Faces of the Infinite: Neoplatonism and Poetics at the Confluence of Africa, Asia and Europe

Professor Stefan Sperl, SOAS, University of London
Professor Trevor Dadson FBA, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Yorgos Dedes, SOAS, University of London

Thu 9 Nov 2017 09:30 to Sat 11 Nov 2017 17:00

The first two days of the event will be held at the British Academy and the final day at SOAS. Further details and registration can be found here:

The conference is intended to generate the first comparative overview of the extent to which Neoplatonist philosophy has permeated poetic forms, styles, themes and figurative language as well as poetic theory in seven principal languages of the greater Mediterranean region, from late antiquity to the modern period. Listed in alphabetical order, they are Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Persian, Spanish and Turkish. The findings are intended to result in a major publication which will shed light on the significance of Neoplatonism as a cross-cultural phenomenon which links the literary traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Speakers include:
Professor Walter Andrews, University of Seattle
Professor Leili Anvar, INALCO, Paris
Dr James Binns FBA, University of York
Dr Abigail Brundin, University of Cambridge
Dr Alessandro Cancian, Ismaili Institute, London
Professor Christina D’Ancona, University of Pisa
Dr Neslihan Demirkol, Ankara Social Sciences University
Professor Carl W. Ernst, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Professor Ferial J. Ghazoul, The American University in Cairo
Dr Didem Havlioğlu, Duke University
Dr David Hernández de la Fuente, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid
Professor Mehmet Kalpaklı, Bilkent University, Ankara
Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, University of Maryland
Dr Alexander Matthew Key, Stanford University
Dr Kazuyo Murata, King’s College, London
Professor Johannes Niehoff-Panagiotidis, Freie Universität Berlin
Professor Terence O’Reilly, University College, Cork
Professor David Ricks, King’s College, London
Professor Claudio Rodríguez Fer, University of Santiago de Compostela
Professor John Roe, University of York
Dr Adena Tanenbaum, Ohio State University
Professor Richard Taylor, Marquette University
Professor Colin Thompson, University of Oxford
Professor Julian Weiss, King’s College, London
Dr Joachim Yeshaya, University of Leuven

Thursday, 9 November 2017

09.00 Registration and refreshments

Session One: From Greek Beginnings to Arabic and Hebrew
To examine the beginnings of Neoplatonist poetics in Greek and its emergence in Arabic and Hebrew
Chairs: Stefan Sperl, SOAS, University of London and Trevor Dadson, Queen Mary, University of London

09.15 Introduction: Background, Scope and Aim of Conference
09.40 Keynote Address
Richard Taylor, Marquette University

10.30 Refreshments
11.00 Are Neoplatonists Neoplatonic in their Poetics? Alexander Matthew Key, Stanford University
11.45 Andalusian Hebrew Poems on the Soul and their Afterlife Adena Tanenbaum, Ohio State University
12.30 Lunch

Session Two: The Ascent of the Soul
To compare and contrast the portrayal of the soul’s ascent in texts of different linguistic and religious provenance
Chair: James Montgomery, University of Cambridge (tbc)

13.30 Neoplatonist Concepts in 13th Century Arabic Mystical Poetry Stefan Sperl, SOAS, University of London
14.15 Neoplatonism in Attar’s Conference of the Birds Leila Anvar, INALCO, Paris
15.00 Refreshments
15.30 Nostro intelletto si profonda tanto. Paradiso, I 8 and its Philosophical Background
Christina d’Ancona, University of Pisa
16.15 The Ascent of the Soul: NeoPlatonic Themes in the Literature of the Golden Age of Spain
Colin Thompson, University of Oxford 17.00 Close of first day
Friday, 10 November 2017
Session Three: from Late Antiquity to Byzantium and the Ottoman World
To illustrate continuity and change in the poetic reception of Platonist concepts in the Eastern Mediterranean from Late Antiquity to Ottoman times
Chair: James Binns, University of York

Johannes NiehoffPanagiotidis, Freie Universität Berlin
Hymn of the Pearl and Chaldaean Oracles: Platonism on the Border between Monism and Dualism, Imperial Centuries and Late Antiquity, Greek and Syriac
09.45 Neoplatonism and Poetics in Late Antique and Byzantine Literature David Hernández de la Fuente, Universidad Nactional de Educación a Distancia, Madrid 
10.30 Refreshments
11.00 ‘A Soul, Splendid by the Glory of God’: Karaite Poems about the Nature of the Soul from the Muslim East and Byzantium Joachim Yeshaya, University of Leuven
11.45 Ottoman Poetry: Where the Neoplatonic Dissolves into an Emotional Script for Life.
Walter Andrews, University of Washington (tbc) 
12.30 Lunch

