CANCELLED – Telling a Different Story: Non-Linear Narratives in Early Modern History

CANCELLED – Telling a Different Story: Non-Linear Narratives in Early Modern History

CANCELLED - Telling a Different Story: Non-Linear Narratives in Early Modern History 19 MarchMar 2020 00:00 - 20 MarchMar 2020 23:55 Europe/Bucharest

OrganizersFabrizio Baldassarri & Matthias Roick

Venue: ICUB, Bucharest

Date: March 19-20, 2020

Invited speakers: Francesco Barreca (Museo Galileo), Dominique Brancher (Basel University), Sabrina Ebbersmeyer (Copenhagen University), Christiane Frey (Humboldt University Berlin), Christia Mercer (Columbia University), Iolanda Ventura (University of Bologna)

In early modern intellectual history, in the history of early modern science, philosophy, and in many other fields of knowledge, scholars have long begun to travel new directions of investigation. Rather than proceeding along well-trodden paths, they shed new focus on the less well-known corners, and move in the more ‘secluded’ regions of the past. More importantly, they have grown suspicious of the ‘grand narratives’ and the teleological progress of knowledge that have informed their respective fields and their public perception for a long time. In contrast, scholars have started exploring topics and themes that do not lead straightforwardly into the present, moving from pre-modern to modern, but rather constitute ‘Holzwege’, or paths that—from a presentist point of view—go nowhere or were abandoned in the course of time.

This kind of research has produced highly fascinating and inspiring results. Still, it has also put into question common frameworks. Scholarship has become more specialized and fragmented, and it has become more difficult to communicate between different disciplines and subdisciplines. The work on historical contexts and micro-contexts seems to have little leverage to change the mainstream—after all, its aim is not to substitute one ‘grand narrative’ with another ‘grand narrative’, but to engage in a more complex relationship with the past.

Our workshop will invite practitioners from different fields to reflect together on this situation and to discuss one possible alternative: non-linear narratives. Widely used in literature and film, this narrative technique portrays events in a non-chronological order (for example, in flashbacks and flashforwards) and does not necessarily follow causality. When applied to the writing of history, the idea of non-linear narratives invites, on the one hand, to deliberate the theoretical nature of narrative structures and temporalities; on the other hand, it raises practical questions on how to employ non-linear narratives in historical writings and find alternatives to ‘genealogical’ writings that track the lineages of new, ideas, practices, and institutions.

Through several case studies, such as expanding the perspective on outsiders, heretics, women, and losers, or inspecting new frontiers of knowledge (from ontology and metaphysics, to cosmology, alchemy and botany, and to ethics and politics), or constructing alternative (hi)stories and narrations, such as eclecticism, opposing methodologies, and unearthing shadows in the age of evidence and light (such as irrationality enshrined in the age of reason), the workshop is not intended to simply present one’s own research, but aims to reflect on the role of alternative narrations while telling a different story.

  • Interventions aim to both investigate non-linear narratives, their actors, methodologies, and disciplines, and answer these methodological questions.
  • How would you describe the ‘grand narratives’ in your field? To which extent do they still dominate your field, explicitly or implicitly?
  • How does your own research relate to these narratives? Where do you see the critical, revisionist potential of your research? How much an alternative narration surfaces in your field, and does it reveal more engaging reflections? What is the result of this enlarged perspective?
  • Where do you see points of contact between your historical research and present discourses? Why do you think that these points of contact can be best described and analyzed in terms of a non-linear narrative?

The programme of the workshop is available here.

Event organized with the support of the Freigeist Projekt “The Ways of Virtue. The Ethica Section in Wolfenbüttel and the History of Ethics in Early Modern Europe” and the CNCS – UEFISCDI, PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2016-1496, “The Overlooked History of Vegetal Life. From the Vegetative Soul to Metabolism in Early Modern Philosophy and Biomedicine”.

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