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Mediating Knowledge: Textual and Visual Representations of the New Sciences in Early Modern Europe (c.1600 – 1750)

17-19 March 2011

Venue: German Historical Institute London

Convenors: Prof Dr Ulrike Gehring, Trier, Prof Dr Andreas Gestrich, London, Prof Dr Wolfgang Klooβ, Trier

From the end of the seventeenth century at the latest, scientific knowledge was increasingly disseminated via internationally operating networks of scholars and the first widely read scientific journals, as well as by aesthetic media such as the visual arts and literature, and, from the eighteenth century, by public journals and daily newspapers.

This conference will take a multi-disciplinary approach to the spread and representation of new knowledge in early modern Europe (c.1600 – 1750). Attention will focus on the presentation of cartographic, botanical, zoological, and anatomical knowledge in contemporary documents, both pragmatic and aesthetic in nature. The temporal focus is deliberately set before the huge expansion of the market in (academic) journals and literature that started around 1750.

The conference is interested less in the subject as such than in the medium of its dissemination and reception. It will examine to what extent the transmission of empirical knowledge resulted in dislocations of substance at the moment when it became the subject of literary commentary (journals, poetry, novels, travel accounts, encylopedias) or visualization (frontispiece, painting, illustration). The examination of representations of knowledge related to object and/or motif will be supplemented by analysis of the structural forms into which it is transmuted (style, syntax, image – text relationship etc.). Thus attention will be paid to the aesthetic qualities inherent in each medium and their strategic functionalization. By including fiction and popular media, the questions asked will go beyond the processes of transmission and functionalization operating within the scientific discourse to include the presentation and reception of scientific innovations within a wider public. The conference therefore also contributes to the nexus between the use of the media and the production of knowledge in the period before the late Enlightenment.

Conference Programme (PDF file)