Prison/Exile: Controlled Spaces in Early Modern Europe

10-11 March 2017, Ertegun House, University of Oxford: @OxPrisonExile

This conference seeks to explore the relationship between space, identity, and religious belief in early modern Europe, through the correlative, yet distinct experiences of imprisonment and exile. The organisers welcome all paper proposals that explore the phenomena of imprisonment and exile in the early modern period, especially those that relate these modalities of control to the complex and evolving religious thought of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. At a time when incarceration or exile was a distinct possibility, even likelihood, for many of Europe’s innovative thinkers, how did the experience of imprisonment or banishment influence the texts—theological, political, and literary—produced in the early modern period? How did early modern individuals inhabit, conceptualise, and represent “unfree” space? How does the spatial turn help us to investigate the impact of the confines of prison or the exile’s physical separation from their community on the production and development of religious thought? Does imprisonment or exile exaggerate polemical language and heighten sectarian differences, or induce censorship and temper dissenting voices?

Keynote lectures: Professor Rivkah Zim (KCL); Professor Bruce Gordon (Yale University).

We invite 20-minute papers, from literary, historical, theological, and interdisciplinary perspectives, on these themes. We are especially interested in papers connecting imprisonment and exile, and in those linking physical spaces with the world of ideas and texts. 

Potential topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • prison writings and literature produced in exile
  • the emergence of the prison as a mode of punishment, including responses tothe work of Michel Foucault, Norbert Elias, and other theorists
  • the utility of the genre of prison writings, alongside considerations ofaudience, reception, and intention
  • spatial confines of imprisonmentcaptivity, relationships between captor and captive, cultural issues arising from captivity
  • mental and physical separation from community
  • distinctions and connections between imprisonment and exile
  • monastic prisons
  • literary consolation
  • literary and figurative conceptualisations of imprisonment and exile
  • mental and physical isolation, and afflictions experienced whilst incarcerated 
  • imprisonment or exile as themes or images in theology and exegesis

The organisers look forward to receiving proposals, including a title and an abstract of 250 words, max, particularly from postgraduate students and early career researchers, and are glad to answer any queries. They should be sent to by 9 January 2017.

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