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Old and New Humanism(s): Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Culture

Humanism—the renowned contribution of the Renaissance to academic inquiry and creative endeavors—began as a movement to recover the classical past and to explore what it means to be human. However, as a way of living, humanism did not always align with contemporary views on politics, education, religion, and culture. Thus, humanism has been a subject of debate since its origins. These conflicts still reverberate in our own discussions with regard to the pertinence and role of the humanities today.

The purpose of this conference is twofold. First, we will examine the ways texts contributed to or resisted the humanist movement in order to investigate the influence of humanism on medieval and early modern thought. Of particular interest will be sites of controversy or tension, such as the implications of classical and scientific discoveries on representations of man in literature, art, theology, medicine, and history.

Second, we will discuss the relationship between humanism and the humanities today as a means of understanding the future of the “Humanities.” Along these lines, we will explore emerging fields and theories, such as digital humanities and posthumanism, and we will attempt to answer the questions of what it means to be a humanist and what our responsibilities are as scholars in the humanities.

“Old and New Humanism(s)” is part of a five-year partnership between King’s College, London and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and our collaboration seeks to engage graduate students from both institutions and from across the United States in a critical discussion about the role of the Humanities. This conference will be dedicated to locating humanism, then and now, as a site of contestation, and we are particularly interested in papers that draw explicit connections between medieval and early modern humanism and the humanities today.

Suggested topics include:
–Humanism and today’s humanities
–Humanism, critiques and controversies
–Digital humanities
–Posthumanist theories, broadly defined to include ecocriticism, object theory, disability studies, and animal studies
–Medieval humanism
–Humanism and religion
–Humanist correspondence and writings
–Humanism in print
–Medieval and early modern education
–Studia humanitatis
–Medical humanism
–Visual representations of man and his world

“Old and New Humanism(s)” will be held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from April 15th-16th, 2016.