“Jesuits and Visual Culture”: Center for Early Modern Studies Conference in Special Collections

May 5th, 2013

On May 7, 2013, Special Collections will host a full-day session of a conference entitled ” ‘Spiritual Optiks‘: Jesuits and Visual Culture.” This conference, organized by Prof. Sabine Mödersheim, director of the Center for Early Modern Studies (CEMS), builds on scholarly interests across campus as well as the exhibit “Jesuits and the Construction of Knowledge”  in Special Collections in 2011 and an ongoing project to digitize Jesuit iconography through the UW Digital Collections.

The CEMS conference program begins at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 6, 2013, with a public keynote lecture with the intriguing title, “Jesuit Emblems and Catholic Comics,” by Laurence Grove, director of the Stirling Maxwell Centre for the Study of Text/Image Cultures at the University of Glasgow. The lecture will be held in room L150 in the Elvehjem building, Chazen Museum.

Conference sessions on Tuesday, May 7 (held in Special Collections, 984 Memorial Library) will feature wide-ranging studies of Jesuit emblematica, analysis of specific images of lunar geography in the 17th century, exploration of a Jesuit “empire of knowledge,” and a workshop investigating scholarly possibilities afforded by the UW-Madison digital Jesuit iconography project.

The latter project (undertaken through Special Collections and the UW Digital Collections in collaboration with Prof. Florence Hsia and graduate students Meridith Beck Sayre and Lynnette Regouby from the Department of History of Science at UW-Madison) aims at presenting high-quality digital images of illustrations from our strong holdings of scholarly works by Jesuit authors in conjunction with detailed, searchable descriptions. Such illustrations range from deeply symbolic frontispieces of Jesuit publications on mathematical sciences

engraved title page from the Opera mathematica of Tacquet, held in Special Collections, UW-Madison, and digitized through the UW Digital Collections

to depictions of exotic animals encountered by Jesuit missionaries

What we now call a pangolin, from Tachard's Second voyage to Siam (1689), from Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison

and from fanciful (if mathematically accurate) sundials

Sundial in the shape of a sandal, from Bettini's Aerarium philosophiae mathematicae (1648), held in Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and digitized through the UW Digital Collections

to disembodied diagrams of mechanical experiments.

Fig. 37 in Sturm's  Collegium experimentale, sive curiosum (1701), from the holdings of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison

See the full program for details about the CEMS conference sessions.