Narrative Conversions: a Workshop

ImageOn 2nd and 3rd June, we will be hosting a workshop on the theme of Narrative Conversions, organised in collaboration with the Early Modern Conversions project. We’ll be led in conversation by Warren Boutcher, Reader in Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary; Bronwen Wilson, Professor of Art History at UEA; and Carla Zecher, Director of Renaissance Studies and Curator of Music at the Newberry Library. Discussions will range across narrative lines (both figurative and literal), tales of musical conversion, and the transformations of translation. Participants will also be invited to discuss a small selection of pre-circulated papers, and enjoy some rapid-fire presentations from current and recent doctoral students.

The workshop will conclude with a walking tour of York, exploring its early modern conversions, and a response from Professor John Sutton, Deputy Director of the Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University.

For more details or to apply to participate, please contact Helen Smith ( For our formal Call for Papers,

Narrative Conversions

A Collaborative Workshop sponsored by

Early Modern Conversions (IPLAI, McGill University) and Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe (University of York)

University of York, June 2-3 2014

This workshop aims to turn the concept of the conversion narrative on its head, turning away from questions of spiritual autobiography as a particular genre, and towards the rhetorical, fictive, and narrative structures that enabled converts (broadly defined) to negotiate, more or less successfully, their changes of faith, country, community, and practice. Participants will ask how conversion is figured rhetorically, both as a trope in its own right, and as a form of performative utterance. We will explore the kinds of translation that underpin narrative conversion – from concrete movements between languages and places to figurative or literal changes of state and identity. And we will investigate how both modern and early modern theories of narrative might be interpreted and differently inflected through the sometimes fragmentary structures and storylines that characterize tales of transformation and religious change.

The workshop will address one of the pressing questions raised at the Early Modern Conversions project’s first full meeting: can there be conversion without narrative? In particular, we will investigate how far the effect of the unspoken or unspeakable is itself a product of story, rhetoric, and text. Central to our conversation will be the idea that conversion (of various kinds) might be constituted – rather than simply mediated or expressed – through narrative acts.

The “Narrative Conversions” workshop will feature sessions around precirculated papers and/or short position papers, presentations of longer papers, and working sessions on important ideas, approaches, questions.

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