The Director's Seminar: Second Term 2014/15

The Director’s Seminar (Thursdays, 10.30-12, Room 111 Foster Court) is a weekly gathering of graduate students and staff, led by Professor Lisa Jardine. As well as welcoming a dynamic group of visiting speakers from pan-disciplinary fields, we aim to discuss topics of all kinds related to the theory and practice of graduate life. Our goal is to provide graduate students with an additional set of skills to enhance those provided in the graduate skills training sessions. Please click ‘read more’ to see the sessions for autumn term 2014. All interested postgraduate students are welcome - whether you’re from CELL, UCL, or any other university. Please contact Matthew Symonds if you’d like to join in!

15 January: Planning session
22 January: To be confirmed
29 January: Cassie Gorman: ‘Reading Between The Lines: John Dee’s Conversations With Angels’
This is a paper about a mysterious collection of lines on a sixteenth-century manuscript. Strange linear marks pervade the pages of John Dee’s Mysteriorum Libri, his account of the many alleged conversations with angels that took place between him, his ‘scryer’ Edward Kelley and a colourful cast of visiting spirits. The sensational anecdotes surrounding the text have tended to obscure its positive values: its fine detail, an attempt to deliver a full report of the manner and location of the conversations, provides a rare (albeit one-sided) insight into the practical circumstances of an occult art. I suggest in this paper that Dee’s unusual linear marks are not merely punctuative, but serve to recreate the spatial and temporal conditions of the conversations they record. I also consider what these marks – and their imperfect reproduction in Méric Casaubon’s edition A True and Faithful Relation – reveal of the contribution of Euclidean mathematics to Dee’s occult practices.

5th February: Jennifer Bishop: “Livery company clerks in early modern London”

12 February: Erin Webster: ‘The “optics” of virtue in Aphra Behn’s The Emperor of the Moon’
The subject of this talk is the “optics” of virtuous viewing in Aphra Behn’s understudied play, The Emperor of the Moon (1687), and their relation to the play’s satire of the experimental practices of the early Royal Society. In Behn’s play, the self-styled “virtuous” virtuoso Dr. Baliardo makes use of telescopes and microscopes to voyeuristically peep into private, domestic spaces, while simultaneously demanding that his female charges be “kept from the sight of man” so as to preserve their virtue. While the Royal Society has been identified as a target of Behn’s satirical portrait of the doctor, the gender politics underlying this treatment have yet to be explored. Drawing on Robert Boyle’s Christian Virtuoso, Robert Hooke’s Micrographia and Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society, I argue that Behn’s depiction of Dr. Baliardo is a pointed critique of the sexually-charged rhetoric of experimentalists like Boyle and Hooke, who posit their own virtuous, experimentalist eye as a means of containing and controlling a wanton, feminized, and sexualized “Nature.”

19 February: Reading week
26 February: Lucy Judd, ‘Early Modern Receipt Books’
In recent years, scholars have begun to reassess the value of receipt book manuscripts. Previously, they had been largely dismissed by historians as a literary genre of women’s life-writing, or at best, viewed as a useful footnote to evidence common domestic practices within the early modern household. Sara Pennell, Michelle DiMeo, Elaine Leong, Linda Pollock and Jayne Archer have begun to highlight the more universal value of these manuscripts, and to alleviate some of the ‘academic scepticism’ associated with their study, particularly with reference to writing women’s history. Receipt book manuscripts have, under closer examination, been shown to provide a fascinating insight into both the cultural and intellectual pursuits of women in the early modern period as a whole, and as a result of these works, a significant amount has begun to be understood in regards to the sphere of domestic knowledge at this time.

This paper will seek to explore recipe-writing and recipe-sharing networks through the lens of three local receipt book collections associated with the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regions.  Firstly, we will reflect upon the varied styles and formats of receipt book compilations, as a way of understanding how and why these manuscripts were compiled and used. Secondly, we will begin to explore the knowledge-sharing networks of these local gentry-women, and to question the extent to which perceived contemporary gender boundaries remained prevalent in the sphere of early modern domestic knowledge-sharing. Finally, we will begin to highlight the broad spectrum of individuals involved in receipt donation, spanning social superiors to household servants.


5 March: Liesbeth Corens, ‘Creating Counter-Archives: English Catholic record collecting in the late seventeenth century’
12 March: Preparation for RSA: Hannah Crawforth; Brooke Palmieri.
19 March: Preparation for RSA: Sarah Case; Lotte Fikkers; John Gallagher.
26 March: Berlin 2015 - Renaissance Society of America