Livelier Than Life: the Life of Art in Early Modern Europe

Event Date: 
06 Sep 2018 to 07 Sep 2018
Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Keynote speakers: Neil Kenny and Caroline van Eck
‘Artificial strife / Lives in these touches livelier than life’: so the Poet assures the Painter in the first scene of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. His remark prompts some difficult questions. What sort of life does an artwork have, and how might it be livelier than life? How lively is life? Is the strife between art and life a playful piece of artifice, or a matter of life and death? And why are these questions so difficult to answer, hampered from the start by a concept as indispensable but theoretically recalcitrant as life?
We are inviting papers for a two-day conference to consider life, art, and the fraught relations between the two in early modern Europe. Papers might address particular artworks and artists, as well as thinking more broadly about the various theories of life in the period. An interdisciplinary approach seems not just desirable but indispensable for this elusive subject, and we would accordingly welcome papers from researchers working in modern languages, classics, history of art, philosophy, and theology, as well as literary criticism. Areas addressed may include, but are not limited to:
  • Early modern poetics and rhetoric;
  • Reception of classical texts and artworks;
  • Notions of spirit, ingenuity, or animation in the artwork;
  • Theories of the aesthetic;
  • Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, literature; and/or the relations between them;
  • Philosophies of life;
  • Ideas of durability, transience, poetic mortality and immortality;
  • Accounts of the lives and afterlives of writers, artists and artworks.
Over the course of two days, we aim to hold six panels of three speakers each, with keynote speeches by Neil Kenny (All Souls College, Oxford) and Caroline van Eck (King’s College, Cambridge). There will be time for wider reflection on each day’s proceedings, as well as a drinks reception, and subsidized conference dinner for delegates. Accommodation is available to rent in Trinity Hall.
Organizers: Sean Geddes (Cambridge), Tessa Peres (Cambridge), and Ted Tregear (Cambridge).
Please send abstracts of up to 350 words with full-length CVs, as well as any inquiries, to by Friday 6th July 2018.
Submission date for papers: 
06 Jul 2018