper presents part of the initial research for the book Reading the Early Modern Body, which seeks to bring together the many ways – both concrete and abstract – in which the body was presented and interpreted as a text during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of the central concerns of this research is to examine the ways in which the body could be made into a material text through the actual bodily wearing of language, something that might be achieved through script tattoos, embroidered clothing, inscribed busks, girdle books and textual jewellery. My aim in bringing together these diverse practices is to place them within the broader context of the other less literal but even more widespread practices of interpreting the body that were also framed as acts of reading. Gestures, physiognomic features and transient expressions could all be treated as languages of the body, and interpreting them was a social skill that was particularly necessary in a courtly environment.
    My paper approaches some of these larger issues by taking the case study of textual jewellery, exploring the ways in which inscribed or letter-shaped jewels could act as markers of identity. The texts that they carry commonly commemorate gifts of love or patronage, advertise familial connections, or assert the piety of the wearer. Alongside examining some particular textual jewels and their depictions in contemporary portraiture, I will also consider literary references to this type of item – for example the motto that is ‘graven in diamonds’ around the neck of the deer in Thomas Wyatt’s poem ‘Whoso List to Hunt’. My discussion will suggest that the accomplishments of knowing how to present one’s own body so that is said the right things, and of how to accurately read the texts presented by other bodies, were crucial skills in the court environment, where corporeal reading operated within a complex, multi-layered network of symbolic reading and interpretation.

    Jane Partner is a Fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where she carries out research on a range of literary and art-historical topics, often concerning the intersection between the two fields. Her first book is Poetry and Vision in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2018). Arising from her current research for Reading the Early Modern Body, Jane is also planning another project about gems and jewellery in early modern literature. Both these enquiries relate to her own practice as a sculptor with a particular interest in the body and wearable art.

    Dr Irene Galandra Cooper
    Potent and Pious: Re-thinking Religious Materiality in Sixteenth-Century Kingdom of Naples

    Combing through the inventories of early modern Neapolitans, I have been repeatedly struck by the ubiquity of objects made in rock crystal, hyacinth stones, emeralds, as well as other precious and semi-precious stones. Shaped as beads and threaded as rosaries, or formed as pendants carved with Christian images, these objects were highly prized for their outward aesthetics, their iconographies, but also for their curative powers. In them, the distinction between 'religion', 'art', and 'science' is elided: were they treasured for their beauty, their Christian association, or their inner virtues? Combining archival and material sources, I will examine in what ways portable devotional objects were perceived to be so powerful to be able to cure someone's body and soul, and who, across the social spectrum, could afford to tap into their potency. I will also ask how could one recognise its ingenious nature and if particular senses were more useful than others to inform these experiences.

    Irene Galandra completed her doctorate as a member of the ERC-fun

    • 1 hr 6 min
    Things - 30 May 2018 - Objects of Knowledge

    Things - 30 May 2018 - Objects of Knowledge

    Professor Neil Kenny (University of Oxford)
    Edwin Rose ( University of Cambridge)


    Professor Neil Kenny
    The mineral-hunters: Martine de Bertereau and her husband Jean du Chastelet

    One kind of object dominated not just the life of Martine de Bertereau (1590–1643), but also her family’s past and so to an extent her social identity: minerals. Little wonder, then, that she married a fellow mineralogist, Jean du Chastelet. They spent their years and their resources prospecting throughout Europe, on a vast scale, before dying in Richelieu’s dungeons. What economic, social, epistemic, and also cultural and narrative frames did their object of choice impose upon them? And what does their singular pursuit of minerals tell us about the relation between knowledge, family, gender, and social hierarchy in early seventeenth-century France?

    Neil Kenny is Professor of French at the University of Oxford and Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. His publications include The Uses of Curiosity in Early Modern France and Germany (2004) and an earlier book on the word history of the ‘curiosity’ family of terms. His last monograph was Death and Tenses: Posthumous Presence in Early Modern France (2015). He is currently completing a book called Literary Families and Social Hierarchy in Early Modern France. The example he is discussing today grows out of that project, but is not included in it.

