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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

Renaissance Re-Descriptions

7th February 2014, 09:00, Turner Room, Van Mildert College, Durham, Speakers: Kathryn Banks (Durham), Emma Herdman (St Andrews), William McKenzie (Oxford), John O'Brien (Durham), Jonathan Patterson (Oxford), Anne-Pascale Pouey-Mounou (Lille)

A one-day colloquium organised by Professor John O'Brien in conjunction with the Warburg Institute.

'Re-description' is a purposely wide term, admitting of different interpretations. For Quentin Skinner, paradiastole can be used by Renaissance writers to describe something bad as something good or vice versa. Pouey-Mounou, meanwhile, shows how Renaissance epithets change meaning and hence our understanding of the object they qualify, expanding our sense of the world which no longer has a single essence or description. This colloquium will investigate whether and how there is a change in a concept because there is a change in the descriptor of that concept; ‘re-describing’ thus looks at particular techniques associated with specific terms or linguistic features. Given that concepts evolve or change constantly, what is specially characteristic of Renaissance modes of re-description? One field of enquiry, which will be studied in the colloquium, bears on questions of the barbarian, the savage, the human(e) and the inhuman(e), as well as the relative status of humans and animals. Another area concerns the problem of predicate vs qualifier, the logical vs the adjectival. A third relates to the relationship between re-description and rhetorical terms such as horismus, correctio, systrophe and expolitio or, from another point of view, copia. At the broadest level, where Foucault saw a series of epistemological breaks between one epoch and the next and Cave a series of thresholds enabling transitions in conceptual understanding from one historical period to another, the current project seeks to analyse the processes of conceptual change through attention to linguistic use in French Renaissance literary and humanist texts.

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