Fluid Spaces: Negotiating Otherness in Early Modern Environments of Hygiene
What makes a space favourable or detrimental to the human condition? Since Antiquity, physicians have debated the influence of the physical environment, especially water and air, on bodily and mental health. In the early modern period, the interest in ancient medical texts revived this debate, spurring new interest in the healing properties of localities commonly considered salubrious or even physically and morally dangerous due to specific environmental features. This panel aims to bring together specialists in early modern medicine, history of science, public health and architecture to discuss how such unique and often liminal spaces as thermal springs, swamps, grottos, and bathhouses were investigated, understood and institutionalized by physicians and legislators, architects, agriculturalists and engineers. We are particularly interested in the role of the senses in establishing and negotiating the otherness of these localities, including medics’ use of smell and taste to determine the effectiveness of mineral springs or architects’ deployment of hydraulics, ventilation, and sound effects to establish an intended microclimate within artificial structures. This sensory approach will emphasize the potential of such spaces to blur traditional oppositions of safe and dangerous, internal and external, and natural and built environments. It will also allow us to reconstruct the experiences of the users of these localities, who often saw their liminal nature both as a source of anxiety and fascination.
Please send a 150-word abstract, a curriculum vitae no longer than 5 pages, and the PhD completion date (as per the Renaissance Society of America guidelines) to Aleksander Musiał (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Giacomo Savani (email@example.com) before Monday, 1 August 2022. Presenters will have to be active RSA members.
Panel organizers: Aleksander Musiał (Princeton/CASVA) and Giacomo Savani (St Andrews)