Programme – 2024

Tuesday, 13 February

6.30 pm, Arts Lecture Room 4, UWA

Professor Susan Broomhall will present a talk on Anne of Brittany and Natural Resource Management at the Château of Blois.

Towards the turn of the sixteenth century, France was experiencing a range of innovations in botany and horticulture that ranged from knowledge about new crops, new techniques for landscaping and for supporting exotic non-natives, to new garden designs reflecting Italian trends. This paper explores the contribution of Anne of Brittany, twice queen of France, to these developments, examining a series of contemporary archival documents, literary and visual evidence, and both eyewitness accounts and archaeological evidence about garden design, garden architecture, and decorative scheme. With a particular focus on the Château of Blois, this research examines how Anne was positioned by contemporaries and subsequently as a manager of natural resources, of both the kingdom of France and the duchy of Brittany.

This research forms part of an ARC Discovery project on the cultural history of early modern natural resource management.

Susan Broomhall is Professor of Early Modern Studies at the Australian Catholic University, where she is the Director of the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre. 

A poster can be found here.

Wednesday 6 March

6.30 pm, Arts Lecture Room 4, UWA

Annual General Meeting

followed at 7.00 by a presentation by Glenn McKnight and Louise Pitcher on their exciting research projects.

Glen McKnight: Recurrence and Revolution: Ancient Orphism in Early Modern Reception and Radical Politics

Ancient Orphism was a mystery religion worshipping Dionysos, the god of liberation, and Persephone, Queen of the Dead. Allegoresis was significant in the religious practice of the Orphics, and Glen’s study maintains a similar focus on poetry in its psychosocial function. A tradition of reception exists between esoteric philosophy and many poets now considered canonical, often representing a challenge to contemporary orthodoxy that ranges from ironically subversive to outright rebellious. This presentation is an overview of Orphic reception found in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Shelley, and others, exploring Orphic figures in relation to a pronounced and deliberate instability: a coincidentia oppositorum found in androgyny, sexual and social radicalism, pantheistic mysticism, vegetarianism, and death as a metaphor of transformative rebirth.

Glen McKnight is undertaking a PhD in Classics Reception at the University of Western Australia and is the incumbent president of PMRG. He has presented on Orphism and the Orphic mysteries internationally and currently tutors in mythology at UWA. In his spare time he mopes about and writes depressing poetry.


Louise Pitcher: Contextualising the Chemise à la Reine Gown

The chemise à la reine was a controversial style of dress in the late eighteenth century. The lightweight cotton gown was made famous for scandalising the French public when it was worn by Marie Antoinette in her 1783 portrait La reine en gaulle by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, resulting in the painting being removed less than a week after being displayed. The dress is permanently entwined with colonialism, described in Marie Antoinette’s own diaries as a ‘robe à la Créole’, and inspired by the white muslin gowns of colonial women. This talk will cover Louise Pitcher’s work in progress contextualising this dress within colonialism, French fashion, and the work of modern material historians.

Louise Pitcher is a postgraduate student commencing her PhD in Media and Cultural Studies at Curtin University, interested in historical costuming for the stage and screen, representations of monstrous women, and genre films.

You can download a poster here.



Thursday 11 April

6.30 pm, Arts Lecture Room 4, UWA

Emeritus Professor Richard Read will present an illustrated talk, ‘A Very Long-Distance Contrast: Duccio’s Maesta (1308), Edward Hopper’s Self Portrait (1925–30) and the Emergence of Easel Paintings from Double-Sided Paintings’.