Estrangement and the Natural World, 1650-1850

Estrangement and the Natural World, 1650-1850

Estrangement and the Natural World, 1550-1850

Warwick/Vanderbilt Early CareerSchool, 31 May – 4 June 2010

Both literature and history specialists have paid renewed attention in the last decade to the profound transformations wrought by the Reformation and Counter-reformation, and by frequent military and social conflict, on religious culture and belief, especially in relation to the natural world, and focussing espcially on the relationship between ritual and belief and to manifestations of “strangeness” in the natural world. This workshop will explore the historical roots and literary expressions of these tropes from 1550 to 1850. It will draw together students and staff from the History and English departments at Warwick and Vanderbilt and encourage cross-institutional conversation as well as interdisciplinary investigation.

Over four days, the School will ask questions such as:

1) can a meaningful distinction be made between religion and magic?

2) How do we fit alchemy and astrology into evolving understandings of the natural world?

3) To what extent did the Enlightenment result in a rejection of previous belief systems where folkloric beliefs still had considerable purchase?

4) Does the natural world that is in evidence after the Napoleonic wars bear the scars of conflict and revolution, and how?

The School will investigate these and other questions over three days of workshops, each led by two faculty members from Warwick (English and History) and two from Vanderbilt (English and History), followed by a fourth day of student presentations. The first workshop will cover 1550-1650 and look at changing perceptions of the natural world in Renaissance and Reformation Europe and America. The second workshop will look at the transitions that occurred in popular and elite understandings of natural phenomena between 1650 and 1750. The third workshop will examine the period between 1750 and 1850 and the role of the Enlightement and Romanticism in recasting and reformulating older understandings. Readings will be available in advance.

Students will be residential, unless otherwise arranged, and will attend all workshops in order to best prepare a short paper for discussion on the last day of the workshop.

A list of readings and topics to be discussed at each session is provided separately. The following programme gives an idea of timings each day and participants. Meals will be held at Milburn House, where the workshops will be held (the Institute of Advanced Studies).

Warwick/Vanderbilt Early CareerSchool: Estrangement and the Natural World, 1650-1850

Monday 31 May

7pm Dinner, Scarman

Tuesday 1 June: 1550-1650

10-1pmSession One: Workshop led by PeterLake and Femke Molekamp


2-5pmSession Two: Workshop led by Elaine Leong and Kathryn Schwarz

Wednesday 2 June: 1650-1750

10- 1pmSession One: Workshop led by John Gilmore and Joel Harrington

1 - 2pmLunch

2-5pmSession Two: Workshop led by Gabe Cervantes and Peter Marshall

Thursday 3 June: 1750-1850

10- 1pmSession One: Workshop led by Karen O’Brien and Katy Crawford


2-4pmSession Two: Workshop led by Trevor Burnard and Mark Schoenfield

Friday 4 June

10-12pmFinal workshop led by Mary Floyd Wilson


1-4pmStudent presentations

Friday dinner:Scarman