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Beyond Words: The Unknowable and the Unutterable in early modernity

Friday 1 June 2018, 9.30AM

Keynote speaker: William Franke (Vanderbildt).  Author of On What Cannot be Said and A Philosophy of the Unsayable (among others):

'Paths Beyond Words: The Ways of Unsaying in Early Modernity'

This conference will explore the parameters of the Unknowable and the Unutterable in early modernity. It will range across the theological, the literary and the scientific, to attend to what early modern thinkers deemed beyond what they could find words for. If this apophatic inheritance – the language of what can’t be said - was a theological-mystical mode of thinking, what happened to it in the post-reformation climate of thought? Did natural philosophy understand the knowable limits of nature in the manner of the apophatic? How did emergent science negotiate the edges of what could be thought? What uses did early modern writers find for the apophatic traditions, Dionysius, Cusa, or John Scotus Eriugena? How did early modern poetry attend to the ineffable and that which was beyond words? The conference invites papers on the unknowable, the unutterable, the unthinkable and the unsayable, all broadly considered, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, whether English or European.

This symposium is part of the lax and diffuse Thomas Browne Seminar series and is sponsored by the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies


Natural philosophy and the unspeakable

  • Allegra Baggio Corradi (Warburg), The leksikon fantastikon of Niccolò Leonico Tomeo: The notion of halitus between natural science and divination
  • Yvonne Kiddle (University of Western Australia), Encountering the Deity through His Works: Bacon, the Apophatic and the Emergent Science
  • Kevin Tracey (Science Museum), Point not only in respect of the Heavens above us, but of that (…) Celestial Part within us’: Negotiating Early Modern Cosmography through Books and Instruments

English Religious untterables

  • David Manning (Leicester), Some Remnants of Pseudo-Dionysius? Rethinking Henry Hammond’s Practical Divinity
  • Mathilde Zeeman (York)Lancelot Andrewes and the apophatic  
  • Kevin Killeen (York), The Jobean Apophatic and the symphonic unknowability of the world

English poetic silences

  • Chance Woods (Vanderbilt University), The Apophatic Baroque: Poetry as Negative Theology in Angelus Silesius and Richard Crashaw 
  • Travis Williams (University of Rhode Island), Unspeakable Creation: Writing in Paradise Lost and Early Modern Mathematics
  • Rosie Paice (Portsmouth), ‘Lik’ning spiritual to corporal forms’: translation as theme and event in Paradise Lost

Music, Allegory

  • Julie R. Klein (Villanova), How to Move beyond Language
  • Jelle Kalsbeek (Warburg), Isaac Beeckman and musical apophatic
  • Nika Kochekovskaya (Higher School of Economics, Moscow), Allegory as an expression of the unutterable in early modern literature: case of M.K. Sarbiewski (1594-1645)

Location: CREMS, University of York

Admission: Registration details to follow soon.