Passion for Learning in Religious Perspectives: from Jerome to the Jesuits

Date:      5-6 November 2015
Time:      9am for registration and coffee
Venue:    The Case Study Room, University Club, The University of Western Australia Perth, WA
Register: $75 per day for full registration (excluding conference dinner)
              $40 per day for students / unwaged (excluding conference dinner)
               Please register by COB on Wednesday 28th October
Contact: To register and for other information please contact Pam Bond (

Download program and keynote abstracts


Yasmin Haskell (UWA), Dr Kirk Essary (UWA), Mordechai Feingold (CalTech), with the collaboration of Peter Harrison (Centre for the History of European Discourses, UQ)

Melancholy, hypochondria, curiosity, bibliomania, paranoia and pride are just some of the passions (or vices or pathologies) associated with the learned from the middle ages through to the early modern period. Moreover, while the early modern Republic of Letters was, ideally, an irenic and supra-confessional space, the rights and wrongs of learning, and of particular branches of learning, created specific anxieties for Catholic and Calvinist, Jesuit and Jew.

These anxieties of course have a longer history in patristic and scholastic religious texts. Despite his incalculable influence, neither Augustine’s denunciation of curiositas in the Confessions nor his complicated conception of concupiscentia provided the final word on these matters. University theologians and humanists fought passionately for the proprietary rights to Biblical studies in the Renaissance, each accusing the other of ‘putting their sickles into other men’s crops’. The ‘problem’ of the reception of classical learning among religious thinkers in the West was perennial and persistent and continues to provide a fruitful locus for questions in intellectual history.

What is the same and what is different in the understanding of ‘passions for learning’ across this long trajectory? Our symposium will explore and calibrate the various orientations to learning of different faiths and confessions in the medieval and early modern periods; the role that scholars of different faiths assigned to the role of the emotions in learning; and the emotional lives of scholars in the shadow of religion.

Speakers include:

  • Fernanda Alfieri (Trent)
  • Michael Barbezat (UWA)
  • Michael Champion (ACU)
  • Kenneth Chong (UQ)
  • Jennifer Clement (UQ)
  • Mordechai Feingold (CalTech)
  • Kirk Essary (UWA)
  • Angus Gowland (UCL)
  • Peter Harrison (CHED, UQ)
  • Yasmin Haskell (UWA)
  • Eleonora Rai (Melbourne)
  • Jonathan Teubner (Paris)

    Image: Aertgen Claesz van Leyden, Saint Jerome in his study by candlelight, c.1520-1530 © Rijksmuseum