GEMS Doctoral School Seminar 2018: Histories and Theories of Reading

GEMS (Ghent University’s Early Modern Studies Centre) is proud to present the programme of this year’s Histories and Theories of Reading Seminar. The Seminar is funded by Ghent University’s Doctoral School-programme (Humanities and Law) and is open (and exclusively so) to PhD-students. Those of you who want to participate, please get in touch with Students will earn a credit by participating in (at least) three out of six sessions. Below are the details of the programme (the dates for the spring semester have been finalised) and a description of the format.

Histories and Theories of Reading: Fourth Series (2018)

The specialist course consists of a series of seminars that cover a period from January 2018 to December 2018. As in the previous three successful series, each seminar focuses on the work of one of six eminent international literary scholars who play a leading role in the disciplines of literary and cultural theory and literary and cultural history and have made important theoretical and conceptual contributions to their respective disciplines and to the historiography of both the central object of study (literary writing) and the disciplinary attempts at writing its history. Each of the scholars central to the seminar are, first and foremost, experts in their disciplines and specialists of a particular literary historical moment (ranging from the early modernity to the twentieth century). We aim for a good mixture of senior and more junior scholars: some of our guests are internationally renowned leading figures (Belsey, Korsten, Schiffman) while others have the potential to rise to that fame (Badmington, Galvez, Marno, Parvini).

The aim of the seminar is to provide both an in-depth discussion of the past research and work in progress of the particular scholar as well as a reflection on emerging concepts, theories and approaches in the disciplines of literary and cultural theory and literary and cultural history. In addition to the thematic interests of the invited scholars, we will also draw on the conceptual approach of each individual scholar. In this way, the specialist course is not only of added value to PhD students specialized in the particular discipline or historical moment of the invited scholar, but also to any PhD student dealing with (literary) texts or concepts in his or her research.

The specialist course is divided into six seminars with the international specialists that we have invited. Each seminars consists of two sessions: in a first session (3 contact hours) the selected texts by the invited speaker will be discussed under the guidance of one of GEMS professorial or postdoctoral staff. These texts are chosen by the invited scholar in consultation with the organisers of the specialist course and will run up to a maximum of 150 pages per seminar (our guests are asked to select five ‘texts’). The texts will be circulated among the participants a few weeks prior to the first session. The goal of this introductory discussion (supervised by one or more of the GEMS-co-ordinators) in the first session is to prepare the participating PhD students for the conversation and discussion with the invited scholar in the second session. Additionally, at the end of this first session each participant is asked to prepare and formulate one major question regarding the research of the invited scholar in relation to the participant’s own PhD research. These questions will be further formulated in writing in the days of the session and will be circulated among the participants before the session with the invited scholar. They will help structure the conversation in the second session.

During this second session (3 contact hours), which takes place approximately a week after the first, the invited scholar will give a short introductory presentation on his past, current and envisioned work. This presentation or talk will form the basis for a thorough exchange between the scholar and the participants. During the exchange the participants will have ample of opportunity to pose their prepared questions and discuss further questions that rise up during the conversation. This method of operation allows the participating PhD students not only to develop and deepen their expertise in the research field but also to practice asking and formulating critical questions and participating in scholarly debates. These skills will undoubtedly prove valuable in their research career at scholarly symposia, roundtable discussions and conferences. As the seminars are conducted in English, the specialist course also offers an occasion to practise their language proficiency in ‘academic English’.


Spring term:

Session 1: Neema Parvini (University of Surrey)
Theme: The future of historicism – ‘beyond’ the New Historicism.
Preparatory session: Thursday, March 22 2018 (9.30-12.30)
Session with our guest: Thursday, March 29, 2018 (9.30-12.30)

Session 2: David Marno (University of California, Berkeley)
Theme: early-modern poetry and its relations to religious history – the genealogy of aesthetic criticism.
Preparatory session: Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (9.30-12.30)
Session with our guest: Tuesday, May 15, 2018 (9.30-12.30)

Session 3: Catherine Belsey (Derby University) / Neil Badmington (Cardiff University)
Theme: the heritage of post-structuralism and the future of literary and cultural studies – what is the value of criticism today?
Preparatory session: Friday, May 25, 2018 (9.30-12.30)
Session with our guests: Friday, June 1, 2018 (9.30-12.30)

Fall term:

September/October [date to be specified]: Zachary Schiffman (Northeastern Illinois University)
Theme: the topic of his book The Birth of the Past: the genealogy of Western concepts and modes of historical thinking – Reading historical anachronism vs. reading ‘the past’ in early modern Europe

Early November [date to be specified]: Marisa Galvez (Stanford University)
Theme: the genealogy of poetry before it became ‘modern’

December [date to be specified]: Frans Willem Korsten (Leiden University)
Theme: towards a new form of cultural history – specific case: the Dutch Golden Age.