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Moving Minds: Converting cognition and emotion in history

Macquarie University, Sydney, 2 - 4 March 2016


What is the history of the mind?
How do cognition and emotion relate, now and historically?
How are their histories to be studied?

The primary historical focus of the conference is the Medieval and Early Modern period (roughly 1100-1800), but we will also consider historical, comparative, or theoretical papers addressing earlier or later periods.


The history of moving minds and moved minds involves conversions and transformations of many forms, in technology and religion and natural philosophy, in rituals and skills and forms of reasoning, in art and music and language and identity. Is there a field of 'cognitive history' or 'historical cognitive science'? Is there a 'cognitive turn' in cultural history and literary theory? If so, how does it relate to the maturing interdisciplinary study of the history of emotions? Do these approaches advance on existing historical work on mentalities, practices, embodiment, the senses, memory, narrative, or material culture?

Likewise, can historical evidence actively inform the cognitive sciences? Is the use of modern psychological categories in interpreting the past inevitably anachronistic or presentist? In what ways are emotional and cognitive phenomena intrinsically historical? In turn, how do minds shape and constrain history? How do cognition and emotion fit into an understanding of history on deep or evolutionary timescales?

Keynote Speakers

  • Dr Gail Kern Paster, Folger Shakespeare Library and Shakespeare Quarterly, Washington DC, USA - Presentation
  • Professor Monique Scheer, Historical & Cultural Anthropology, University of Tübingen, Germany - Presentation
  • Professor Justin E.H. Smith, Histoire¬†et Philosophie des Sciences, Université Paris Diderot - Paris VII, France - Presentation
  • Professor Harvey Whitehouse, Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK - Presentation
  • Professor Paul Yachnin, English, McGill University and Early Modern Conversions, Canada

The conference also includes panel discussions (eg 'How do emotion and cognition relate?') and author-meets-critics panels (eg on Steven Mullaney's The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare, Chicago 2015).

Program and Abstracts


Australian Hearing Hub Lecture Theatre (Room 1.200) at Macquarie University, Sydney NSW, Australia.


This conference is sponsored by three distinct interdisciplinary research groups spanning the humanities, social sciences, and cognitive sciences: the ARC (Australian Research Council) Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), hosted by the Department of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University; the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100-1800; and the McGill-based project Early Modern Conversions: religions, cultures, cognitive ecologies.

Related Events

There are related events before and after 'Moving Minds' in other Australian centres: on 'Religious Materiality and Emotion' in Adelaide, February 17-18 and on 'Emotions, Conversions, and Materiality' in Perth, March 7-8 (email Jacqueline Van Gent).

Conference Committee


  • John Sutton (Cognitive Science, Macquarie)
  • Evelyn Tribble (English, Otago)

Local Committee

  • Amanda Barnier (Cognitive Science, Macquarie [CCD])
  • Robin Blumfield (Cognitive Science, Macquarie [CCD])
  • Malcolm Choat (Ancient History, Macquarie)
  • Greg Downey (Anthropology, Macquarie)
  • Helen Groth (English, University of New South Wales)
  • Antonina Harbus (English, Macquarie)
  • Chris McCarroll (Cognitive Science, Macquarie)
  • Clare Monagle (Modern History, Macquarie)
  • Rachel Yuen-Collingridge (Ancient History, Macquarie)

Advisory Committee

  • Patricia Badir (English, University of British Columbia [Conversions])
  • Stephen Gaukroger (History & Philosophy of Science, Sydney)
  • Andrew Lynch (English & Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia [CHE])
  • Juanita Ruys (Medieval & Early Modern Centre, Sydney [CHE])
  • Benjamin Schmidt (History, Washington [Conversions])
  • Jacqueline van Gent (English & Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia [CHE])
  • Stephen Wittek (Early Modern Conversions, McGill [Conversions])
  • Charles Zika (History, Melbourne [CHE])

Contact and Enquiries

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