CFP: Ars effectiva et methodus: the Body in early modern science and thought

June 30-July 1, 2014, Wolfenbuettel, Germany

Organized by Karin Friedrich (Aberdeen) with the support of the Herzog August Library, Wolfenbuttel, the Aberdeen Humanities Fund/Hunter Caldwell Awards and the Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Aberdeen (Scotland)

This is a call for papers for a conference that focuses on the influence of Melanchthon’s methodus et ars on the definition and meaning of the body – both real and metaphorical and across the disciplines. It builds on a symposium on the formation of scholarly disciplines and networks spun between Scotland and Northern Europe around the Scottish polymath Duncan Liddel (1561-1613) which was held at the University of Aberdeen 8-10 May 2013. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, it initiated a research project on Liddel’s library (held in Aberdeen) and his time at the University of Helmstedt from 1595-1607. Following Renaissance medicine’s approach, we see ars medica penetrating all innermost parts of nature and combining all disciplines, from medicine to cosmography to ethics, and employing empirical observation.

Triggered first by epidemics such as the Black Death and, in the sixteenth century, the ‘French Disease’, trust in Aristotelian and Galenic medical traditions suffered a setback in favour of the rise of broadly Neo-Platonist occult concepts, reflected in the work of Paracelsus, Fracastoro, Fernel and other innovators. Alongside this shift, empirical approaches began to flourish, especially in relation to anatomy and the physical body, just as Aristotelianism began to give way to the new philosophy. In Liber de anima (1540), for example, Melanchthon insisted that knowledge of our bodies’ anatomy gave us self-knowledge about our souls and revealed God’s workmanship within us.

Call for papers

Anatomy became a natural philosophical endeavour that could help to maintain doctrinal coherence in the church.
As Humanist scholars of medicine and related disciplines explored the possibilities of new epistemologies and methodologies, a growing European republic of letters gained significance. With a particular interest in the role of polymathic networks and their discourses, particularly Lutheran and humanist networks, we need to ask how, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, new concepts of the human body contributed to the development and differentiation of scientific disciplines in the post-medieval world, right up to what was later labelled the ‘Scientific Revolution’. Themes for exploration are:

1. Bodies physical and metaphysical
2. Knowledge of bodies and bodies of knowledge: the development of disciplines
3. Teaching the Body: didactic scholarship
4. Heavenly bodies and down to earth: From astronomy to astrology and alchemy
5. The ‘Body Politic’ as an epistemological resource
6. ‘Body of Proof’: Medicine, Method and Humanist discourses

Proposals (not longer than 350 words, or one page A4, stating the address from which you will travel) for papers addressing the themes of the conference (papers are limited to 20 minutes) are accepted in German, English or French and should be sent by 7 March (preferably via email) to:

The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.

Deadline: March 7, 2014

Posted: February 13, 2014