The story of Freemasonry’s introduction into France in the early decades of the eighteenth century is also in part the story of Enlightenment philosophy’s reliance on performance activity. Radical philosophy and freethinking did not subsist only in the circulation of printed texts. Natural philosophy was demonstrated in proliferating spaces of experimental proof, and esoteric thinkers devised ceremonies meant to serve as the basis of a new moral and intellectual reality. Figures credited with promoting French interest in Freemasonry, including J. T. Desaguliers, were also intimately involved in disseminating new knowledge about the natural world.
As part of a project that examines multiple categories of performance behavior that Freemasonry instituted and inspired in France, Prof. Camp will propose that Masonic ritual activity represents a broader category of philosophical performance, encompassing works like John Toland’s 1720 Pantheisticon, which Margaret C. Jacob has provocatively called a Masonic ritual text. Examining this text alongside artifacts of proper Masonic rituals, Prof. Camp will also argue that treating eighteenth-century French Freemasonry as an embodied philosophical pursuit may allow us to reconcile two disjointed themes that have so far characterized historians’ approaches to the topic. In other words, the ideals that motivated early Masonic activity, when viewed through the lens of performance, may also be seen as integral to the synthetic emotional bonds and sensitive masculine solidarity cultivated in lodge activity.
A reception will follow the seminar.
Learn more about our speaker: Pannill Camp, Washington University in Saint Louis.
Organized by Timothy Campbell, University of Chicago; Lisa A. Freeman, University of Illinois at Chicago; John Shanahan, DePaul University; and Helen Thompson, Northwestern University.
Faculty and graduate students of Center for Renaissance Studies consortium institutions may be eligible to apply for travel funds to attend CRS programs or to do research at the Newberry. Each member university sets its own policies and deadlines; contact your Representative Council member in advance for details.
This program is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration in advance is required. Papers will be precirculated electronically to registrants.
Register online here. Registrations will be processed through 10 am Friday, April 24.