Session Four: Neoplatonism and Gender Identity in Early Modern Love Lyric
To illustrate and compare relevant examples of 16th century Italian, Spanish and English verse
Chair: tbc

13.30 Neoplatonic Discourse and Ottoman Women Poets: Negotiation, Legitimation and Subversion
Didem Havlioğlu, Duke University
14.15 Beyond the Courts: Neoplatonism in SixteenthCentury Italian Poetic Culture Abigail Brundin, University of Cambridge
15.00 Refreshments
15.30 Italian Neoplatonism and SixteenthCentury English Verse John Roe, University of York
16.15 Negotiating Difference: Neoplatonism and the Discourse of Desire in the Early Modern Spanish Love Lyric Julian Weiss, King’s College, University of London 
17.00 Close of second day
Saturday, 11 November 2017
(Please note that this third day is being held at SOAS and that separate registration is required)

Session Five: Neoplatonist Poetics and Mysticism in Spain and the IndoPersian world
To examine mystical concepts of possible Neoplatonist provenance in the works of major poets writing in Persian and Spanish
Chair: Alessandro Cancian, Ismaili Institute, London
09.00 Poetry and Ishraqi Illuminationism among the Esoteric Zoroastrians of Mughal India
Carl W Ernst, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
09.45 Neoplatonic and Sufi Approaches to Beauty: The Cases of Plotinus and Rūzbihān Baqlī
Kazuyo Murata, King’s College, University of London 
10.30 Refreshments
11.00 The Christian Neoplatonism of Francisco de Aldana in the Carta para Arias Montano
Terence O’Reilly, University College, Cork
11.45 La erótica del infinito: Neoplatonismo, Cábala y Sufismo en la obra de José Ángel Valente
Claudio Rodríguez Fer, University of Santiago de Compostela 
12.30 Lunch

Session Six: Modern Echoes in Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Greek
To illustrate the persistence of Neoplatonic themes in selected examples of modern poetry
Chair: Yorgos Dedes, SOAS, University of London

13.30 Neoplatonist Relics in Modern Persian Poetry Ahmad KarimiHakkak, University of Maryland
14.15 The New Image of the Beloved in the Old Mirror: Reflections of Neoplatonic Tradition in Modern Turkish Poetry
Mehmet Kalpaklı & Neslihan Demirkol, Bilkent University Istanbul and Ankara Social University
15.00 Refreshments
15.30 Neoplatonist Echoes in Modern Arabic Poetry: The Case of Ahmad Matar Feryal Ghazoul, The American University in Cairo
16.15 NeoPlatonists in Modern Greek Poetry David Ricks, King’s College, University of London
17.00 Conclusion and Summing Up
Stefan Sperl, SOAS, University of London, Trevor Dadson FBA, Queen Mary

University of London and Yorgos Dedes, SOAS, University of London 
For further information and details of how to book please click on 'Book event'. A third day of the conference will be hosted by SOAS on Saturday, 11 November 2017 at SOAS. Please click here for further information.

Dr Abigail Brundin
Reader in Early Modern Literature and Culture
Department of Italian
University of Cambridge
Direct Line: +44 (0)1223 338305

Call for Submissions: Esoteric Traditions and Their Impact on Early Modern Art

Zephyrus Scholarly Publications, LLC is seeking papers for an upcoming anthology on the impact of esotericism on the art produced during the Renaissance and Baroque eras, though papers on slightly earlier or later works will also be considered. 

Subjects may include but are not limited to:
  • Hermeticism
  • Neoplatonism
  • Kabbalah
  • Prophetism
  • Rosicrucianism
  • Freemasonry
  • Alchemy
  • Magic
  • The occult 

Please send a 300 word abstract by March 31, 2017 to Lilian H. Zirpolo via email at L H Zirpolo.

Call for Submissions: Epistolary Discourse: Letters and Letter-Writing in Early Modern Art

While cultural historians have recently published a number of studies on letters and letter-writing in Early Modern Europe, the subject has not been sufficiently explored from an art historical perspective. Though some texts on Early Modern private life offer insight on the prominence of the theme in art, a more exhaustive analysis is in order, especially since letters and letter-writing are depicted in art in other contexts besides the domestic realm. Indeed Early Modern epistolary discourse falls into both private and public categories. 

In the private sector, the Early Modern period saw a significant increase in literacy, especially among women, mainly due to the development of the printing press and the subsequent proliferation of texts. Women no longer dictated their letters to others, but wrote them themselves. As letter-writers, they could now take on intimate roles, such as that of mothers, lovers, or travelers, without the intrusion of a writing assistant. 

