Visualising Learning in France, c. 1500-1830

24-25 May 2017, New Seminar Room, 71 South Street, St Andrews

Programme, abstracts and all further details available here:

Symposium Overview:

In early modern France visualising and learning were parallel activities. In this era of artistic and scientific investigation, the image was less a supplement to knowledge than an operation of thought itself. This coincided with the emergence of pedagogical theories that have informed educational practices up to the present day. Although scholarly attention has been paid to the scientific conventions by which the natural world was represented, and, conversely, to changing theories about visual perception, little consideration has been given to the actual practices of learning, seeing, and showing whose intersection comprised early modern pedagogy. What were the techniques, materials, and forms by which images mediated knowledge? How might these elements have impacted how one learned as well as what one learned? In return, how did pedagogical imperatives define the form and content of a wide range of visual practices?

Speakers will consider the role that the image and information technologies played in education and in learning more broadly, including the spread of scientific knowledge, amateur culture, and fine arts training, from the role of engravings in the transmission of philosophical theories, to the cultivation of connoisseurship in botanical studies. This crucial period also led to the development of optical theories and technologies that engendered both assertions and doubts about the authority of vision. Speakers will explore the engagement of both mind and body in the processes of learning, in the nexus between the natural world, scholarly knowledge, and aesthetic representation. “Visualising learning” therefore encompasses the role of the image as mediator or producer of knowledge, as well as visual representations of learning, and the use of images and objects in learning. By investigating the historical role of images in the acquisition of knowledge, we hope to further our understanding of how they are used in educational contexts today.