Arts in Society, Academic Rhapsodies.

Sophia Hendrikx, Merel Oudshoorn, Lieke Smits, Tim Vergeer (editors), Arts in Society, Academic Rhapsodies. Leiden University Library, 2020.

© Marion Bracq (2019)

The articles included in this publication are products of the diverse research taking place at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS). What unites this institute is a shared interest in the relationships between the arts and society, explored from a multitude of angles. LUCAS researchers study cultural production from Classical Antiquity to the present, and in doing so strive for a deeper understanding of the cognitive, historical, cultural, creative, and social aspects of human life. This collective interest inspires a wide variety of research topics, as well as the title of the present publication. A rhapsody is, after all, a set of distinct stories or musical pieces woven together to form a new whole, episodic yet integrated, its strength lying in its diversity.

Each of the articles in the present publication is the result of a PhD project at LUCAS, and, more specifically, is an endeavor of LUCAS PhD researchers to present facets of their research to both the wider academic community as well as non-academic audiences. In March 2016, at the initiative of the PhD Council, the Leiden Arts in Society Blog was founded. The blog, intended as a platform for PhD researchers affiliated with LUCAS, serves a fourfold aim: firstly, to showcase current research to the widest possible audience; secondly, to provide a platform that contributes to the training of accessible writing skills for graduate students, through meetings, workshops and a peer feedback system; thirdly, to provide authors the opportunity to organize their thoughts on their research, explore new directions, or make new connections; and lastly, to promote scholarly contact, discussion, and exchange within the PhD community. The latter aim has also led to collaborations between LUCAS PhDs, resulting in articles on topics ranging from paleontological treasures appropriated by Napoleon, to Early Modern cooking, to knowledge repositories in history and fantasy, to name a few.

Over the years we have communicated LUCAS-based research to a wide audience; many blog posts have reached several thousand readers, while others have led to radio interviews. Additionally, we have linked our research to current events via theme weeks and months, such as a series of blog posts dedicated to the Fish and Fiction exhibition at Leiden University Libraries in September 2018, and, in response to the theme of the Dutch National Week of the Book, a series dedicated to different aspects of motherhood in March 2019. Therefore, we were pleased to produce this collection, allowing blog authors to expand their initial posts into full articles. The resulting papers provide more insight into the projects that inspired different blog posts, and present additional research carried out since the publication of the original blog post. The tone of the following articles adhere to the original blog style: they aim to be accessibly written and of interest to a diverse audience. The present volume reflects the multifaceted research undertaken by PhDs at LUCAS  on the arts and society from Antiquity to today.

Focusing on collections and technical innovations, Jun P. Nakamura and Liselore Tissen explore practices of art collecting, presentation, and reproduction. Further exploring a topic discussed in his blog post published earlier this year, Nakamura interprets the late seventeenth-century collecting of dollhouses by wealthy Dutch women as an extravagant practice which shared traits with other contemporary collecting practices such as the Wunderkammer and curiosity cabinet. Expanding on her blog posts “Masterpieces Remastered: Rembrandt in the Age of Technical Reconstruction” (2018) and “Authentic Copies” (2019), and focusing on the 3D print of Rembrandt’s Saul and David (1651-1655 and 1655-1658), Tissen explores whether a 3D-printed reproduction can be considered an authentic copy of an original work of art.

Analyzing texts and the process of reading, Andrea Reyes Elizondo, Céline Zaepffel, and Amaranth Feuth explore continuing influences, receptions, and innovations of and through literary works. Highlighting two of the topics discussed in her blog series which appeared between 2016 and 2018, Reyes Elizondo critically reflects on the meaning of the verb ‘to read’ as also encompassing image interpretation or listening to someone reading aloud. Focusing on children’s literature and expanding on her blog post published in 2018, Zaepffel discusses the history of Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables. She shows that it has often been considered a delightful and instructive book for children, taught in French schools for this and other traditional reasons which she discusses and problematizes. Feuth’s article is based on her blog post published in 2017, and explores the numerous intertexts of the Western literary tradition in the creation of a new Caribbean epic in Derek Walcott’s Omeros (1990). In a comparison which inspired the title of the present publication, she notes that in Antiquity one who recited poetry was called a  rhapsodist, meaning ‘a man sewing a song’, that is, composing something new based on existing elements.