In the public sector, members of the papal curia exchanged letters to publicize new statutes, while spiritual leaders in general often corresponded to offer religious instruction and guidance. 

Travelers wrote letters to inform of their experiences abroad, and merchants used the rhetorical form to exchange information on financial events or to issue letters of credit and other financial instruments. Further, the renewed interest in antiquity during the Renaissance revealed the epistolary discourse of Pliny, Cicero, Seneca, and others, resulting in the revival of humanistic epistles, such as those composed by Erasmus of Rotterdam. 

For the learned, letters could be a form of rhetorical self-fashioning, as often these were made public, revealing the friendships and patronage they enjoyed from powerful individuals. 

No less significant is the fact that a new literary genre emerged at this time: the novel written in epistolary form. Examples include Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s La nouvelle Héloise (1661) and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela or Virtue Rewarded(1740). 

Zephyrus Scholarly Publications LLC is seeking papers for an upcoming anthology on letters and letter-writing in Early Modern art. Papers dealing with any aspect of this theme will be considered. 

Please send a 300 word abstract by July 1, 2017 to Lilian H. Zirpolo at L H Zirpolo (deadline extended).

Call for Submissions: The Femme Philosophe in Early Modern Art

Women were incorporated into the history of philosophy only in 1981 when Mary Ellen Waithe published her groundbreaking A History of Women Philosophers. 

At the time she identified approximately sixteen female philosophers from the classical era, seventeen from 500 to 1600, and thirty from 1600 to 1900. Among the names revealed were Mary Wollstonecraft, Elisabeth of Bohemia, Anne Finch, Elena Cornaro Piscopia, Catherine Trotter Cockburn, and Margaret Cavendish, all intellectual luminaries who lived during the Early Modern Era. 

That these were highly educated women meant that they were also highly cultured and, therefore, they often collected, commissioned, or even produced art. Christina of Sweden, for example, was a student of Descartes and held academies in her home where the latest intellectual debates were the norm. Her art collection, which included a significant number of works from the ancient era, became the backdrop for these events and served to recreate the glory of the ancient past and provide philosophical inspiration. 

Anna Maria van Schurman, who corresponded with scholars from the university of Leiden and who completed her Dissertatio de ingenii mulieribus ad doctrinam on the aptitude of the female mind for science and letters in 1639, was an accomplished portraitist and engraver. Yet, the subject of the femme philosophe in the history of art has not been explored sufficiently and requires inquiry that goes beyond acknowledgment of their existence and the cursory mention of the art objects produced due to their intervention in one form or another. 

Zephyrus Scholarly Publications LLC seeks to publish an anthology comprised of papers that analyze the contributions of Early Modern femmes philosophes to the history of art, with particular emphasis on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when a high level of philosophical activity took place. 

Of particular interest are papers on Carthesian female philosophers, though women with other philosophical inclinations will also be considered. Please send a 300 word abstract to Lilian H. Zirpolo at L H Zirpolo by October 1, 2017 (deadline extended).

CALL FOR PAPERS: Bodies in Motion in the Early Modern World

‘Bodies in Motion in the Early Modern World’ aims to explore both the politics of physical and spatial movement and its consequences on the geographical and cultural boundaries of the known world between 1500 and 1800.

Keynote Speaker: Dr Morwenna Carr, University of Roehampton
Call for papers:

We are inviting proposals for 20-minute papers and posters from graduate students and early career researchers working on early modern European cultures, literature, history, art history, music, and geography. As well as traditional 20-minute papers, we will select from the submissions 4 papers to participate in a end-of-day roundtable. We are particularly interested in papers reflecting on the role that our research has in illuminating our understanding of events of international political relevance, and on our responsibility to discuss these events from the point of view of experts in the humanities. 

Possible topics include (but are not limited too):
  • Migrations and Identity
  • Urban Space and Topography
  • Ability and Disability
  • Fictional Genres
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Society, Work, and Labour
  • Space in Performance, Performance in Space

Paper proposals of up to 200 words, accompanied by a short biography, should be submitted to cemsconference@gmail.com by 31st March 2017. For any queries, please use the same address. A limited number of travel bursaries will be made available.

Location: Council Room (K2.29) King’s Building Strand 
When: 16/06/2017 (09:00-18:00)

Papers to be submitted to cemsconference@gmail.com please also use this address for queries related to the call.  More information here: http://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/cemshub/
Please direct all other enquiries to cems@kcl.ac.uk

CALL FOR PAPERS: Cultures of Collecting, 1500-1750

Cultures of Collecting, 1500-1750: a one-day conference organised by the Centre for Early Modern Studies, Oxford University

Wednesday 14 June 2017, Corpus Christi College, Oxford

On the 400th anniversary of the birth of Elias Ashmole, we invite proposals that address any aspect of the cultures of collecting in England and Europe, ca. 1500-1750, from any disciplinary perspective, including material culture, art history, visual studies, museum studies, social history, and literary scholarship. 

