Trivium: Defining Humanities, 1500-1700 [2013-2014]

From 2013 to 2014



Trivium: The Early Modern Language Arts in Literary and Intellectual History

‘Trivium’, a Research Group taking place in 2013-14, will conduct seminars, masterclasses and reading groups throughout the academic year, exploring the arts of language in the early modern period. Those arts—grammar, rhetoric, and logic—were fundamental to early modern education and intellectual life, as they had been in antiquity and the Middle Ages; but they are notably absent from the modern university, subsumed and displaced by new disciplines, such as philosophy, classical philology, linguistics, literary criticism and history. Their influence on early modern thought was pervasive; but this period also contains the seeds of their decline, as the boundaries, goals and practices of intellectual life changed.

Our work this year will use the interdisciplinary environment of CRASSH to explore these changes. Our speakers come from a range of modern disciplines—history, literary criticism, classics, philosophy, modern languages—and institutions, in Britain, America, and continental Europe. Our meetings will review important recent scholarship, seek new areas of research, and provide a focus and forum for a range of early modernists, from established experts in the field to emerging scholars and graduate students.

The last few decades have seen great advances in our understanding of these arts of language. Historians of political thought have recovered the centrality of rhetoric to political life and theory, and literary historians have used rhetoric to redefine the canon of early modern literature. Philosophers and theorists in various traditions, Anglo-American as well as continental, have advocated a ‘return’ to one or another of the three arts. Generally, however, the individual language arts have been kept in solitary confinement, by scholars providing genealogies for modern disciplinary concerns. Our central aim is to suspend our departmental affiliations for two hours each fortnight, and comprehend the early modern trivium as a whole.

Those interested in participating in some or all of these events are invited to join the "CRASSH Trivium Research Group" on CamTools ( where pre-circulated papers and readings will be posted.

The Theme for Michaelmas Term 2013 is  Grammar



Nicholas Hardy  (Faculty of English)
Michael Hetherington  (Faculty of English)
Richard Serjeantson (Faculty of History)

Faculty Advisers

Gavin Alexander  (Faculty of English)
Raphael Lyne  (Faculty of English)
Scott Mandelbrote  (Faculty of History)

Programme 2013-14


Grammar, Rhetoric, Figurative Language
10 October 2013, CRASSH, Seminar room SG1, Ground floor

Rita Copeland (Pennsylvania) at Trivium NB Different date and seminar room today-SG1*

Early Enlightenment: A Grammatical Perspective
23 October 2013, CRASSH, Seminar room SG2, Ground floor

Karen Collis (Cambridge) at Trivium

CANCELLED. Grammar as Social Symbol
06 November 2013, CRASSH, Seminar room SG2, Ground floor

Cancelled. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Rethinking Humanist Grammar
20 November 2013, CRASSH, Seminar room SG2, Ground floor

Brian Cummings (York) at Trivium

Poetics, Polymathy and the Encyclopaedia
04 December 2013, CRASSH, Seminar room SG2, Ground floor

Luc Deitz (Luxembourg) at Trivium

Grammar as Social Symbol
15 January 2014, CRASSH Seminar room SG2, Ground floor

Sylvia Adamson (Sheffield) at Trivium

The Rhetoric of Philosophy and Natural Philosophy
29 January 2014, CRASSH Seminar room SG2, Ground floor

Richard Serjeantson (Cambridge) at Trivium

Thinking with Anaphora
12 February 2014, CRASSH, Seminar room S1, First floor*

Raphael Lyne (Cambridge) at Trivium

Rhetoric, Literature and the History of Political Thought
26 February 2014, CRASSH, Seminar room S1, First floor* (NB change room)

David Norbrook (Oxford) at Trivium

12 March 2014, CRASSH, Seminar room S1, First floor*

Kathy Eden (Columbia) at Trivium

NB Today Seminar room S1,1st Floor

Lorenzo Valla on Logic and Argumentation
23 April 2014, CRASSH Seminar room SG2

Lodi Nauta (Groningen) at Trivium

The Trivium and the Encyclopaedia (Roundtable)
07 May 2014, CRASSH Seminar room SG2

Roundtable session at Trivium

What was Distinctive about Medieval Logic?
21 May 2014, CRASSH Seminar room SG2

John Marenbon (Cambridge) at Trivium

Renaissance Dialectic as Practical Argument
04 June 2014, CRASSH Seminar room SG2

Peter Mack (Warburg) at Trivium