Mimesis on Trial
a one-day conference organised by the Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Oxford
T.S. Eliot Lecture Theatre, Merton College, Oxford
Saturday, 20 May 2017
What is the connection between verisimilitude as a literary device and its legal use in the credible narration of facts? How do we construe the relation between the marvellous and the probable? What do early modern notions of likelihood and verisimilitude look like, if accounts of real-life criminal trials cite miracles and divine interventions as discoverers of the truth? Early modern Europe saw new modes and criteria of evidence-evaluation emerge, as new criminal codes and judicial systems were established. How has the work of social historians, directing us to ‘fiction in the archives’ affected how literary critics see the shaping of probability – of discoveries, denouements, trial outcomes – in early modern prose fiction and drama? How does recent scholarly work on the importance of oaths and binding language, on witness credibility, on inquisitions, jury trials, on the rhetorical criteria of suspicion and on the circulation of news affect current thinking about literary and dramatic narrative? Can we revisit, in this context, Auerbach’s conception of Western literature’s achievement as supremely mimetic, as representing ‘the entire human individual’?
Registration is now open. Booking for dinner closes 10 May 2017.
8.30-9.00 Registration and coffee.
9.00-9.15 Welcome and introduction: Natasha Simonova and Lorna Hutson
9.15-10.15 Keynote: Justin Steinberg (University of Chicago)
‘Mimesis on Trial: Legal and Literary Probability in Boccaccio’s Decameron’
10.15-10.30 Break – coffee and tea
10.30-11.45 Panel 1: Credibility, Oaths and Evidence
Edwina Christie (Oxford), ‘Credible Calumny in Mid-Century Prose Romance’
Jennifer Hough (Liverpool Hope), ‘An examination of modes of proof and evidence in All is True’
Richard Stacey (Glasgow), ‘“You are not oathable”: Mimetic Vowing and Female Operativity in Middleton’s More Dissemblers Besides Women'
11.45-12.00 Break – coffee and tea
12.00-1.15 Panel 2: The Legal Imagination
Andrew Zurcher (Cambridge), ‘Bad Luck Spenser: Deodand, Mimesis and Materiality in The Faerie Queene’
Simon Stern (Toronto), ‘Legal Fictions, Probability and Artifice in Early Modern England’
Rachel Holmes (Cambridge), ‘“To pluck a truth out of partiality”: Romeo and Juliet, Law and Mimetic Adaptation’
2.15-3.30 Panel 3: Realism Effects
Sophie Duncan (Oxford), ‘“Lords gather round baby”: “fake” babies and real affect in Early Modern Drama’
Laura Wright (Oxford), ‘Aural Evidence: doubtful sounds in Webster’s tragedies’
Jackie Watson (Independent Scholar), ‘Shaking pens and ravishing justice: the mimetic effects of epistolary evidence’
3.30-3.45 Break – coffee and tea
3.45-5.00 Panel 4: Figurations of Reality
Zoë Sutherland (St Andrews), ‘The figuring of reality as self-given law in Ben Jonson’s readings of Boccaccio and Quintilian in The Devil is an Ass’
Rebecca Beattie (Oxford), ‘The Works of Baltasar Gracián: Reality on Trial, but Who Makes Up the Jury?'
Michael A. Heimos (Oxford), ‘Preacher, Playwright, Poet, Spy’
5.00-5.15 Break – coffee and tea
5.15-5.45 Panel 5: Being There
Ros Ballaster (Oxford), ‘Being There: The Debate over Mimesis and Presence in the Eighteenth Century Theatre and Novel’
5.45-6.00 Closing remarks
6.00 Wine reception on lawn (weather permitting)
7.30 Dinner (Saville Room, Merton College)