Ephemerality and Durability in Early-Modern Visual and Material Culture

Event Date: 
24 May 2013 to 25 May 2013

Colloquia at CRASSH, University of Cambridge (24-25 May 2013) and the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, Huntington Library, San Marino, California (27-28 September 2013).

24-25 May 2013 at CRASSH/ Trinity Hall 
with public keynote lecture on 'Ephemeral Matter' by Professor Peter Stallybrass (UPenn) 5.30pm Friday 24 May 2013

Studies in the visual and material culture of the early modern world have recently focused on the concrete materiality or ‘thingness’ of things. But why is it that certain early modern things endured while others did not? Was it because of the intrinsic properties of their materials or other reasons: use and abuse, cultural or religious value, chance or neglect? How should we study those artefacts that have not survived, or which have endured in an imperfect state: the broken, incomplete, cast off and lost things of the early modern world? 

This pair of colloquia will examine the fragility and robustness of early modern objects, exploring not only the matter of their material, but also the transitory or forgotten ways in which they were experienced and used. Reflecting on the sensory and temporal dimensions of artefacts, we will consider the effects upon them of memory, habit, and custom, exploring themes such as impermanence, decay, repair, and recycling. While seeking to recapture the early modern contexts that determined ephemerality and durability, we will ponder also the unspoken gaps in museums, libraries and archives, and how these themes shape current scholarship.

The colloquia will be an opportunity for graduate students and early career researchers to present work-in-progress and to discuss their research with established local and international scholars. Confirmed participants in the Cambridge colloquium include: Professors Peter Stallybrass (UPenn), Christine Göttler (Bern) & Jacob Soll (USC), Drs Niall Atkinson (Chicago), Marta Ajmar (V&A) & Jessica Keating (USC). 

Full details and online registration for the conference. Please note that registration is not required for the public keynote by Professor Stallybrass. 

The colloquia have been organised under the aegis of the CRASSH-EMSI collaborative programme Seeing Things: Early Modern Visual and Material Culture directed by Dr Alexander Marr (History of Art, Cambridge). Seeing Things is generously supported by CRASSH, EMSI, the Dean Joan Schaeffer Fund of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, the Huntington Library, and a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant.