CFP: Water and Fire in the representations of political power in Early Modern Europe

Water and Fire in the representations of political power in Early Modern Europe

International conference organised by Dr. Dénes HARAI and Dr. Gaëlle LAFAGE

23-24/03/2017, Paris, France

On the occasion of the third centenary of the death of Louis XIV, the Sun King was commemorated as the “king of fire.” Grand and musical, the “waters” of the Palace of Versailles provided and continue to provide the setting for the festivities and spectacles in accordance with the initial intentions of the Palace’s creators and the use of the estate. Recent research has shown that water and fire – elements which have been most often studied separately in the field of representations – were frequently associated in order to display the ambition of omnipotence of political power.

The novelty of this conference lies in the exploration of modalities of this association in representations (writing, painting, sculpture, architecture, medals, etc.) generated by political power (be it papal, episcopal, royal, princely, noble, or urban) in Early Modern Europe (16th-18th centuries). The articulation of water and of fire can be examined in a work or a series of works, which can be of different natures. A comparative approach to the topic is also welcome. As the objective of this conference is the application of an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of political representations, this call for papers is published in order to bring together historians, historians of arts, literature and performance. All researchers who wish to present a paper are invited to consider the following four axes of inquiry:

  1. Sources and methods: Which were the textual and visual references used for the articulation of both water and fire in the representations of political power? Which were the most solicited forms of expression to unite these two elements? Besides the typology of sources, the methods used in the elaboration of representations are to be examined. Was the articulation of both water and fire rare or recurring? Were different processes used for the representations of water and of fire? If so, how were they connected?
  2. Contexts and environments: In which contexts were the representations associating water and fire commissioned and created? Can they be linked to particular events: wars, building of a strong state power, catastrophes (floods and fires)? Was the articulation of the two elements more frequent in monarchies than in republics? Was it specific to a heroic way of thinking of the Baroque era or was it also a phenomenon during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment? In what kind of environments (closed and/or open, stable and enduring or mobile and ephemeral) were these elements associated?
  3. Oppositions and complementarities: To what extent did water enhance fire and vice-versa in the representations of power? Is it possible to distinguish the systematic domination of one element by the other? Were there particular contexts, environments and/or processes that lent themselves to displaying oppositions and complementarities between water and fire? The place of fire fountains and water fireworks is emblematic from this point of view and invites further inquiries while not excluding others.
  4. Perceptions and receptions: How was the articulation of water and fire perceived by contemporaries (in books, diaries, memoirs and correspondences)? How did depositaries of power assess the representations that they commissioned? How did posterity regard representations of political power using water and fire? How have modern literature and art forms since the 19th century integrated water and fire in the representations of early modern political power (in comics, theatrical plays, films, etc.)?

Application process

Scholars who are interested in presenting a paper are asked to prepare an abstract (maximum 1 500 characters and spaces) and a biographical statement in French or in English (maximum 1 000 characters and spaces) specifying academic affiliation and major publications (if any). The language in which the applicant will present the paper if selected by the scientific committee (French or English) must also be specified. All these elements have to be submitted at in one PDF file before 31/10/2016.

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About Steve Mentz 1265 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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