Chargement Évènements

« Tous les Évènements

  • Cet évènement est passé

Colloque international - Women and Curiosity in England in the early modern period

21 juin 2013 - 22 juin 2013

Inter­na­tio­nal confe­rence 21–22 June 2013

Women and Curio­si­ty in Ear­ly Modern England

Uni­ver­si­té Paris Ouest Nan­terre (Quar­to, CREA370) & Uni­ver­si­té Sor­bonne Nou­velle – Paris 3 (Épis­té­mè, PRISMES EA4398)




Ven­dre­di 21 juin

Uni­ver­si­té Paris Ouest Nan­terre La Défense

200 ave­nue de la Répu­blique 92001 Nan­terre

(RER A, Nan­terre-Uni­ver­si­té)

Bâti­ment V, Salle V410

9h45: Accueil des par­ti­ci­pants.
10h00: Ouver­ture, Cor­ne­lius Crow­ley, direc­tor of CREA (EA 370), Paris Ouest.
10h15-11h30: Ses­sion 1 – Intro­du­cing female curio­si­ty (Chair: N. Ken­ny)
San­drine Para­geau (Paris Ouest): “‘She will needs see, and be seen’: Women as Curio­si­ties and Curiose in Ear­ly Modern England”
Sue Wise­man (Birk­beck Col­lege, Lon­don): “Gen­der, Myth and Inves­ti­ga­tion”
11h45-13h00: Ses­sion 2 – Forms of female curio­si­ty (Chair: S. Wise­man)
Myriam Mar­rache-Gou­raud (Poi­tiers): “Women and their Cabi­nets of Curio­si­ties in Ear­ly Modern France: a Visible Mino­ri­ty?”
Lau­ra Levine (Tisch School of the Arts, New York Uni­ver­si­ty): “Spec­tacles of doubt: Curio­si­ty, Cer­tain­ty and King James”
14h30-15h45:  Ses­sion 3 – Eve and co: Bibli­cal contexts (Chair: A. Dubois-Nayt)
Yan Brai­lows­ky (Paris Ouest): “From Gene­si­tic Curio­si­ty to Mur­de­rous Gyno­cra­cy in the Six­teenth Cen­tu­ry”
Paul Davis (UCL, Lon­don): “Eve and Curio­si­ty in Milton’s Para­dise Lost
16h00-17h15: Ses­sion 4 – Curio­si­ty and fic­tion (Chair: G. Venet)
Auré­lie Grif­fin (Angers): “Women in Mary Wroth’s Ura­nia: From Objects of Curio­si­ty to Curious Sub­jects”
Edith Gir­val (Sor­bonne Nou­velle): “Pandora’s sis­ters: The Curious Women of Aphra Behn’s Fic­tion”

Same­di 22 juin

Uni­ver­si­té Sor­bonne Nou­velle

Centre Cen­sier, 13 rue de San­teuil, 75005 Paris


Salle 410

9h30: Ouver­ture, Line Cot­te­gnies, Direc­trice d'Epistémè / PRISMES (EA 4398), Sor­bonne Nou­velle
9h30-10h45:  Ses­sion 5 – Female Curio­si­ty and Socie­ty (Chair: C. Sukic)
Neil Ken­ny  (All Souls’ Col­lege, Oxford): “Curio­si­ty, Women, and the Social Orders”
Joan­na Lud­wi­kows­ka-Leniec (Adam Mickie­wicz Uni­ver­si­ty, Poz­nan): “Pro­tec­ting Eve’s Daugh­ters: Post­me­die­val Approaches to Women in Richard Allestree’s The Ladies’ Cal­ling (1673) and Cot­ton Mather’s Orna­ments for the Daugh­ters of Zion (1692)”

11h00-12h45: Ses­sion 6 – The curious female rea­der  (Chair: S. Para­geau)


Lae­ti­tia Cous­se­ment-Boillot (Paris Dide­rot): “ ‘Too Curious a Secre­cy’: Curious­ness, Curio­si­ty and Vani­ty in Lady Mary Wroth’s Ura­nia


Sarah Hut­ton (Abe­rystwyth Uni­ver­si­ty, Wales): “Ques­tions and Curio­si­ty: the Inter­ro­ga­tive Anne Conway”

