I was the PI of a research programme funded by the French funding agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) between 2011 and 2015. Entitled AGON, this programme looked at disputes and quarrels in the early modern period, in France and in England, from a comparative perspective. We look at disputes mainly in the arts but also in science and philosophy and occasionally at religious disputes, when they have a literary component.
The research conducted by this team is based on two comparisons: the first, between the diverse domains of cultural life and the second, between two different countries France and England. Some quarrels and controversies are similar on both sides of the Channel (such as the ‘querelle des Anciens et des Modernes’ and ‘the Battle of the Books’); some involved the same institutions (the theatre quarrels in France and England for example); and some are different, and these differences reveal intellectual dynamics particular to each society. This interdisciplinary approach has helped us rethink literary and cultural history, in which literature, the arts, the sciences and philosophy are understood as the places in which key questions about history and society are negotiated.
The group was organised from Paris by myself and from Oxford by Alain Viala. Over the four years of the programme, which came to an end in December 2015, we organised a variety of seminars and conferences. We set up a database of quarrels of the early modern period. The dedicated website contains further information about the programme.
We are now engaged in publications. A special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Littératures classiques came out in 2013, staking out our initial findings. A collection edited by Paddy Bullard and myself was published in 2016 by the Voltaire Foundation: it offers a fresh perspective on the conflicts between Ancients and Moderns. The collection addresses in particular the issue across the arts (music, letters, painting) and philosophy, as well as across Europe. Another collection, edited by Jeanne-Marie Hostiou and myself and to be published by Classiques Garnier, will look at the specific issue of the relations between quarrels and literary and artistic creation. I co-edited with Anne-Lise Rey a special double issue of the Revue de synthèse, entitled: Disputes et territoires épistémiques. I have also edited a special issue of the journal Paragraph wich came out in the Spring of 2017 and deals with the “Theory of Quarrels” both in the early modern period as well as in contemporary contexts.