If a lie had no more faces but one, as truth had, we should be in farre better termes than we are: For whatsoever a lier should say, we would take it in a contrarie sense. But the opposite of truth has many shapes, and an undefinite field.
Michel de Montaigne, ‘Of Lyers’ (Florio translation -1603)
Can we say that truth has ‘no more faces than one’? Montaigne implies that human relationships with truth are straightforward, whereas our attitudes towards falsehood are complicated by its multiplicity. But how stable is the notion of ‘truth’? Does truth – like falsehood – appear in many forms, and if so, can we ever take it at face value?
Legal, emotional, and spiritual concerns — all vital to truth-telling discourses — are intimately bound in the Renaissance. This conference offers a forum for the exploration of their intersections. The study of legal culture has become increasingly central to the analysis of early modern literary texts, and legal paradigms are inescapable when scholars turn their attention, as many have recently done, to the equivocal power of language to bind people together. We find the legal value of such bonds – in the form of oaths, promises and contracts – going hand in hand with interpersonal relationships and their emotional and spiritual dimensions.
Our objective is to foster debate about the marriage between two clearly connected fields: Law and Literature; and the study of early modern emotion. How do these fields work together? We form bonds; we tell lies; we search for and construct truths: but under what circumstances?
Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:
- The connections between law, emotion, and obligation, and how the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries engage with these dynamics.
- The formation and evaluation of bonds in the early modern world.
- How public/private spaces affect attitudes towards truth-telling.
- The relationship between faith, truth, and honesty in the Renaissance.
- How belief and trust are generated.
- The binding power of language and rhetoric.
- Transmissions of knowledge, belief, and emotion.
Confirmed keynote speakers are:
John Kerrigan (Cambridge), on Bonds
Andrew Hadfield (Sussex), on Lies
Lorna Hutson (St Andrews), on Circumstances
Proposals for 20-minute papers should include an abstract (of no more than 200 words), 3 keywords, and 3 citations, and should be emailed to earlymodern[at]st-andrews.co.uk. We are happy to consider proposals for panels; in the event that we are unable to accommodate the panel, papers will be considered on an individual basis.
All abstracts must be received by July 31st 2012; the conference will be held March 21-23, 2013, at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
We welcome proposals from researchers at all stages of their careers, working in departments of Art History, Comparative Literature, English, History, Languages, Law, Theology, and other relevant subject areas. General questions can be directed to the conference organizers – Rachel Holmes and Toria Johnson – at earlymodern[at]st-andrews.co.uk.
In conjunction with the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature (CMEMLL), with generous support from the Society for Renaissance Studies.
Toria Johnson or Rachel Holmes
University of St Andrews, School of English
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