Mimesis on Trial
a one-day conference organised by the Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Oxford
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’?
The Centre for Early Modern Studies at the University of Oxford invites proposals for 20-minute papers on topics that engage with the literary-critical history of mimesis, and/or with questions of likelihood, verisimilitude, proof and probability in literary or legal texts of the early modern period. Papers are welcome on English or European materials, on prose fiction, on drama, on legal cases, and from all disciplinary perspectives.
Please send abstracts of up to 300 words and a brief biography to email@example.com by 24 March 2017.