    Edwin Rose
    Collecting natural history in late eighteenth-century Britain

    The late eighteenth century witnessed a distinct rise in natural history collecting, both on a commercial and a scholarly level, alongside a growth in travel by naturalists, the main object of which was for them to acquire natural history specimens for their collections and record their observations of the natural world. One of the most prolific naturalist-travellers was Thomas Pennant (1726–98), whose collection remains intact and is primarily held by the Natural History Museum, London. In this paper, I give a general overview of Pennant’s collecting activities, examining his working practices in the field along with how he synthesised the information and objects he collected to compile his seminal work, British Zoology. This lavishly illustrated publication reached multiple editions from 1766 to 1812. Pennant’s collection was compiled from taxidermy, primarily birds and quadrupeds, from around the globe; shells, fossils, minerals, a small herbarium of dried plants, and a library which amounted to over 10,000 volumes, all of which he kept at his home at Downing Hall, Flintshire, North Wales. Pennant’s natural history collection was rigorously organised according to a variety of different systems of classification, such as that devised by John Ray (1627–1705) and that developed by Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) from the 1730s. The understanding of the connections between this large collection of physical objects, Pennant’s travels and his publications gives a direct insight into how these physical objects were used to create natural knowledge during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

    Edwin Rose is currently a PhD candidate in the department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. His interests are primarily concerned with the history of natural history, collecting and bibliography from the mid seventeenth to the mid nineteenth centuries, although the main concentration of his current research rests in the period between 1750 and 1830. Edwin has published widely on the history of natural history, in particular on the collections of Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753) and the British Museum, and his most recent article entitled ‘Specimens, slips and systems: Daniel Solander and the classification of nature at the world’s first public museum 1753–1768’ was published in the British Journ

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Things - 16 May 2018 - Colours and Texture

    Things - 16 May 2018 - Colours and Texture

    Professor Regina Lee Blaszczyk (University of Leeds)

    Professor Regina Lee Blaszczyk
    The Secret Life of a Colour Card

    Who decides the colours of the seasons, and why? This presentation explores the hidden history of colour prediction for the creative industries by exploring how a shade card is designed. It pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of the transatlantic fashion system through a case study of the world's pioneering colour forecasting organization, its leading lady Margaret Hayden Rorke, and her Paris colour scouts. The colour forecasting methods that Mrs. Rorke set up in 1920s New York are still used today.

    • 33 min
    Things - 2 May 2018 - Living Things

    Things - 2 May 2018 - Living Things

    Mervyn Millar (Independent Artist/Puppetry Director & Designer)
    Perception and Performing Things

    How is it possible that we can feel empathy for a thing? Since the beginning of civilisation, humans have been compelled and transfixed by performing objects and puppets. From our earliest play, to some of our most sophisticated entertainments, performing things draw on sculpture, movement, texture and context to stimulate emotional responses in an audience.
    Please "bring a thing" - any object from 1400-2000 that is big enough to hold in two hands and light enough to hold in one hand and is not too fragile to be handled enthusiastically.
    Theatre director and puppeteer Mervyn Millar was Artist in Residence at QMUL University in London in 2017, exploring the neurology and psychology of our responses to animated objects. His work in theatre has included War Horse, Circus 1903 and work at several leading theatre and opera companies in the UK and Europe. www.significantobject.com

    • 44 min
    Things - 7 February 2018 - Uncanny Objects

    Things - 7 February 2018 - Uncanny Objects

    Caroline van Eck (University of Cambridge)
    Emily Fitzell (Independent Artist, University of Cambridge)

    • 1 hr 11 min
    Things - 21 February 2018 - Hallucinogenic Smells

    Things - 21 February 2018 - Hallucinogenic Smells

    Cecilia Bembibre (University College London)
    Mark Jenner (University of York)

    • 1 hr 30 min

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