Exploratory Seminar: Embattled and Conquered: The History of the Nighttime in the Early Modern World


Thursday, May 19, 2016 (All day) to Friday, May 20, 2016 (All day)


Gould Hall

The workshop is organized to consider and discuss, in an exploratory spirit, the transformations of the way nighttime was experienced in different parts of the early modern world. Path-breaking research conducted on various cities and regions suggests that a new awareness and new uses of the night --in regimes of labor, entertainment, socializing, etc.-- were perhaps "global" phenomena between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries, before gas lamps and electricity, which is often taken as the telos of the changes taking place in the early modern world.  People in different parts of the world were redesigning, and not always with happy consequences, the architecture of day and night.  Experimenting with changes to their circadian rhythms, or “burning the candle at both ends,” they were ready to draw support from substances like coffee and tea, which came into widespread use during this period and articulated with new patterns and new institutions of sociability. 

Papers on Japan, China, South Asia, the Ottoman world, Europe, and colonial America will be presented and discussed in terms of the "connected history" of that phenomenon from a transregional perspective.  This expansive topic will be treated through focused studies on various specific themes such as the natural history of sleep, the social history of lighting, the calibration of diurnal cycles among monastic or mystical communities, rising or changing awareness of the night in literary and visual cultures, as well as new perceptions and imaginaries of nocturnity ("from witches to vampires," for instance, in the western Eurasian space). This exploratory discussion is also meant to be the basis for a bigger conference in the future.  The event, organized in honor of Carlo Ginzburg, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of his I Benandanti, or Night Battles in its English translation, will be open only to participants, some invited guests, and current fellows at I Tatti.

19 May

9:45 ALINA PAYNE (Villa I Tatti): Director’s Welcome & Introductions

10:00 CEMAL KAFADAR (organizer, Harvard University): Introduction to the Seminar

10:45 Coffee Break in Gould Hall

11:00 JEAN-CLAUDE SCHMITT (École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris), “The Nightmares of a Cistercian Monk”

12:00 SANJAY SUBRAHMANYAM (University of California, Los Angeles), “Wait until Dark: Court Culture and Nocturnal Meetings in Early

Modern South Asia”

1:00 Buffet Lunch

2:30 ELIZABETH HUNTER (Queen Mary, University of London), “Subversion and Magic: Interpreting Sleepwalking in Early Modern Texts”

3:30 ELLIOTT HOROWITZ (Jewish Quarterly Review), “Nocturnal Vigils in Jewish Culture, 16-18th Centuries”

4:30 Tea

5:00 CRAIG M. KOSLOFSKY (University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign), “Darkness and Blackness in the Early Enlightenment”

6:00 Reception


20 May

9:45 ANDREA GOLDMAN (University of California, Los Angeles), “Lighting, Theater, and the End of Early Modernity in China”

10:45 Coffee Break in Gould Hall

11:00 JEREMY ZALLEN (Lafayette College, Easton), “‘Dragged up Hither from the Bottom of the Sea’: Rethinking the Political

History of Atlantic Nights through the Worlds and Work of Whale Light”

12:00 LAURA NENZI (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), “The Night and Its Aggregates in Nineteenth-Century Japan”

1:00 Buffet Lunch

2:30 Discussion

3.00 CARLO GINZBURG (University of California, Los Angeles), Closing Remarks