The Words of Pupils in Early Modern Europe (15th - 17th century)

Event Date: 
04 Jul 2016 to 07 Jul 2016


Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR) Tours, 4-7 July 2016


Early Modern teaching is often studied through its contents, the transmission techniques associated with it, or its impact on such social factors as literacy or confessionalism. In this historiographical perspective, the teaching process, specifically that of primary schools, is virtually reduced to an interlude between its theoretical roots and its results. When it is considered in itself, usually implicitly, this is from the point of view either of the master or of the patrons of the teaching institution.


To redress this imbalance, the 59th Colloque international d’études humanistes in 2016 will be dedicated to teaching practices in Early Modern Europe, with a focus on the pupils and their vocal expression. This approach will coincide with historians’ recent interest in this particular aspect of human activity, which has been given prominence in many fields such as sound studies and performance practice studies. Lately, there has also been a growing acknowledgement of the vocal component of school teaching, specially in the domains of pedagogy and reading history. These approaches encourage the exploration of the acquisition of skills such as deciphering, reading and speech flow control, which were indispensable to integrate a society predisposed to aural information. Furthermore, to investigate the sonic dimension of school teaching implies leaving aside abstractions (“the child”, “the master”...) in order to underline its linguistic, cultural and social contingencies.


Presentations will deal with the words of pupils, considered as much in their early stages as in their educated forms, whether discrete, as in school routines, or staged (collège theatre), civilized or rebellious (heckling), declaimed or sung. The limits of study will be determined by the teaching structures themselves: those in primary and secondary education where the teaching combined speech articulation to reading competence and rhetoric, not including universities. Primary education in non-scholastic environments, such as private tutoring or home schooling, will also be studied.


The chronological span covered by this conference is a large one, from the proliferation of the collèges and the reinforcement of the network of parish schools, up to the educational reformism of the Enlightenment. The contributions should deal with phenomena either associated with specific moments or observable over long periods, with perennial or evolving effects. Submissions need not be restricted to the French field: the intention is to allow for comparison with other areas of Early Modern Europe, and for both the identification of specific local practices and the drawing of conclusions on a larger scale.


Suggested topics for papers (non exhaustive list)

  • Children’s voices recordings in the sources: typology, lexicology, speech restitution modes in written testimonies, critical approaches;
  • Pupils’ voices: mode of understanding and symbolic practices, influence on the definition of gender and age, theological and moral connotations;
  • Vocal production as a school exercise (reading, declamation, catechism, singing...): theories and practices;
  • The voice and the body: pupils’ words in relation to evolving notions of civility and etiquette;
  • Pupils in the soundscape (processions, votive services, heckling, disruptions);
  • Speech and identity: voice as an individual or collective means of expression and as an factor in individualization; pupils in the confessionalization process; regional or national defining of school culture;
  • Pupils as vocal characters in theatre, Exempla compilations or fictional stories;
  • Considerations of the memoria and pronuntiatio (corresponding to the oral « performance » of the orator) in rhetorical teaching.


Scientific Committee

Marie-Luce Demonet (CESR), Jennifer Richards (Newcastle University), Kate van Orden (Harvard University), Robert D. Black (University of Leeds), Jean-Marc Chatelain (Bibliothèque nationale de France), Thierry Claerr (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication), Dominique Julia (CNRS-EHESS)



Christine Bénévent (

Xavier Bisaro (


Conference webpage:



Proposals (max. 2000 characters including spaces) and bio-bibliographies are to be addressed to Ch. Bénévent ( and X. Bisaro (


Closing date for applications: 14th of September 2015.

Submission date for papers: 
14 Sep 2015