CFP: Free Access to History - The Past in the Public Sphere

From H-Museum:


University of Amsterdam
17-19 January 2008

Throughout Europe, attitudes towards the past changed in the decades around 1800, rendering, in effect, history a matter of public interest. This process transfers historical sources and interest from private associations, collections, monastic communities, noble estates and royal palaces (in short: from non-public enclosures) into the public sphere.

This change is part of the European modernization process. The shift from private to public occurred both in an intellectual and in a concrete-material sense, involving the establishment of museums, libraries, archives and university institutes, as well as the dissemination of texts, documents and historical knowledge by way of text editions, philological studies, historical novels, plays, operas and paintings, monuments and restorations.

Views of the past changed in the process, sometimes to the point of counterfactual (re-)invention. In their search for fresh sources, antiquaries, philologists and historians produced a new past. Fragments, remnants and ruins were cherished as irreplaceable connection point with a receding reality, and were reconstructed or reconfigued into what should constitute a coherent and meaningful History. This rendered the past both accessible, a matter of tradition, continuity and identification, and foreign, exotic, colourful.

The interface between private and public engagement with the past was the
locus of contrary interests and fields of expertise; it was shared and
contested between antiquarians, artists, nationalists, academics. Who could
appropriate which sources? What impetus was stronger, competition or
collaboration? In how many different pursuits could a given individual
participate? And was the best mode of access to the past that of painstaking
source-inventory, or else that of a visionary, intuitive empathy - was, in
other words, the past best brought back to life by the informed historian,
or by the inspired artist?

At the same time, the past so reconfigured was claimed by different
orientations and loyalties. Did the past provide indentification roots for
the nation, the city, the region, the family, the religion? Which virtues
did it exemplify?

Contributions are invited which address these issues in the
late-eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century de-privatization of the past.
Topics may include:

- the dynamics of private-to-public transfer: institutionalization,
conflicting claims, contested ownership;
- intermedial recycling and re-mediatization: from chronicle to painting,
from novel to opera,from oral ballad to dramatic poem, etc.
- how access to the past was provided: restorations, editions, collections,
- the past as sensation;
- fragmentation and de-fragmentation: the urge to collate and integrate vs.
the cult of the fragmentary;
- the public instrumentalization of history, the relationship between
private and public-collective histories
- methods of doing the past: amateurs, professional, visionaries;
- the creation of a new past by manipulations and forgeries.

The conference is organized by the Huizinga-Instituut and by the research
group The Construction of the Literary Past, Faculty of Humanities,
University of Amsterdam.

On behalf of the research group:

Marita Mathijsen-Verkooijen (Chair of Modern Dutch Literature)
Joep Leerssen (Chair of Modern European Literature)
Lotte Jensen (postdoctoral researcher)

Proposals can be submitted until 1 June 2007 to Dr Lotte Jensen,, Dept. of Dutch Literature, Universiteit van Amsterdam,
Spuistraat 134, 1012 VB Amsterdam, Netherlands


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