Media@McGill is organizing a public panel on The Long Eighteenth Century's Public Spheres, on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 6 p.m. in Leacock 232, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke West.
The event is free and open to the public.
Five McGill professors (Arash Abizadeh, Matthew C. Hunter, Andrew Piper, Angela Vanhaelan, and Paul Yachnin) will discuss historical formulations of the public sphere from the perspectives of their respective disciplines.
Public Visibility versus Public Representativeness: The Life and Times of a Distinction - Arash Abizadeh (Political Theory)
The mid-seventeenth century saw the emergence in Europe of a distinction between two senses of publicity: visibility versus representativeness. This distinction played a key role in the rise of practices of religious toleration. It has also recently come under attack in Quebec public discourse.
Arash Abizadeh (MPhil Oxford, PhD Harvard) is associate professor of political theory at McGill University. His research focusses on democratic theory and questions of identity, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism; immigration and border control; the relation between the passions, rhetoric, discourse, and politics; and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy, particularly Hobbes and Rousseau. He is currently completing a book on Hobbes's ethics, titled Hobbes and the Two Dimensions of Normativity.
Experimental Publics - Matthew C. Hunter (Art History)
In Leviathan and the Air-Pump (1985), historians of science Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer articulate an account of the public formed by experimental philosophers in seventeenth-century England that has been widely influential in histories of scientific knowledge, art, and early modern culture. Interweaving a configuration of politics with its epistemic commitments, this model of the public was also menaced from within by the experimental movement’s leading figures. In this talk, I consider how attention to the architecture of those shadowy counter-models compels us to think again about the place of visual images and experimental artifacts in public science.
Matthew C. Hunter is Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. His research focuses on art and architecture of the long eighteenth century, with special attention to intersections among art, science, and technology. His publications include Wicked Intelligence: Visual Art and the Science of Experiment in Restoration London (University of Chicago Press, 2013), The Clever Object (Wiley, 2013; coedited with Francesco Lucchini), and Beyond Mimesis and Convention: Representation in Science and Art (Springer, 2010; coedited with Roman Frigg). An editor of Grey Room, Hunter is currently writing a book on Joshua Reynolds’s experimental chemistry and the longer history of temporally evolving chemical objects in the British Enlightenment.
Interacting with Print - Andrew Piper (Language, Literature and Culture)
This project aims to reorient our thinking about publics as stable spherical contexts and see them instead in more ecological and interactive terms. Our goal is to understand the ways in which individuals interacted with print media in the long eighteenth century, print interacted with other media during this period, and how these practices generated new social groupings. Our central question becomes something like: how does a particular configuration of different media become associated with historically specific practices to produce new kinds of social communities?
Andrew Piper is Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar of German and European Literature and an associate member of the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. He is a former Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellow and is currently the director of .txtLAB, a digital humanities laboratory at McGill. His work focuses on the intersection of literature and technologies of reading from the eighteenth century to the present and follows three main lines of inquiry:
• the history of networks and literary topologies;
• practices of textual circulation and transtextuality;
• literary quantity (the nexus of image, letter, and number).
His most recent book, Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (Chicago, 2012), addresses current debates about the future of reading through a study of the long history of our embodied interactions with books.
Vermeer’s Public Sphere - Angela Vanhaelan (Art History)
The visual culture of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic conveys the impression that the Dutch were obsessed with every minute aspect of home life. Paintings of women in domestic interiors proliferated, as artists like Johannes Vermeer turned middle-class domesticity into a new subject for art. Such imagery was unprecedented and there were no analogous visual traditions in the rest of Europe. While Vermeer’s peaceful paintings of the home seem far removed—even protected—from the realm of politics and public life, in this presentation, I reassess the obsessive picturing of private life by examining its potential to craft new notions of the public sphere.
Angela Vanhaelen is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill. She is the author of The Wake of Iconoclasm: Painting the Church in the Dutch Republic (Penn State University Press, 2012), and Comic Print and Theatre in Early Modern Amsterdam: Gender, Childhood and the City (2003). She has co-edited (with Joseph Ward) the volume Making Space Public in Early Modern Europe. Performance, Geography, Privacy (2012); and recently co-edited (with Bronwen Wilson) a special issue of the journal Art History. Vanhaelen has published articles in journals such as Art Bulletin, Oxford Art Journal, Art History, and RES: Journal of Anthropology and Aesthetics.
She was a co-investigator in the international, multi-disciplinary research collaboration, “Making Publics in Early Modern Europe” from 2005 to 2010.
The Public Life of Scamels - Paul Yachnin (English)
In Shakespeare’s early 17th-century play, The Tempest, Caliban says to Stephano, “I'll bring thee to clustering filberts, and sometimes I'll get thee young scamels from the rock.” No one knows what scamels are. In the 18th century, scamels became a matter of public concern, their nature a subject for robust, learned, and good-humoured debate. The making public of Caliban’s scamels is exemplary of both the emergence of a distinctively literary public in the 18th century and also the growth of an enhanced public life for ordinary people that finds many of its origins in Shakespeare’s playhouse.
Paul Yachnin is Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies and former Director of the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI) at McGill University. He directed the Making Publics (MaPs) project (2005-10) and now directs the Early Modern Conversions project. Among his publications are the books, Stage-Wrights and The Culture of Playgoing in Early Modern England (with Anthony Dawson) editions of Richard II (with Dawson) and The Tempest; and six edited books, including Making Publics in Early Modern Europe (with Bronwen Wilson) and Forms of Association (with Marlene Eberhart) His book-in-progress, Making Publics in Shakespeare’s Playhouse, is under contract with University of Edinburgh Press. His ideas and the ideas of his MaPs colleagues about the social life of art were featured on the CBC Radio IDEAS series, “The Origins of the Modern Public.” Bronwen Wilson and he are editing one of the Early Modern Conversions volumes, provisionally titled, “Conversion Machines in Early Modern Europe: Apparatus, Artifice, Body.” A recent area of interest is higher education practice and policy, with publications in Policy Options and University Affairs and projects involving more than 25 Canadian universities.