“Other ways of thinking literature and the arts: the scholastic path (1500-1700)”

November 16, 2020 - November 18, 2020


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Schol’Art Congress: “Other ways of thinking literature and the arts: the scholastic path (1500-1700)” (Louvain-la-Neuve, 16-18 November 2020)

In the early modern period (16th-17th centuries), the theoretical reflections on letters and arts regularly drew inspiration from the specific field of scholastic philosophy (that is, logic, ethics, physics and metaphysics), which was then taught at all universities as a propaedeutic to the higher faculties (medicine, law and theology). By “theoretical reflections on letters and arts”, we are referring e.g. to the vast amount of treatises related to poetics, rhetoric, symbolics, art theory, (religious) images and other such topics; to the historiographical writings constituting the history of literature and arts; to the dedicatory letters and theoretical prefaces to literary texts; to the commentaries on ancient texts such as Aristotle’s Poetics, Horatius’ Ars poetica, Pliny’s chapters on painting; …. We take into account the texts composed in the 16th and 17th centuries, either in Latin or in one of the modern languages. Using the methods, concepts or language of scholastic philosophy often enabled the authors of such texts to develop a rational and systematic discourse on literature and the visual arts, in order either to define the latter, to describe their various subgenres, to reflect on their modes of production and reception, or to evaluate the quality of specific works with regard to the truth or verisimilitude of their representation of the world.

In practice, the presence of scholastic philosophy in such theoretical texts can take various forms, involving from case to case:
- The scholastic conception of the hierarchy of arts and the tree of disciplines;
- The scholastic way of reasoning (induction, deduction, syllogisms, pro and contra debates, opening presentation of the counterarguments…), either applied to the object or observed inside it (for instance, the interpretation of epigrams as a deductive genre);
- The scholastic way of defining and describing the res (“matter and form” definition, “genre and difference” definition…) and the verba (identification of the various senses of equivocal words), and the corollary distinction between debates on things and debates on words;
- The scholastic conceptions (in physics and medicine) of the faculties of the soul (with all the related concepts : internal senses, imagination, memory, patient and agent intellect, species and conceptus, cognition and appetition, affects, vital and animal spirits…) as a way to explain the mental processes involved in artistic/literary creation and reception;
- Scholastic axioms commonly taught in the schools, or authoritative quotations supporting the expressed viewpoint;
- But also, as a counterexample, the “dry” and intricate scholastic language and the controversial or denigrated scholastic theories;
- …

The congress aims at conducting an inventory and an analysis of those borrowings and influences, and at illustrating them with concrete case studies. We will pay particular attention to the phenomena of transformation, translation, simplification or complexification affecting the scholastic contents once applied to the theory of letters and arts. Moreover, we will appreciate papers providing information on the scholastic curriculum of the authors and on the intellectual context of their writings.

We welcome 30-minute papers, in French or English. Please send an abstract of maximum 300 words and a short biography (50-100 words) by 30 November 2019 to the electronic address: aline.smeesters@uclouvain.be. The abstracts will be reviewed by a committee. Notification of  acceptance will be sent by 15 December 2019.

This congress will take place at UCLouvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium). It is part of the Schol’Art project currently ongoing at UCLouvain under the direction of Ralph Dekoninck, Agnès Guiderdoni and Aline Smeesters. More information on the project is available on our website: https://uclouvain.be/fr/instituts-recherche/incal/gemca/arc-schol-art.html

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