Conversion and Modernity
In partnership with the Faculty of Religious Studies sponsored by the Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR), the SCS unit Faculty Partnerships and Summer Studies will offer a series of eight lectures on Conversion and Modernity starting October 2012. Lectures of 50 minutes to one hour in length followed by a half-hour open discussion will be delivered on the McGill Campus, in the Birks Building at 3520 University Street on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 5:30pm. After the lectures there will be a reception in the Foyer of the building.
For a list of lectures and dates, please see:
Conversion and Modernity [.pdf]
If you have any questions, please contact us via phone at
514-398-5212 or by email at facultypartnerships [dot] conted [at] mcgill [dot] ca
Description of the Lecture Series
The notion of “conversion” is commonly taken to denote a specifically religious phenomenon. In its broad definition, however, conversion refers to a “turning” with respect to position, direction, or destination which results in a recasting of basic orientation. “Conversion” can signify a fundamental alteration of character, a change of nature, form, or function, that is to say, a process of turning or being turned towards or even into something else, as in metamorphosis. Conversion can enable an elemental transformation of perspective in both real and metaphorical space. The origins of secular modernity can be traced back to an occurrence of shared cultural conversion, a turning or radical shift in orientation with respect to the widely assumed “horizon” of knowledge and meaning—in Greek metanoia or, as some have recently termed it, a conversion of “cognitive ecology”. The cognitive and cultural shift which gives rise to modernity is customarily associated with intellectual, religious, and aesthetic movements designated by historians as “Renaissance”, “Reformation”, and “the Baroque”. With an emerging modernity manifold forms of conversion have translated the horizon lines of knowledge and redrawn the world-pictures of individuals and whole communities. In short, our theme takes as its premise that modernity itself can be viewed as the manifestation of a broadly based “conversion” of world-view. In tracing the birth of modernity the phenomenon of religious conversion provides an effectual point of departure for a wider discussion of diverse “forms of conversion”—geographical, socio-cultural, material, linguistic, literary and artistic, human-animal, sexual, cognitive and affective, as well as religious. By treating these forms of conversion across disciplinary boundaries as a nexus of movements, translations, and transformations, we hope that these lectures will contribute to developing an understanding of religious, cultural, and cognitive change that will in turn provide insight into the emergence of the modern world.
The CREOR Lecturers
Paul Yachnin is Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies in the Department of English and Director if the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (iPLAI) at McGill University. He was elected President of the Shakespeare Association of America in 2009. Paul was the Principal Investigator in a Major Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI) funded by SSHRC: ‘Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700’ (2005-2010). Paul is the author and editor of numerous books including:Making Publics in Early Modern Europe: People, Things, Forms of Knowledge. Ed. Bronwen Wilson and Paul Yachnin. London and New York, 2011; Shakespeare and Character: Theory, History, Performance, and Theatrical Persons. Ed. Paul Yachnin and Jessica Slights. London, 2009; Shakespeare and the Cultures of Performance. Ed. Paul Yachnin and Patricia Badir. London, 2008.
Mark Vessey is Professor of English and Principal of Green College at the University of British Columbia. His research focusses on Jerome, Augustine and Latin late antiquity; Erasmus and the literary Renaissance; classical and Christian traditions in European literature. Mark is the author of Christian Latin Writers in Late Antiquity and their Texts. Collected Studies Series. Aldershot and Burlington, NY: Ashgate, 2005; co-editor with Karla Pollmann of Augustine and the Disciplines: From Cassiciacum to “Confessions”. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005; with James W. Halporn of Cassiodorus: “Institutions of Divine and Secular Learning” and “On the Soul”. Translated Texts for Historians. Liverpool, 2004; and Holy Scripture Speaks: The Production and Reception of Erasmus’ “Paraphrases on the New Testament”. Toronto, 2002.
Iain Fenlon is Professor of Historical Musicology in the Faculty of Music and a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge University. His principal area of research is music from 1450 to 1650, particularly in Italy. With James Haar he has written a study of the emergence of the Italian madrigal, which establishes the importance of its Florentine origins, and his 1994 Panizzi lectures on early Italian music print culture are published by The British Library. Giaches de Wert: Letters and Documents (Paris, 1999) provides editions with commentary of the composer’s letters, including an important cache of autographs discovered in the late 1990s. Most of his writings, some of which are gathered together in Music and Culture in Late Renaissance Italy (Oxford, 2000), explore how the history of music is related to the history of society. His most recent book is The Ceremonial City: History, Memory and Myth in Renaissance Venice. Yale, 2007.
