CfP: From Experience to Experiments (Scientiae); deadline 30 June 2024

Organizers: Stefano Gulizia (Milan); Leonie Hannan (Belfast)

This project is sponsored by the association Scientiae, and it is proposed as a special issue at Notes and Records, the journal of the Royal Society in London. The submission of complete papers will be expected in February 2025. We will select contributions according to the following outline.

In recent years, the study of early modern experiments highlights the importance of individuality and self-preservation, including the preservation of food and scientific materials (Guerrini 2016; Werrett 2019), in connection with empiricism and the art of thinking; similarly, the imagination’s role, solitude, and emotions in general also gained a wider currency. In themselves, these trends represent a significant enlargement in a research field which, for many years, remained anchored to the socio-literary technologies of witnessing or to the display of courtly culture, and which has known only a belated engagement with the structural techniques of replication (Schickore 2010). Even with respects to religion, challenges to the prevailing, rationalist account in Anglophone historiography are either circumscribed to England or still on-going (Vanzo and Anstey 2019).

By design, our collection assigns a premium on the preconditions of experimental life, seen in a ‘long’ seventeenth-century perspective, over the major viewpoints adopted by historians, namely social, literary, or technological aspects; instead, we especially aim to prioritize cognitive, spiritual, and environmental factors. Overall, we would like to see and document a transition from the idea of experience to experiment and reflect on what Bacon variously referred to as a ‘georgics’ of the experimental framework, as well as on other mind-ordering regimens (Corneanu 2011), although we certainly expect to cover much more territory than the British Isles. Another larger outlook of this project concerns the history of media. When scientific objects appear and disappear, or more precisely, move from being merely ordinary to epistemic, the act of writing is connected with the faithfulness of the record – and as seen in the use of diaries with encased narratives of awakening or spiritual regeneration (Cambers 2007). Experimental proofs are also examples of self-care and may perpetuate distinctly late medieval forms of knowledge (Vanden Broecke and Regier 2023).

Given all this, and without pretenses to limit the analysis only to these questions, we would like to ask:
  • What is the relation between experimental philosophies and medicine?
  • Can we improve on our current understanding of gender and household science in the early modern period?
  • What makes a scientific report reliable or methodical?
  • Are weather and location trigger points or merely impeding variables?
  • What protocols are adopted, beyond the Royal Society, in France, Germany, or Italy to collect experiments, and what are their archival afterlives?
  • Is there an “experiential” avenue to experimental practice, or a nexus of knowledge and healing (as argued by Gómez 2017 for the Atlantic world) affecting Mughal India and, beyond that, Eurasia and Islamic science?
  • What is the relation between a traditional “investigation of things” and moral inquiry in the neo-Confucian sources that seventeenth-century Jesuits encountered during the Ming/Qing transition?
  • Did members of pre-modern scientific circles and academies expect to enact a transformation, that is, to do research cognitively and morally?
  • Are collective projects such as Baconian or Linnean natural history really stripped of humanist erudition?
  • How does the concept of experimental impurity interface with the tradition of cultura animi, sheer psychological anxiety, and with the development of artisanal epistemologies?
The submission deadline is June 30, 2024; notification of acceptance will come by July 15, 2024. To apply please: 1) submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, describing your proposal, and a 150-word narrative CV, as a basis for introducing you; 2) send all this as a single attachment to both organizers, at  Stefano Gulizia and Leonie Hannan.