Representing the Universe in the Renaissance

Lindsay Starkey's picture
Call for Papers
Subject Fields: 
Early Modern History and Period Studies, European History / Studies, Fine Arts, Literature, Theatre & Performance History / Studies

I am the editor of the Renaissance volume of A Cultural History of the Universe, a series under contract with Bloomsbury Academic. I am seeking someone interested in writing a chapter on how the universe was represented during the Renaissance for this volume. I include specific information about the project, the volvume, the specific chapter for which I am seeking a contributor, and the details of this contribution below. 

Project Description:

A Cultural History of the Universe in the Renaissance (1450-1700) will be an edited volume in a six-volume series published by Bloomsbury Academic. This series will be a part of Bloomsbury’s The Cultural History Series. For more information, see:


Aims and Scope of the Six-Volume Series, A Cultural History of the Universe:

The universe is, literally, everything that there is. However, commonly defined it is outer space, beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, from the Moon to the farthest galaxies. A Cultural History of The Universe traces the ways in which individuals and societies have interacted with the universe from Antiquity to the present. The emphasis will be on the West, effectively Europe and North America, but will necessarily fully examine the ancient Near East and the Islamic world, and contributors will be encouraged to make connections with the wider world where useful, notably in the encounters created by trade, art and the exchange of ideas. Since the universe is such an all-pervasive feature in society, the readership of A Cultural History of the Universe is anticipated to range across the social sciences, humanities and the arts.


Aims and Scope of A Cultural History of the Universe in the Renaissance.

This volume will cover the period of the European Renaissance and Scientific Revolution. Both concepts, especially the Scientific Revolution, have been critiqued, yet remain conventionally accepted periods. Current perspectives tend to emphasize continuity rather than revolution. Key features of the period include the introduction of Platonic and Hermetic cosmology into the Christian West, and the two centuries of scientific investigation that began with Copernicus’s argument for heliocentricity, Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, Galileo’s use of the telescope and Newton’s theory of universal gravitation. The developments are vividly represented in literature and the visual arts. The final essay will consider conceptions of the universe in sub-Saharan Africa.

Chapter Description for Which I Am Seeking a Contributor: 

7. Representing the Universe

- This chapter will investigate the diverse ways in which the universe has inspired and been represented in the arts, including the fine, decorative and performing arts, literature, film, television and digital media.

List of Other Chapter Topics and Brief Descriptions: 

1. Theories of the Universe

- This chapter will explore the development of different theoretical and metaphysical conceptions of the universe and humanity’s relationship to it.

2. Models of the Universe

- This chapter will consider physical models of the universe from ideas of a flat earth underneath a celestial canopy of stars or surrounded by water, to theories of a spherical globe surrounded by planetary spheres.

3. The Universe and Human Destiny

- This chapter will deal with ideas that the sky, stars and planets are a source of information about human destiny.

4. The Built Environment

- This chapter will look at the creation of built structures and constructed landscapes with particular reference to humanity’s conceptions of and relationships with the universe. 

5. Travel and Mapping

- This chapter will look at the different ways in which people have navigated in relation to and by use of the universe around them for the purpose of exploration, trade and empire-building.

6. Reckoning and Time Keeping

- This chapter will investigate the different ways in which people have kept time and the relationship of these timekeeping practices with changing knowledge and conceptions of the universe.

8. World Developments

- This chapter will look at the cultural history of the universe within the pre-Columbian cultures of Central and South America. Its focus will be within the time-frame of the volume, but it may also discuss the periods before and after, where needed, for a more complete overview of the culture(s) examined.

Guidelines for Each Chapter and Compensation:

Each chapter will be between 8-9,000 words, inclusive of all notes and references. Chapters are to be an overview of a theme from the designated period. Case material should be illustrative not substantive. Contributors each receive a £100 fee on publication together with a copy of their volume.

General Series Editors' Information 

Nicholas Campion, Ph.D. 

Senior Lecturer in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology

Director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture

University of Wales Trinity Saint David


Richard Dunn, Ph.D.

Senior Curator for the History of Science

Royal Museums Greenwich


Contact Info: 

Lindsay Starkey, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor of History

Kent State University 

Contact Email: