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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Conference: Early Modern Viewers and Buildings in Motion

25th February 2017, 09:30, Old Divinity School, St. John’s College, University of Cambridge

Deadline: Sunday, 12 February 2017
Fee (includes lunch and refreshments): £15


Movement, both literal and metaphorical, lies at the heart of early modern European
architectural theory, design and experience. Architectural authors invoked the notion of
progress as temporal motion, structured their books as tours of buildings, and followed the
ancient Roman Vitruvius in explaining how to manipulate the motions of winds through
building design. Simultaneously, poets led their readers on tours of house and estate, and
Aristotelian as well as mechanistic philosophers averred that motion was inherent to human
perception from particle vibrations in one’s senses to neural vibrations in one’s brain.
Across a range of scales in actual lived experience, moreover, viewers and buildings were
frequently in motion; people walked through built spaces, interiors contained portable
furnishings, and travellers and prints circulated ideas of buildings internationally.

This conference seeks to examine the range of scales, media, and theoretical
discussions which foreground early modern intersections of architecture and motion. In so
doing, it both puts into motion the usually static viewer and building of historical narratives
and merges often independent yet overlapping strands of analysis – for instance, the
‘mobile viewer’ studied by art historians Michael Baxandall and Svetlana Alpers and the
tensions surrounding early modern globalization discussed by cultural historians. These and
other strands of inquiry are brought together by an international, interdisciplinary group of
speakers examining case studies encompassing England, France, Italy, German-speaking
areas, and the New World during the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries.

Contact for more information about this event.