Call for papers: Community Formation in the Early Modern World of Science and Learning

Memory and Identity in the Learned World

Community Formation in the Early Modern World of Science and Learning

On November 7-9, 2019, the ERC project Sharing Knowledge in Learned and Literary Networks (SKILLNET) will organize a conference at Utrecht University on memory and identity in the early modern learned world. The central question for this conference is how scholars, scientists, and learned men and women formed a community by remembering and identification. Confirmed keynote speakers are prof. dr. Karl Enenkel and prof. dr. Judith Pollmann.

The Republic of Letters — the early modern community of scholars — has been vaguely conceptualized in historiography. Some take it to be the correspondence networks between scholars; others equate it very broadly to the entire early modern learned and intellectual world. Yet, how did early modern scholars themselves imagine the Republic of Letters? To answer this question we focus on community formation through scholarly identity and collective memory. Scholarly identity includes both exemplary figures such as Erasmus or Newton, as well as the self-fashioning of other scholars to fit a mold. Collective memory pertains to the ways of remembering in the scholarly community, for example in letters, vitae, journals, opera omnia, monuments, libraries and memorials. By bringing together scholars who have knowledge of disparate aspects of the scholarly milieu in the early modern period, we hope to better reconstruct the formation of the trans-confessional and pan-European community.

Suggestions for papers are:

  • Scholarly values, virtues and vices
  • Monuments, memorials, and other “sites of memory” (lieux de mémoire)
  • Biography, auto-biography and other forms of life-writing
  • The role and (social) position of women in the learned world
  • The self-definition of the learned world by early modern actors
  • Correspondence networks, especially their codes of conduct and social hierarchy
  • Friendship and bonds, e.g. in Alba amicorum
  • The emergence of a discourse around the Republic of Letters in the early eighteenth century (e.g. in theatre, dissertations, and books) both positively and negatively
  • The role of Digital Humanities tools, such as named entity recognition (NER) and sentiment analysis in text-mining large scholarly corpora.

Proposal types and submission

The conference will contain a variety of different papers, including paper presentations (20 min.) and object/source presentations (10 min.). The object/source presentations allow for a presentation of a specific source or object, for example the Newton tomb in Westminster Abbey or an antiquarian manuscript. We also invite advanced (research) master students to give a short presentation of their work.

Please submit your paper proposal (max. 300 words) or object/source proposal (max. 200 words) including a personal biography (max. 150 words) before 1 May, 2019 as an attachment (pdf- or doc-file) to an e-mail to Koen Scholten (

There are plans to publish selected papers in an international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal.

For more information, please visit our conference website.

This conference is organized by members of the ERC-funded research project SKILLNET: Sharing Knowledge in Learned and Literary Networks – The Republic of Letters as a Pan-European Knowledge Society.


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