Papers might focus on major early modern collectors (Hans Sloane, Elias Ashmole, John Tradescant Jr and Sr), but also lesser-known figures. 
  • What were the motives and mechanics of collecting? 
  • How did early moderns understand curiosity and preservation; wonder and taxonomy; variety and system?
  • What was the relationship between utility and display? 
  • How did Wunderkammern shape and transmit new categories of knowledge? 
  • What were the links between cabinets of curiosities and book collections and libraries? 
  • How did the practices of collecting shape broader cultural trends? 
  • How do literary texts respond to collecting? 
  • Is there a connection between collecting objects and the circulation and gathering of commonplaces; between gathering things and gatherings words (or literary invention)? 
  • What were the relationships between collecting, biography, and self-expression? 
  • How ideological were collections, and how was the politics of collecting expressed and understood? What are the methodological challenges of reconstructing collections today? 
  • How can we read catalogues and textual records of now-dispersed collections?

Please send 300-word proposals for a 20-minute paper, and a brief CV, to Dr Natasha Simonova (natasha.simonova@ell.ox.ac.uk) by 10 April 2017.

Beckman Centre Fellowships in the History of Science, Medicine, Technology, and Industry

The Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), an independent research library in Philadelphia, PA, invites applications for short-term and long-term fellowships in the history of science, medicine, technology, and industry (Apply for a Fellowship).

Short-term fellows are particularly meant to use the collections, while long-term fellows' work must help to support the mission of the institution and fit with collections more generally. The research collections at CHF range chronologically from the fifteenth century to the present and include 6,000 rare books, significant archival holdings, thousands of images, and a large artifact and fine arts collection, supported by over 100,000 reference volumes and journals. Within the collections there are many areas of special strength, including: alchemy, mining & metallurgy, dyeing and bleaching, balneology, gunpowder and pyrotechnics, gas-lighting, books of secrets, inorganic and organic chemistry, biochemistry, food chemistry, and pharmaceuticals.

We support roughly 20 fellows each year, creating a vibrant international community of scholars. Applications come from scholars in a wide range of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. To see this year's list, go to:

Senior Fellowships
1 or 2 Semesters in Residence
available to those who received their PhD before July 2012 • $30,000/Semester

Postdoctoral Fellowships
9 Months in Residence
available to those who received their PhD after July 2012 • $45,000

Dissertation Fellowships
9 Months in Residence; open to graduate students at the dissertation stage • $26,000

Short-Term Fellowships
1–4 Months in Residence; open to all scholars and researchers • $3,000 per month

Application Deadline: January 15, 2017

For more information visit http://www.chemheritage.org/BeckmanCenter or email us at fellowships@chemheritage.org

Cavendish and Hutchinson: Spring 2017 Folger Seminar

In many ways Margaret Cavendish (1623-73) and Lucy Hutchinson (1620-81) make strange bedfellows. One was a royalist and one a republican; one largely indifferent to religion and the other a devoted Calvinist; one an aggressive circulator of her work in print and the other largely committed to scribal publication. Yet they also had a surprising amount in common: both were actively involved in the central political conflicts of their time; both wrote widely printed and widely admired vindicatory accounts of their husbands‚ political and military lives; both lived on large, redoubtable, and profoundly compromised estates in the north; both were actively interested in natural science; both were astonishingly erudite and prolific.

This seminar seeks to examine what they shared as much as what divided them, and takes as its premise that Cavendish and Hutchinson were the complex heirs of what is often called "politically active" humanism. Participants will discuss many aspects of their work, including the books they read as well as the histories and other works they wrote, and the local, as well as national, contexts in which they undertook this work. 

Director: Julie Crawford is Mark van Doren Professor of Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and Chair of Literature Humanities at Columbia University. She works on topics ranging from the history of sexuality to the history of reading, and is the author of two books, Marvelous Protestantism: Monstrous Births in Post-Reformation England (2005) and Mediatrix: Women, Politics, and Literary Production in Early Modern England (2014). She is currently completing a book entitled Margaret Cavendish's Political Career. 

Schedule: Friday afternoons, 1:00 - 4:30 p.m., February 3 through April 21, 2017 (10 weeks), excluding March 31 and April 7. 

Apply: September 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid for Folger consortium affiliates; January 17, 2017 for admission only. 

Please visit this link for more information on how to apply: