Research plan

During the period in which the notion of ‘docere et placere’ was dominant, reconfigurations in different domains of knowledge can be traced in changes in scientific and scholarly writing. This project proposes that the interactions between creation, knowledge and academic practice act as the driving force behind creative activities. Our hypothesis is that the developments of new genres and rhetorical forms originate in renewed confrontation and exchange between discourses of knowledge and its representation, in a period when disciplinary domains were by no means clearly defined. By studying different forms of disputes and their connection with these processes, we propose to explore the world of intellectual, institutional, political and artistic relationships that underpin the phenomenon of creation.  Placing disputes at the heart of creative activity requires a rhetorical analysis of that activity, an understanding of the power dynamics, and of the individual relationships operating in these spaces, treating agents of creation and the public as one and the same.

No comprehensive study of disputes in the early modern period has yet been carried out. Although some conclusions can be drawn from a few well-researched examples, these hypotheses need more systematic elaboration. For this, we will undertake the considerable task of creating a database, compiling texts and surveying the different domains of creation. This will allow us to track different methods of dispute, analyse the nature of quarrels and understand what makes a ‘case’—when the general is transferred to the particular. This wide-ranging empirical inquiry will be organized, systematized and, crucially, made available to the public, benefiting the entire research community. This is the aim of the database. It will bring to the surface connections and mechanisms that underpin disputes and the processes of creation, highlighting how they work in the period in question. The database will be an invaluable resource for research publications. However, our interpretation of disputes goes beyond the traditional framework of university research: it aims to forge new tools of analysis and original thought. In particular, we propose theatre projects which will encourage new ways of thinking about disputes, querelles and controversies. The dynamics and challenges particular to ‘making theatre’ will expose aspects of these problems that historical and rhetorical approaches might overlook. The theatrical element will broaden the impact of this project, and propose new modes of analysis for researchers.