Resistance and Refashioning in the Early Modern World

Assumption College and the Worcester Art Museum

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Standing before the Emperor at the Diet of Worms nearly 500 years ago, Martin Luther famously replied: “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Yet this epochal act of resistance, grounded on an individual conscience, spawned remarkable creativity in the variety of religious practices and beliefs that arose in the following decades.

Determining when one should ‘just say no,’ and resist a world or an ethos in conflict with one’s values, has often served as the prompt or premise for envisioning something new. Like two positive magnets resisting each other, the force of repulsion can generate movement to new and unexplored terrain.

Within the arts and literature, the concept of the Renaissance itself was predicated on the conscious rejection of the styles and practices of the immediate contemporary culture in pursuit of ideals drawn from the ancient world. Leon Battista Alberti envisioned a more educated and cultivated artist even as other artists and patrons were beginning to fashion new modes of self-presentation. Religious practice and civic display could be hotly contested or controversially changed and adapted to suit new priorities. Gian Giorgio Trissino expressed at length that Italy needed to be “liberated from the Goths,” giving voice to the replacement of Gothic models in the visual arts, architecture, poetry, drama, and epic, by new models more recognizably ‘all’antica.’ What was new grew from the rejection of conventional views and practices.

Within the field of sciences, for the Copernican model to gain the victory, Aristotle and Ptolemy needed to take a fall, which Galileo famously accomplished in his ‘Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems.” Harvey similarly needed to dispatch Galen to promote his theory of the circulation of the blood by the heart, metaphorically modeled on the circulation of the planets around the sun.

Within politics and statecraft, whether in the theoretical or the practical sphere, resistance to tyranny in its many guises often generated new political realities. Machiavelli, Bodin, Grotius, and Hobbes drew strongly on the force of repulsion from bad examples to frame their concepts of ‘reason of state.’ Similarly, the experience of the Dutch in the Eighty Years War, the English in the Civil War, and much of the Continent in the Thirty Years War grew from communal acts of resistance to oppression and coercion.

In these and many more fields of human expression, our Early Modern forebears explored the latent potential for growing new syntheses out of the ashes of repellent ideologies or stale conventions. The 2018 New England Renaissance Conference seeks to explore the many and varied ways that the desire to resist fed the will to create.

The New England Renaissance Conference (NERC) is the longest running annual conference dedicated to the Renaissance and related fields. It welcomes and combines all disciplines as well as the broadest geographical scope.

Besides scholarly panels and a keynote lecture and reception, the 2018 meeting of the New England Renaissance Conference will incorporate a visit to the Worcester Art Museum, and the organizers are grateful for the sponsorship and collaboration of the Worcester Art Museum in offering admission to all registered conference attendees. Transportation and a selective guided program of the Renaissance collections will be integrated after lunch during the conference on October 6, 2018.


The schedule for the conference is available by clicking here, and can be downloaded as a PDF here: NERC 2018 Schedule


Registration is necessary for all participants. Please click here by Wednesday, October 3, 2018 to register for the Conference.


Please pay the $20 conference fee by eCheck (direct bank transfer with routing number and account) or with a credit card for an additional $1 fee, by using the payment gateway located here.

Institutional Sponsors 

Office of the President, Assumption College, Worcester
Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs, Assumption College, Worcester
Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program, Assumption College, Worcester
History Department, Assumption College, Worcester
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester
History Department, Clark University, Worcester
Art History Department, Clark University, Worcester
Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, Amherst


For further information please contact:

Lance Lazar, Assoc. Prof., Assumption College
John Garton, Assoc. Prof., Clark University