Line Cot­te­gnies (Sor­bonne Nou­velle): “Mar­ga­ret Caven­dish or the Curious Rea­der”
Orga­ni­sa­trices :
Line Cot­te­gnies (Sor­bonne Nou­velle)
San­drine Para­geau (Uni­ver­si­té Paris Ouest)
Texte de cadrage :

The mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of cabi­nets of curio­si­ties and the obses­sion with novel­ty are evi­dence of the deve­lop­ment of a “culture of curio­si­ty” in the ear­ly modern per­iod. In Europe, the teles­cope, which soon became the ins­tru­ment of curio­si­ty, epi­to­mi­zed man’s desire to see beyond the pillars of Her­cules. The phy­si­co-theo­lo­gi­cal dimen­sion of natu­ral phi­lo­so­phy at the time led to consi­de­ring curio­si­ty as a wish to know God by rea­ding the Book of Nature and unra­vel­ling its mys­te­ries. In his article on “Curio­si­ty, For­bid­den Know­ledge and the Refor­ma­tion in Ear­ly Modern England” (Isis, 2001, 265–90), Peter Har­ri­son argues that there was a “reha­bi­li­ta­tion of curio­si­ty” in the ear­ly modern per­iod. While curio­si­ty had long been consi­de­red as an intel­lec­tual vice, asso­cia­ted with hybris and the ori­gi­nal sin, and des­cri­bed by Augus­tine as “lust of the eyes”, it became a vir­tue in the 17th cen­tu­ry. One of the main rea­sons for this trans­for­ma­tion was the conti­nued efforts of natu­ral phi­lo­so­phers to demons­trate that curio­si­ty was moral­ly accep­table in order to legi­ti­mize their scien­ti­fic endea­vour. Thus Fran­cis Bacon and his fol­lo­wers insis­ted on the code of conduct of natu­ral phi­lo­so­phers, the use­ful­ness of the know­ledge they were see­king and the dis­cre­pan­cy bet­ween their own research and occult sciences. All of them cham­pio­ned the “good curio­si­ty” of the natu­ral phi­lo­so­phers who fol­lo­wed the Baco­nian pro­gramme, as oppo­sed to the “bad curio­si­ty” of men and women inter­es­ted in magic, and in tri­vial and super­fi­cial mat­ters.

If there was indeed a “reha­bi­li­ta­tion of curio­si­ty” in the ear­ly modern per­iod, did it have any impact on women’s desire for know­ledge ? The emer­gence of women phi­lo­so­phers at the time (Mar­ga­ret Caven­dish, Anne Conway, Lady Rane­lagh, Eli­sa­beth of Bohe­mia, Cathe­rine of Swe­den, Dama­ris Masham, Cathe­rine Trot­ter, etc.) may indi­cate that their curio­si­ty was now consi­de­red as legi­ti­mate and moral­ly accep­table – or at least that it was tole­ra­ted. Yet it has been sug­ges­ted that the new sta­tus of curio­si­ty in the ear­ly modern per­iod led ins­tead to an even stron­ger dis­trust for women, who were both prone to curio­si­ty and curio­si­ties them­selves. A. Capo­di­vac­ca thus argues that the legi­ti­mi­za­tion of curio­si­ty came with a “degen­de­ring” or “viri­li­za­tion” of this facul­ty (Curio­si­ty and the Trials of the Ima­gi­na­tion in Ear­ly Modern Ita­ly, PhD, Ber­ke­ley, 2007, p. 7), and the­re­fore entai­led a rede­fi­ni­tion of good and bad curio­si­ty along gen­der lines. Simi­lar­ly, Neil Ken­ny states that in ear­ly modern Europe,“much male curio­si­ty had become good” and as a result “a much lar­ger pro­por­tion of bad curio­si­ty was now female” (The Uses of Curio­si­ty in Ear­ly Modern France and Ger­ma­ny, 2004, p. 385). The June 2013 confe­rence on “Women and Curio­si­ty” aims at asses­sing the impact of the alled­ged “reha­bi­li­ta­tion of curio­si­ty” on women in the ear­ly modern per­iod, by ana­ly­sing dis­courses on women as enqui­rers and objects of curio­si­ty. Ico­no­gra­phic and fic­tio­nal repre­sen­ta­tions of curious women and female curio­si­ty might also give an insight into the rela­tions bet­ween women and curio­si­ty in the ear­ly modern per­iod (for example, Cesare Ripa’s alle­go­ry of curio­si­ty as “a huge, wild-hai­red, win­ged woman” in Ico­no­lo­gia (1593), or repre­sen­ta­tions of emble­ma­tic curious women such as Eve, Dinah, Pan­do­ra, etc.). The ori­gins of these dis­courses and repre­sen­ta­tions, as well as their pre­mises, might also be inves­ti­ga­ted : to what extent did the condem­na­tion of women’s curio­si­ty reveal a fear of disor­der and trans­gres­sion ? Did it betray male anxie­ty about female sexua­li­ty or about the mys­te­ry of birth ? Was it jus­ti­fied by medi­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of curio­si­ty, such as a spe­ci­fic humou­ral condi­tion ?

