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English PGR Seminar Series: Claire Preston – Thursday 28 September
28th September 2017 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pmFree
Title of paper:
‘Galleries, gardens, collections, closets: the rhetoric of observation in the seventeenth century’
Three rhetorical figures associated with exact description – ekphrasis, topographia, and meronymy – are extensively deployed in the early-modern genre of spatial tours of galleries, laboratories, gardens, and natural-historical collections. In a variety of seventeenth-century writing these figures amount to technologies of looking, ones closely associated with developments in seventeenth-century natural-philosophical practice. Rhetorical naming and labelling, artefactual display, investigative movement through space, and ocular motion and associated theories of vision suggest that literary representation of empirical observation and discovery participate in and respond to the scientific developments of their period. In moving from the visually distinctive ekphrasis and topographia to the far more attenuated mode of meronymy, this rhetorical technology acknowledges that the abiding melancholy of irrecoverable knowledge inherent in the early-modern scientific project is latent in a figure that sunders word from image, label from artefact, description from object.