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Emulation, Fame, and Knowledge Transfer: Prize Contests in the European Republic of Letters (1670–1800)

Jul 13, 2022 - Jul 15, 2022
Emulation, Fame, and Knowledge Transfer

Emulation, Fame, and Knowledge Transfer
Image Credit: Gestaltung: Melanie Wiener

International conference organised by the project “Erotema. The Question as an Epistemic Genre” in cooperation with Avi Lifschitz (University of Oxford)

Prize competitions were a shared practice across countries and institutions, playing a central role in the 18th-century public sphere, but they have received little scholarly attention. The conference examines these contests through new analytical and theoretical lenses, with an emphasis on comparative and transnational perspectives. Speakers analyse the long-term history of the genre and its rhetorical background while engaging with individual competitions especially from ‘peripheries’ of the Republic of Letters and beyond Europe. The conference thus contributes to an entangled history of this particular medium of the early modern Republic of Letters.


Wednesday, 13 July

Venue: Seminarzentrum, Raum L115, Otto-von-Simson-Str. 26, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Avi Lifschitz (University of Oxford), Martin Urmann (Freie Universität Berlin)
Welcome and Introduction

Martin Urmann (CRC 980 “Episteme in Motion”)
Panegyric, confirmation of the canon, and knowledge production: prize contests as a hybrid medium of public debate

Coffee break

17:15–18:15 *CANCELLED*
Arjan van Dixhoorn (University College Roosevelt, Middelburg)
Dutch prize contests as a measure of long-term cultural change in Europe

Maria Florutau (University of Oxford)
The role of the jury in shaping the prize essay genre in the Netherlands in the second half of the eighteenth century

Conference dinner

Thursday, 14 July

Venue: Villa Engler, Altensteinstraße 2, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Martin Gierl (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)
Organizing science: prize contests in Göttingen and the case of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


Rita Krueger (Temple University, Philadelphia)
Constructing useful knowledge: essay contests in Habsburg Bohemia and Moravia

Lunch break

Nicola Miller (University College London)
Competing to define the future: prize contests in independence-era Spanish America

Béla Kapossy (EPFL, Lausanne)
‘The spirit of legislation’: the Bernese prize essay competition of 1764

Coffee break

Juliane Engelhardt (University of Copenhagen)
From science to practice: the role of prize contests in academies and patriotic societies in the Danish-German-Norwegian composite monarchy

Conference dinner

Friday, 15 July

Venue: Villa Engler, Altensteinstraße 2, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Maria Susana Seguin (Université Paul-Valéry, Montpellier/ENS Lyon)
Prizes and awards at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, 1700–1750

11:00–12:00 *CANCELLED*
Iwan-Michelangelo D’Aprile (Universität Potsdam)
The transformation of academic prize contests in the aftermath of the French Revolution

Kelsey Rubin-Detlev (University of Southern California, Los Angeles)
Popularisation and prestige in the staging of prize contests at the St Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1777–1802


Lunch break

Final discussion

Time & Location

Jul 13, 2022 - Jul 15, 2022

Freie Universität Berlin
Seminarzentrum, Raum L115
Otto-von-Simson-Str. 26
14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Freie Universität Berlin
Villa Engler
Altensteinstraße 2
14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Further Information

Convenors: Avi Lifschitz (University of Oxford) and Martin Urmann (Freie Universität Berlin)

Please register with emilia.sophie.moreno@hotmail.com