CFP: Illusion and Early Modern Simulacra (Panel at RSA Dublin 2021)

Grace Harpster's picture
Call for Papers
August 5, 2020
Georgia, United States
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Humanities

Call for Paper Proposals; Panel at Renaissance Society of America Conference in Dublin 2021

Illusion and Early Modern Simulacra

The concept of the simulacrum is most often associated with semiotic and postmodern critique, where it offers critical insight into the autonomous status and value of the signifier. Within this framework, the simulation, or copy, not only constructs its own “more real” version of reality but also displaces the original model. Such formulations of the simulacrum as a subversive and negative concept have a long history: they can be traced back to Plato’s deep mistrust of the phantasmic image, and later in the Middle Ages, to the use of the term to classify false images as idols. And yet, the notion of “simulacra” and the practices associated with it did not always carry negative connotations of falsity, sophistry, and empty likeness -- as they did in ancient and medieval discourse. In the early modern period, we can observe a critical shift in theories of imitation that underscored the positive value of the artistic fiction. Art theorists, humanists, poets, and theologians at once expressed concerns about the potential of simulacra to replicate, supercede, or distort truth, and also generated a rich range of discourses on the use and function of simulacra. The period witnessed a rise in illusionistic games such as trompe l’oeil, anamorphosis, and perspective boxes, the global dissemination of artistic copies of miraculous images and acheiropoieta, as well as debates concerning the relationship between the image and its divine prototype. 

This panel invites submissions that explore the notion of simulacra in art, literature, music, optics, architecture, and other fields in relation to early modern paradigms of imitation. Among other questions, the panel seeks to interrogate the complex relationships articulated between the simulacrum and the real, and to uncover alternative modes of knowledge that simulacra might have offered viewers and readers. One of our aims will be to explore the concern with illusion and simulation outside the common trope of artistic virtuosity in Renaissance and Baroque art. We invite contributions from all disciplines and geographic regions.


The deadline for submission is August 5, 2020.

Proposals should be for 20-minute papers, and must include a title (15-word maximum), 150-word abstract, relevant keywords, and a short CV (300-word maximum) with your full name, current affiliation, email address, and degree completion date (past or expected). Please submit your proposal to both organizers: Grace Harpster (Georgia State University) and Marsha Libina (American University of Paris) at and

Tags: simulacrum, illusionism, fiction, media, copy, imitation, reproduction, idol

Contact Info: 

Grace Harpster (Georgia State University) <gharpster@gsu> & Marsha Libina (American University of Paris) <>

Contact Email: