Monday, April 16, 2012

Early Modern Constructions of Europe

Seminar Organisers: Florian Kläger (Münster, Germany) and Gerd Bayer (Erlangen,
Proposals are invited for an accepted group section (up to 15 speakers) to meet at the ICLA
conference in Paris, France, July 18-24, 2013. Further information about the conference is
available at:
The early modern period is a time of momentous developments for the European realm, not
least with regard to state formation and the fashioning of collective identities. In this context,
the question after the relationship between the European continent and its literary representations
may be fruitfully asked: how was 'Europe' imagined, how did the idea of Europe
feature in cultural negotiations of collective identities? How did it develop, in the early
modern period, from a notion broadly identical with the medieval communitas Christiana to
the political, legal, social, and economic construct of our day? To a degree, asking questions
of this kind means to consider the relationship between Europe as a geographical region and
as an imagined entity in terms usually reserved for the relationship between Europe and the
Orient. The panel invites speakers to analyse the causes, forms, and functions of constructions
of Europe in early modern literature and culture from 1400 to 1700. 'Literature', in this
context, is used in its widest sense, referring not only to plays, poems, and narrative fiction,
but also to writings on theology, cartography, history, law, natural philosophy, as well as
news reports, travelogues, and political polemics. Phenomena creating a sense of coherence
that resonate with present-day conceptions of Europe might include discourses on religion and
confessions, humanism, neo-Platonism, scepticism, and law (e.g., international treaties), but
also more strictly literary topoi, genres, and rhetorical modes that create a sense of belonging
to a specifically 'European' recipient community. Among the particular dimensions of early
modern 'European-ness' that might be examined are the notion of shared roots in classical
antiquity, the concept of 'civility', and the supposed threat from cultural and religious forces
from outside. We propose to examine the discursive contexts in which various constructions
of Europe do, and do not, arise; to ask what other concepts they attach to; and to question
what they are used for.
Please send a 400-word abstract by 20 May 2012 to and


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