Marion Bracq, Nynke Feenstra, and Looi van Kessel explore topics related to pop culture. Bracq’s article, based on her blog post published in 2017, examines how the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso (1516-1532) by Ludovico Ariosto has inspired comic books, focusing on two examples: Paperino furioso (1966) by Luciano Bottaro and the Dylan Dog issue Il re delle mosche (2009) written by Giovanni di Gregorio and drawn by Luigi Piccatto. Finally, Feenstra and van Kessel explore different aspects of LGBTQ+ and Deaf identifications, based on four blog posts published in 2016. Their article reflects on the importance of intersectionality as a challenge to the boundaries of the Deaf community, the LGBTQ+ community, and in communication with an audience outside these communities. This volume would not have been possible without the help of various colleagues at Leiden University and elsewhere. First and foremost, we are grateful for the funding provided by the 2017–2019 LUCAS Management Team (Anthonya Visser, Jan Pronk, Rick Honings, and Ylva Klaassen) and PhD Council (Nynke Feenstra, Amaranth Feuth, Andries Hiskes, Renske Janssen, and Céline Zaepffel). Our special thanks is extended to the authors who enthusiastically expanded their blog posts into articles; it was a pleasure working with them. We thank Jenneka Janzen for her help in the last stages of editing, Tatiana Kolganova for designing this issue’s layout, and Marion Bracq for the cover design.

Sophia Hendrikx, Merel Oudshoorn, Lieke Smits, and Tim Vergeer
Leiden, 9 September, 2019

Link to book:  Arts in Society, Academic Rhapsodies.

Animals (un)tamed: Human-Animal Encounters in Science, Art, and Literature.

Animals (un)tamed: Human-Animal Encounters in Science, Art, and LiteratureJournal of the LUCAS Graduate Conference, Issue 8, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, 2020. 

Animals in laboratories or as pets; animals in films, literature and art; animals as food or as entertainment; domesticated animals and animals in the wild. No matter in which role we cast them, animals play a significant part in our lives and have always done so, just as we play a part in theirs. We co-exist and collaborate with animals, exploit them, care for them, conceptualize them, and study them. The field of animal studies poses perhaps the most important questions of human society: What is our relationship to animals and vice versa; and what do we want this relationship to be? Do animals have agency in their interactions with us, and should they? What are the demarcations between ourselves and animals, and how alike are we? Do we collaborate with or exploit animals, and are we stewards, equals, or masters to the animals with which we interact? In recent decades animal studies flourished, focusing on the commodification of animals as food; as a source of labour; or as objects of study and entertainment. Pressing topics are the degradation of nature and environment resulting in extinction and loss of habitat for various species, and our growing awareness of the need to co-exist with animals not only in the context of human society but also in nature.

Scholars operating in the field of animal studies tackle the questions which arise when scholarly inquiry considers animals as subjects or objects of thought and activity. In short, these are questions relating to the definition of humanity in relationship to animals, and to our representation and understanding of animals as different species, anthropomorphism, agency, and our observation of animals. In the context of the demarcation between ourselves and other species, animal studies has coined the term “non-human animals” in recognition of the growing awareness of the similarities between our and other species. In highlighting such issues, animal studies have challenged traditional ethical and political views in regard to animals, have fed a growing respect for animal life, and have served reflections on human identity, knowledge, and society.

These issues are explored from various disciplines including sociology, anthropology, political science, history, literary studies, philosophy, geography, ethology, ecology, veterinary studies, and (comparative) psychology. The very nature of animal studies consequently invites interdisciplinary research by scholars who employ a range of theoretical perspectives. Those who engage in animal studies seek to understand human–animal relations as they are in the present, as they were in the past, and as they might be in the future, to understand animals independently from us, in their interactions with us, and as a means to reflect on our own humanity. Animal studies have only recently been recognised as an independent field of study. Different fields turned to animals as a crucial topic of study at different points in history and for different reasons; as such the histories of these diverse fields have shaped the approach of animal studies. Animal studies is in part associated with the animal liberation movement, and therefore grounded in ethical questions about our interactions with the animals around us. In addition, scholars occupied with animals in culture, art, and literature tend to reflect on how interactions with animals affect our definition of humanity and the self.

The articles included in the present issue of the Journal of the LUCAS Graduate Conference, titled Animals (un)tamed. Human–animal encounters in science, art, and literature, are the result of the diverse and interdisciplinary research on our multifaceted relationship with animals which is currently taking place. The fifth biannual LUCAS Graduate Conference, held in April 2019, shared this same theme. This conference on “Animals: Theory, Practice, and Representation” gave PhD and Master students the opportunity to present, exchange and discuss their research relating to animal studies with participants from diverse backgrounds. The resulting exchange focussed on a re-examination of the relationship between humans and animals, and the definitions involved. Many of the articles in the present issue are result of the lively debate which took place during this conference. The contributions to this issue of JLGC reflect the wide variety of approaches in animal studies.

