Purity and contamination have long figured in the accounts of the European Renaissance. Scholars, in the last few decades alone, have mapped the role these ideas have played in debates about godliness and sin, cleanliness, gender, and ethnicity, among other domains. Less thoroughly studied, though, is how these two intertwined categories informed European approaches to art and the built environment, both as it was created and experienced. It is precisely this lacuna that our conference aims to address. This one-day conference plots some of the myriad ways in which concerns for material purity—and contamination—shaped the artistic and architectural pursuits of early modern Europeans. The aim is not to treat these phenomena comprehensively, or to fit them within a coherent framework, but rather to recover historical instances in which they assumed particular salience: in the materials that practitioners adopted; in how they manipulated them; and in the responses (physiological, verbal, textual) that such activity provoked. To this end, participants will present case studies drawn from diverse periods and places in multiple practices, teasing out the contradictions and complexities inherent in early modern approaches to matter, but also the broader conceptual and ideological conditions that determined how matter was defined and understood. A concluding roundtable brings together a distinguished group of scholars and museum curators to debate the methodological strengths and limitations of the two categories, as well as their relevance beyond the domain of Renaissance studies.
Participants: Joseph Ackley, Amy Bloch, Rachel Boyd, Lorenzo Buonanno, Michael Cole, Jodi Cranston, Lauren Jacobi, Caroline Jones, David Karmon, Joseph Leo Koerner, Stephanie Leone, Jessica Maier, Carolina Mangone, Christopher Nygren, Pamela Smith, Luke Syson, Jane Tylus, Michael Waters, Carolyn Yerkes, and Daniel Zolli.
This event is the Fall 2016 New England Renaissance Conference. It is co-organized by Lauren Jacobi and Daniel Zolli. To register and for more information, click here or web search “MIT HTC Purity and Contamination”. The conference takes place from 9:30 am to 6pm in the Bartos Theatre on the MIT campus.