University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Making truth or masking lies: the triumph of the Conards

Making truth or masking lies: the triumph of the Conards

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We will be reading two chapters from my recently published book, A Savage Mirror: Power, Identity and Knowledge in Early Modern France. The first sets out the social and epistemic fields within which popular urban traditions such as the charivari were linked to a display of New World peoples organized by the city of Rouen for their king’s royal entry. It argues that the carnivalesque was neither a critique of France’s ‘established hierarchies’ nor of its traditional order, but aimed to satirize the social aspirations of new urban elites, while at the same time valorizing ideals of natural virtue and simplicity that were associated with both feudalism and peoples from the New World. Like popular social satire, the verisimilar representation of the New World found in the entry is linked to an ‘empiricist’ response to the social and epistemic instabilities that accompanied the discovery of the New World, the fracturing of religious unity, humanist philological historicism, and the rising power of France’s new elites. The next chapter focuses on the relationship between early modern collecting practices and the form and content of the king’s entry. It argues that it was through acts of collecting that France’s civic elites sought to fashion themselves as a new kind of nobility and to resurrect the lost Age of Gold. At the same time, it suggests that insofar as nobility came to be seen as an art to be affected rather than a natural (e)state, the question of how authenticity – that is, how truth – was to be adjudicated took centre stage. Attempts to answer this question – prescriptively and in social practice – came to play an important and often overlooked role in the social history of our own representational practices.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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