Monday, January 05, 2009

Self-Fashioning and Community in the Early Modern University, 1500-1700

Call for Papers
Workshop at Trinity College Dublin, 14-15 May 2009

The notion that university academics recognised themselves as a distinct social category in the early modern period is one that has typically received a cautious response from historians. This is in large part a consequence of a general lacuna in existing scholarship on questions of academic social identity. In recent years, however, scholars investigating various facets of early modern academic culture have begun to fill this gap. New research presents much evidence of an increased self-consciousness among university scholars during this period and an awareness of academic social distinction and difference. This growth in academic self-consciousness coincides with the rise in the importance of the university within the confessional state. In the Holy Roman Empire, for example, the frequency of university foundation increased considerably in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a sign of the perceived and actual utility of such institutions. Inevitably, this new prominence resulted in a dispensation of agency to those responsible the university’s operation, namely the professoriate (loosely defined).

This increase in institutional power was no doubt an important factor in affecting a change in the social disposition and self-perception of university academics. Professorial social networking in this period, for example, has been found to reveal efforts to consolidate distinctly academic social power, reflecting a high level of self-recognition. Certainly, during this period a significant increase in representational output from universities is evident. Academic self-characterisations are ubiquitous in this output which has a wide formal range from the ceremonial to the architectural, from printed pamphlets to funeral monuments. It will be the purpose of this workshop to explore these representational practices. In particular, participants will be asked to consider the relationship between the fashioning of individual scholarly identities, representations of an academic social category and the generation of university-based academic communities in this period. Papers presented at the workshop should be revised subsequently for the purposes of publication in an edited volume.

Proposals for papers on relevant topics are now being sought. Interested scholars should submit an abstract of c. 400 words to Dr Richard Kirwan ( by 9th February 2009.

The workshop is being organised by Dr Richard Kirwan of NUI, Maynooth ( and Dr Crawford Gribben of Trinity College Dublin ( The workshop is being sponsored by the arts and humanities research institute for Trinity College Dublin, the Long Room Hub, and is held in association with the International Commission for the History of Universities.


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