Conceiving Peace, Pacification, and Conflict Resolution in the Early Modern Period

Early Modern Studies Conference

This conference will touch on several interrelated questions : how can enemies reconcile ? How can we imagine peaceful coexistence ? How can nations and individuals get along ?


The early modern period was witness to wars and civil strife of unheard-of dimensions, fueled not only by traditional political ambitions of sovereigns but by religious differences within European populations and the brutal beginnings of colonial conquest. When conflict did not result in simple elimination of the adversary (for example, by genocide or forced conversion), some means had to be found to reintegrate the former enemy into the community, or to reinvigorate diplomatic and commercial ties with a defeated nation, if the conflict had been international. Nations could resort to treaties; regimes could institute rules of “pacification” for formerly warring parties within the community, in anticipation of what we now call “toleration” of minorities. England, France, the Netherlands and the German countries all underwent horrific civil warfare during the Reformation and its aftermaths, and produced varying solutions to this conflict.


This conference is designed to give us some insight into how pre-secular regimes were able to imagine civil and international peace and to apply principles of pacification. The conference will draw on the expertise of scholars from literature and intellectual history, in the areas of English, French, German studies, and Political Science. We will include as well colleagues and advanced graduate students from the UW-Madison.


Among our speakers will be :

David Quint (Professor, English and Comparative Literature, Yale University).  He is particularly interested in the larger cultural meanings vested in literary and generic forms. Quint is the author of Origin and Originality in Renaissance Literature (1983); Epic and Empire (1993); Montaigne and the Quality of Mercy (1998) and Cervantes’s Novel of Modern Times (2003). He has translated The Stanze of Poliziano (1978) and Ariosto’s Cinque Canti (1996). He has published essays on Virgil, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Bruni, Castiglione, Flaubert, and Cervantes. He is the co-editor of Renaissance Theory/ Renaissance Texts (1986).

Andrew Shifflett (Associate Professor of English, University of South Carolina) is the author of Stoicism, Politics, and Literature in the Age of Milton (Cambridge, 1998), essays on Sir Philip Sidney, Ben Jonson, Andrew Marvell, Abraham Cowley, Katherine Philips, and John Milton, and has served as editor of three volumes of Renaissance Papers. His current book project is entitled Literature and the Power of Forgiveness in Early Modern England.

Mara Wade (Professor of Germanic Languages, Comparative and World Literature, Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign).  She is author of Triumphus Nuptialis Danicus : German Court Culture and Denmark. The Great Wedding of 1634. (Wolfenbütteler Arbeiten zur Barockforschung Vol. 27.), Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 1996; and The German Baroque Pastoral Singspiel, Berner Beiträge zur Barockgermanistik Vol. 7. Ed. Blake L. Spahr, Bern, Lang, 1990.  Her interests include the “mise-en-scène” of reconciliation.

Cathy Yandell (Professor, French, Carleton College). Her research focuses on the body, temporality, poetics, and gender in Renaissance France. Having published articles on writers from Marguerite de Navarre to Montaigne, she has also authored, edited, and co-edited several books including Carpe Corpus: Time and Gender in Early Modern France (2000) and Vieillir à la Renaissance (2009). Her current project explores the relationship between the body and knowledge, or “ways of knowing,” from Rabelais to Descartes.  She is also writing on the chancellor Michel de l’Hospital, a major figure in reconciliation attempts during the wars of religion in France.