Communication and Dissimulation in Seventeenth-Century Europe
Friday, February 6, 2004–Saturday, February 7, 2004
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street
—a conference organized by Jean-Robert Armogathe, École pratique des hautes études, Paris; Giulia Belgioioso, Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi su Descartes e il Seicento, Lecce; Massimo Ciavolella, University of California, Los Angeles; and Peter H. Reill, University of California, Los Angeles
co-sponsored with Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi su Descartes e il Seicento, Lecce,
Università degli Studi di Bari, and École pratique des hautes études, Paris
Mercury, the god of merchants and thieves, is the patron of trade (commercium) in the republic of letters. The dissemination of knowledge goes hand in hand with dissimulation. Information comes from honest correspondents as well as from informers and spies. Letters circulate openly or hidden under ciphers, more difficult to break because the text presents an obvious meaning of its own. This duplicity of the modern age is not limited to the diplomats: it touches upon the enunciation of mathematical challenges, and at the same time upon the subversion of libertine discourses. The Baroque age, both in literature and in the arts, hides and deceives as much as it shows openly. The eye is surprised and deceived by trompe-l’oeil
in anamorphosis, while rhetorical devices signify more than they declare.
Only a multidisciplinary approach allows us to embrace the complexity of an age in which the first periodicals compete with erudite correspondence, and in which new techniques multiply the diffusion of ideologies. Propaganda and information cohabit in a Europe in which the categories of the possible and the probable tend to blur the contours of the “clarity and distinction” attributed to the seventeenth century.