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Scholars of emblems to gather at Illinois

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


7th International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies
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The Seventh International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies will be at Illinois July 24-30.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Experts from across the globe will gather at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in late July to share their latest research on some very old books.

Their meeting, “Emblems in the 21st Century: The Materials and the Media,” is set for July 24 to 30 at the Illini Union, 1401 W. Green St., Urbana. The event is the Seventh International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies.

Emblems are symbolic pictures with accompanying texts. Emblem books developed in the 16th century and remained popular for more than 200 years. Several thousand such books issued from printing presses throughout Europe.

Embedded in the society’s meeting is a second conference, “Portals, Tools and Data: Conducting Digital Research With Renaissance Texts and Images.”

In addition, midway through the double event is an all-day scholarly program in Chicago featuring a lecture by James Elkins of the School of the Art Institute, and excursions to the Art Institute and the Newberry Library.

The Society for Emblem Studies conference has been held every three years since its inception in 1987. This is only the second time it has been held in the United States.

Mara R. Wade, organizer of the events, an emblem scholar and professor of Germanic languages and literatures at Illinois, said that the world’s emblem scholars wanted to meet at the U. of I. because Illinois is at the forefront of emblem studies and Illinois’ Library hosts several major emblem projects. Other major emblem projects are based at libraries in Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland and Spain.

Another reason Illinois was chosen is because the university’s Library also has the second-largest emblem collection in the world, after that of the Stirling Maxwell Collection at the University of Glasgow.

Some 75 scholars from 17 countries, including China, Israel, Latvia and New Zealand, are scheduled to attend the meetings. Five plenary speakers will be featured, all of whom are “world-renowned scholars of digitization and emblem research,” Wade said. One of those scholars is Illinois’ dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, John Unsworth.

According to Wade, emblem scholars are “now at the forefront of digital humanities programs in Renaissance studies.”

Emblem books had an “enormous influence” on literature and the visual arts, Wade said, “and they have long attracted the attention of scholars interested in painting, decorative arts, literatures, illustrated books, iconography, symbolism, theories of representation and social and cultural history.”

More information is available from Elaine Wolff at 217-333-2880 or toll-free, 877-455-2687.