Christine Kleiter and Maike Riedinger focus on animals as objects of research in respectively the sixteenth and twentieth century. Kleiter examines how knowledge about the Brazilian tanager — a South American songbird — was transferred and transformed in various ways in the early modern period. In particular, she looks at its representation in Pierre Belon’s 1555 treatise on birds, discussing how he would have collected information from an already dead and preserved specimen, and how he struggled with creating a “truthful” and “natural” image for his book. Kleiter further explores how Belon’s tanager then underwent changes in its subsequent appearance in a work of natural history by Ulisse Aldrovandi in 1600. In her study, Kleiter focuses on aspects of the bird which were difficult to capture in image (such as its colouring or a life-like appearance) or to preserve (such as its feet). She situates the case of the Brazilian tanager within the broader context of the production and circulation of knowledge in the wake of early colonial projects.

Maike Riedinger explores debates in the German-language field of animal psychology at the turn of the twentieth century on the question if animals — and more specifically, ants — were endowed with minds, and if so, of what kind. Riedinger focuses on two representatives of this scientific field: Albrecht Bethe and Auguste Forel. Their debate centred around the validity of the epistemological tool of analogy in animal psychology, which led to discussions on anthropomorphism. By tracing the discussions of these two scientists throughout their works and linking them to other contemporary strands of philosophical thought, Riedinger demonstrates that uncovering animal minds was only secondary to the broader debate on the validity of animal psychology as a science. Drawing comparisons between humans and other animals was not simply a tool to approach animal minds; rejecting or (partially) accepting this tool became the very cornerstone of sound research in animal psychology.

Efi Mosseri and Dorothee Fischer consider animals as participants in human activities and endeavours in the Middle Ages and our present time. Mosseri examines depictions of dogs in medieval illuminated books of hours, focusing in particular on a manuscript from the early fourteenth century, the Margaret Hours, which includes depictions of a dog alongside the devotee in prayer. She traces the iconography of dogs throughout several books of hours, drawing attention to the differences between pet dogs and hunting dogs, and discusses how these dogs are usually interpreted as symbols for human virtues or vices by modern scholars. Through careful visual analysis of the manuscript and consideration of emerging ideas about the relationship between humans and animals in the context of devotion, Mosseri wishes to move beyond such an anthropocentric approach and suggests instead that in the Margaret Hours, the pet dog participates in prayer together with the devotee.

Dorothee Fischer focuses on artistic collaborations between human and non-human artists to analyse the contemporary phenomenon of interspecies art and the role of agency within this discussion. Drawing from a variety of fields — including art history, praxeology, and action theory are the most prominent — Fischer adapts an innovative approach to the creative abilities of animals, combining Lisa Jevbratt’s and Jessica Ullrich’s notion of interspecies art with Mieke Roscher’s concepts of entangled and relational agency. Aaron Angell’s Gallery Peacetime and its artworks inhabited by axolotls, as well as CMUK — an interspecies collective consisting of humans and parrots — are considered as case studies to show that a revision of the concept of agency and interspecies art is needed, to support an art world that includes non-human artists.

Finally, Tim Vergeer examines the role of animals in Early Modern theatre. Specifically, Vergeer deals with the reception of Pedro Calderón’s drama of Circe and Ulysses in Dutch seventeenth-century theatre. He asks the question to what extent theatre-makers were able to introduce animals onstage, and highlights the way in which both the original and the Dutch adaptations challenge the border between fiction and reality by questioning the distinction between human reason and animal instinct. In particular, the article focuses on Adriaen De Leeuw’s De toveres Circe (1670) to illustrate that animal transformations, although logistically or artistically challenging, could provide a meaningful revelation of human flaws and miscommunication.

As the editorial board we hope that this issue will spark further debate within the field of animal studies. This issue would not have been possible without the help of various colleagues at LUCAS and elsewhere. First and foremost, we are grateful to our publisher, the Leiden University Library. Furthermore, we thank all the authors who contributed to this volume. We thank Paul Smith for writing the foreword of this issue, Joy Burrough-Boenisch for guiding us in our editing work and kindling? our enthusiasm for the editing process, our peer reviewers, and Tatiana Kolganova for designing this issue’s layout. Finally, we thank the LUCAS management team, Sybille Lammes, Rick Honings, Jan Pronk, and Ylva Klaassen, for their continued support in producing this eighth issue of the Journal of the LUCAS Graduate Conference.


The editorial board,
Zexu Guan, Sophia Hendrikx, Andries Hiskes, Leanne Jansen, Glyn Muitjens, Jun Nakamura, Merel Oudshoorn, Liselore Tissen

Link to journal issue: Animals (un)tamed: Human-Animal Encounters in Science, Art, and Literature