Resource: ‘Treasure Hunt’ and the National Trust

Posted in on site, resources by Editor on August 18, 2010

Quebec House, by Roy Willard. ©Estate of Roy Willard

As noted in previous postings, the blog format seems to lend itself nicely to acquisition news. Emile de Bruijn of the National Trust edits a terrific site for just such a purpose. Treasure Hunt regularly includes fascinating postings, often with information that one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere (or at least hard-pressed to know one should look for such things anywhere). A recent posting, for instance, addresses Quebec House, in Westerham, Kent, “the childhood home of James Wolfe, who was born there in 1727 and spent the first 11 years of his life there.” As is often the case with historic properties, one faces the vexing dilemma of choosing a particular period to present over others: in this case, should the Trust go with the a newly-discovered 1630s scheme for the main bedroom or maintain the mid-eighteenth-century presentation that prevails throughout the rest of the house?

A number of recent postings also address Emile’s experience at this year’s Ashridge Garden History Summer School (30 July — 4 August). It looks like an amazing program.

Call for Papers: Sensibility Conference in Brisbane

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on August 18, 2010

In conjunction with the Australasian Society of Continental Philosophy Conference, The Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland will be sponsoring a specialist stream:

Sensibilité: The Knowing Body in the Enlightenment
University of Queensland, Brisbane, 3-5 December 2010

Proposals due by 31 August 2010
In mid- to late- eighteenth century thought, particularly in France and in the thought of the philosophes, materialism and atheism were seriously considered both publicly in the writings of, for example, d’Holbach, and privately by others such as Diderot. The 1743 treatise Le Philosophe presented the philosopher in materialistic and mechanistic terms as a human thinking machine that reflected on its own motion. In the context of vitalist medicine however, this was far from a mechanistic description in the modern sense and only some philosophes were in fact materialists.

The vitalism of the médecines philosophes from the Montpellier faculty of medicine held the attention of the philosophes in a period in which medicine constituted the master discourse. It was Montpellier theorists who made sensibility a key concept of eighteenth century: sensibility was the basis of a holistic vision of the body, one in which individual organs had their own “tastes” or “lives,” and in which unity came not from a “higher” organizing seat (the soul, brain or noumenal subject) but, rather, from the harmonious interaction of the physical parts. Bordeu, Lacaze, and their disciples (1750s-80s) saw sensibility as a diffuse property conveyed not just through the nerves but also reciprocally through the three main spheres or departments of vital action: the head, the “phrenic” region, and the external organ (roughly, the skin). That the physical and the moral could not be separated was a broadly accepted proposition: the idea of diffuse embodied sensibility is critical for the period’s understanding of affect, the emotions, and of mental functioning. This is evidenced in the highly contested work of La Mettrie but also in Roussel, Tissot and Rousseau.

Central to the wide-spread rejection of innate ideas, sensationism was the highly idiosyncratic epistemology of the period. Formalised and systematised by Condillac, the sensationist presuppositions were widely shared across the French and Scottish Enlightenments and it was arguably the most significant unifying feature of the period allowing thinkers as diverse as Rousseau, Diderot, Voltaire, and Sade to share common ground. In Rousseau and Adam Smith, sensationism as a theory of physical sensation became a theory of moral sentiments: sensibility as a theory of knowledge was expressly conceived of as a theory of moral knowing. Rousseau was a dualist, a sensationist, a theorist of virtue and purity of heart. For him the violence of passion was itself an enemy, the unnatural product of modernising society. Sade was a materialist, a sensationist and a theorist of vice, cruelty and lust. For him the purity of the heart was an impediment to pleasure. Here the philosophical novel’s power to affect made it the philosophical genre of choice.

Sensibility, then, was an embodied epistemology which briefly flourished in a period before “the theory of knowledge” was taken as a discrete field of philosophical inquiry. Hence sensationism was heavily influenced by the philosophical anthropologies of the day and by medical science: the Enlightenment notion of sensibility provides a paradigm that integrates such diverse fields as physiology, medicine, philosophy, ethics, anthropology, aesthetics and literature. Yet neither sensationism nor sensibility are key Kantian themes and the nineteenth century’s construction of the Aufklärung as leading to an apotheosis in the three Critiques has worked to occlude this feature. This stream seeks then to retrieve a major component of Enlightenment thought from the shadow the Kantian edifice.

Call for Papers
If you would like to submit an abstract, or if you have any queries about the specialist stream, please contact Martyn Lloyd (m.lloyd@uq.edu.au). Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words and include a list of five keywords. Papers will be 30 minutes long. Please include a short biography (100 words) including institutional affiliation. The stream will be run with a view to the publication of an edited collection of papers on the theme. Closing date for abstracts: August 31, 2010.

Keynote: Anne Vila
Anne Vila is Chair of the Department of French and Italian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She specialises in the eighteenth-century French novel, theatre, and intellectual history; the body in literature and medicine; the culture and philosophy of the Enlightenment. Her book Enlightenment and Pathology: Sensibility in the Literature and Medicine of Eighteenth-Century France (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998) focused on the conjunction between scientific and literary/philosophical writings during the French Enlightenment, working against the tendencies of nineteenth and twentieth century notions of epistemology to obscure that which preceded them. She has also published “Penser par le ventre: The Gastric Embodiment of Thought and Feeling in Eighteenth-Century France,” and “Sex and Sensibility: Pierre Roussel’s Système physique et moral de la femme,” as well as papers on Tissot, Rousseau, and Diderot. She is currently working on a manuscript provisionally entitled Singular Beings: Passions and Pathologies of the Scholar in France, 1720–1840.