Truth and Truthiness: Belief, Authenticity, Rhetoric, and Spin in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
December 1, 2018
The 26th Biennial Conference of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program of Barnard College
Lorna Hutson (University of Oxford)
Dyan Elliott (Northwestern University)
The capacity of language both to communicate truth and to manipulate perceptions of it was as vexed a problem for the Middle Ages and Renaissance as it is today. From Augustine to Erasmus, enthusiasm for the study of rhetoric was accompanied by profound concern about its capacity to mask the difference between authenticity and deceit, revelation and heresy, truth and truthiness. Even the claim of authenticity or transparency could become, some thinkers argued, a deliberate form of manipulation or “spin.” In our current era when public figures aim to create effects of immediacy and authenticity, this conference looks at the history of debates about rhetoric and, more generally, about the presentation of transparency and truthfulness. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this conference considers the role of the verbal arts in the history of literature, law, politics, theology, and historiography, but also broadens the scope of rhetoric to include such topics as the rhetoric of the visual arts and the language of the new science to produce effects of objective access to “things themselves.”
Please submit an abstract of 250-300 words and a 2-page CV by April 30, 2018 to Rachel Eisendrath, firstname.lastname@example.org.