Women’s own concep­tion of curio­si­ty / curio­si­ties in the ear­ly modern per­iod might also be of inter­est, espe­cial­ly as it is rare­ly stu­died. The confe­rence on “Women and Curio­si­ty” will thus give us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to focus on what women them­selves wrote about curio­si­ty in their trea­tises, fic­tio­nal works, trans­la­tions, and cor­res­pon­dences. For ins­tance, Queen Eli­za­beth I’s rela­tion to curio­si­ty, which was neces­sa­ri­ly dif­ferent from that of ordi­na­ry women, was revea­led in seve­ral of her trans­la­tions, in par­ti­cu­lar in her English ver­sion of Plutarch’s “De curio­si­tate” (based on Eras­mus’ Latin trans­la­tion) and her Latin ver­sion of Ber­nar­di­no Ochino’s “Che cosa è Cris­to” ; she also cri­ti­ci­sed theo­lo­gi­cal and poli­ti­cal curio­si­ty in a 1585 address to the cler­gy, expli­cit­ly refer­ring to Puri­tan prea­chers (Eli­za­beth I : Trans­la­tions, 1592–98, eds. J. Muel­ler & J. Sco­del, 2009). In her book The World’s Olio (1655), Mar­ga­ret Caven­dish gives a des­crip­tion of the ideal com­mon­wealth, the ruler of which should “have none of those they call their cabi­nets, which is a room filled with all use­less curio­si­ties, which seems Effe­mi­nate, and is so Expen­sive […] almost to the impo­ve­ri­shing of a King­dome”. Caven­dish adds that it might be more use­ful to fill the room with books, which are “more famous curio­si­ties” (p. 207). The works of Aphra Behn (who, inci­den­tal­ly, was a spy for King Charles II) can also be seen as a tes­ti­mo­ny on women’s rela­tion to curio­si­ty at the time : while the sto­ry rela­ted in Oroo­no­ko (1688) takes place in an exo­tic envi­ron­ment tee­ming with curio­si­ties, The His­to­ry of the Nun (1689) pre­sents curio­si­ty as being natu­ral to women (“natu­ral­ly […] Maids are curious and vain”, p. 58). Did women wri­ters consi­der curio­si­ty as intrin­si­cal­ly female ? How did they react to male dis­courses on women as enqui­rers and objects of curio­si­ty ? What repre­sen­ta­tions of curio­si­ty did they give in their texts ?

Papers should not exceed 25 minutes and will be given pre­fe­ra­bly in English. Please send your pro­po­sal (a 500-word abs­tract with a title) as well as a bio­gra­phi­cal note to San­drine Para­geau ( or and Line Cot­te­gnies ( before Janua­ry 31st, 2013.

Scien­ti­fic com­mit­tee :

Paul Davis (UCL, Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don) Armel Dubois-Nayt (Ver­sailles – Saint Quen­tin) Claire Ghee­raert-Graf­feuille (Rouen) Andrew His­cock (Ban­gor Uni­ver­si­ty, Wales) Sarah Hut­ton (Abe­rystwyth Uni­ver­si­ty, Wales) Guyonne Leduc (Charles de Gaulle – Lille 3) Fré­dé­ric Regard (Paris – Sor­bonne) Sue Wise­man (Birk­beck Col­lege, Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­don)


Début :
21 juin 2013
Fin :
22 juin 2013
Catégorie d’Évènement:


Universités Paris III / Paris Ouest
Paris, France


Line Cottegnies et Sandrine Parageau
E-mail :
Site Web :