Lecture | Pannill Camp on Masonic Ritual as Philosophy

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on March 29, 2015

From The Newberry:

Pannill Camp, Masonic Ritual as Philosophy in Early Eighteenth-Century France
The Newberry Library, Chicago, 25 April 2015

The story of Freemasonry’s introduction into France in the early decades of the eighteenth century is also in part the story of Enlightenment philosophy’s reliance on performance activity. Radical philosophy and freethinking did not subsist only in the circulation of printed texts. Natural philosophy was demonstrated in proliferating spaces of experimental proof, and esoteric thinkers devised ceremonies meant to serve as the basis of a new moral and intellectual reality. Figures credited with promoting French interest in Freemasonry, including J. T. Desaguliers, were also intimately involved in disseminating new knowledge about the natural world.

As part of a project that examines multiple categories of performance behavior that Freemasonry instituted and inspired in France, Professor Camp will propose that Masonic ritual activity represents a broader category of philosophical performance, encompassing works like John Toland’s 1720 Pantheisticon, which Margaret C. Jacob has provocatively called a Masonic ritual text. Examining this text alongside artifacts of proper Masonic rituals, Professor Camp will also argue that treating eighteenth-century French Freemasonry as an embodied philosophical pursuit may allow us to reconcile two disjointed themes that have so far characterized historians’ approaches to the topic. In other words, the ideals that motivated early Masonic activity, when viewed through the lens of performance, may also be seen as integral to the synthetic emotional bonds and sensitive masculine solidarity cultivated in lodge activity.

Eighteenth-Century Seminar, Saturday, April 25, 2015, 2pm.
Please register by 10am Friday, April 24.

Pannill Camp is Assistant Professor of Drama at Washington University, St Louis. His research examines points of intersection between theater history and the history of philosophy, especially in eighteenth-century France. He is the author of The First Frame: Theatre Space in Enlightenment France, (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

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