Click here for details on Iain Fenlon’s lecture
Douglas Hedley is Reader in Hermeneutics and Metaphysics in the Faculty of Divinity and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge University. He is co-chair of the Platonism and Neoplatonism section of the American Academy of Religion and a past Secretary of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion and past President of the European Society for the Philosophy of Religion. His books include Sacrifice Imagined: Violence, Atonement, and the Sacred. New York, 2011; Living Forms of the Imagination. London, 2008;Coleridge, Philosophy, and Religion: Aids to Reflection and the Mirror of the Spirit. Cambridge, UK, 2000 and he is editor with Sarah Hutton of Platonism at the Origins of Modernity: Studies on Platonism and Early Modern Philosophy. Dordrecht, the Netherlands, 2008; and with W.J. Hankey of Deconstructing Radical Orthodoxy: Postmodern Theology, Rhetoric, and Truth. Aldershot, Hants, 2005.
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Bronwen Wilson was recently appointed Professor of Art History at the University of East Anglia. Until 2007 she was a member of the department of Art and Communication Studies at McGill and taught in the interim at the University of British Columbia. Bronwen is co-editor with Paul Yachnin of Making Publics in early modern Europe: people, things and forms of knowledge (Routledge, 2010). She received the Roland H. Bainton prize for Art History (2006) for her book, The World in Venice: print, the city, and early modern identity, Toronto, 2005), explores the ways in which new forms and uses of print - maps, costume, events, and portraits - contributed to changes in how identities accrued to individuals. Bronwen has recently begun a new project, Journeys to Constantinople: inscription, the horizon and duration in early modern travel imagery, that considers the complex ways in which visual representations, particularly landscape, mediated the experience of travel to the Ottoman Empire both in practice and vicariously.
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Sarah Beckwith is Professor of English and Chair of Theatre Studies at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. She received her PhD in English from King’s College, London. Dr Beckwith works on late-medieval religious writing, medieval and early modern drama, and ordinary language philosophy. Her book, Christ’s Body: Identity, Religion and Society in Medieval English Writing was published in 1993; Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in York’s Play of Corpus Christi, Chicago, 2001; Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness, was published by Cornell University Press in 2011. She is currently working on a book about Shakespearean tragedy and about philosophy’s love affair with the genre of tragedy.
Click here for details on Sarah Beckwith’s lecture
Emidio Campi is Professor of Church History Emeritus and former Director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History at the University of Zurich. Until 2009 Prof Dr Dr Campi was Ordinarius in Church History in the Faculty of Theology at Zurich. He was a Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Research on Religion (CREOR) in 2010. Emidio Campi is the author of numerous books including, most recently, Consensus Tigurinus (1549). Die Einigung zwischen Heinrich Bullinger und Johannes Calvin über das Abendmahl. Werden–Wertung–Bedeutung, Zurich, 2009; Scholarly Knowledge. Textbooks in early modern Europe (ed.), Geneva, 2008; Peter Martyr Vermigli’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Kirksville, 2006; Heinrich Bullinger und seine Zeit. Eine Vorlesungsreihe, Zurich, 2004; and he edited Peter Martyr Vermigli. Humanism, Republicanism, Reformation, Geneva, 2002; with Bruce Gordon, Architect of the Reformation. An Introduction to Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), Grand Rapids, 2004.
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Allan Greer is Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in Colonial North America, McGill University. His teaching and research interests centre on the history of early Canada in the context of colonial North America and the Early Modern Atlantic World. Among his publications are La Nouvelle-France et le Monde, Montreal 2009; Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits, Oxford, 2005; The People of New France, Toronto, 1997; The Patriots and the People, Toronto, 1993; and Peasant, Lord and Merchant, Toronto, 1985; books that have won a number of national and international prizes. He is currently at work on two projects: an overview of the history of New France and a comparative study of the clash of indigenous and European forms of land tenure in New Spain, New France and New England.
Click here for details on Allan Greer’s lecture