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OnderzoekOnderzoek Faculteit der LetterenOnderzoeksinstitutenThe Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG)News

Finissage of NWO Internationalization Project “Degree Zero and Rhythm in Pre-Modern Culture”

Wanneer:do 05-10-2017 13:00 - 17:00
Waar:Van Swinderen Huys

This festive symposium celebrates the fruitful ending of the project DEGREE ZERO OF SOUND AND IMAGE, c. 1000-1800, which resulted in the publication of a volume. The theme of the project was the notion of creation out of nothing (ex nihilo).

The act of drawing a line or the opening of a musical composition is often seen as integral to the process of experiencing art. This is especially obvious in music and in the visual arts, but also in poetry and thought. The lectures in this symposium will take a historical view of the notion of Degree Zero as a state of permanent creativity and invention, in order to draw out questions about the production and reproduction of cultural meaning in a period of great change and novelty, between the beginnings of the medieval intellectual tradition and the imprint of the Enlightenment.

The following questions are posed: What are the tensions between composition and live performances? What is the relation between rhythm and art – are gaps, lines, spaces, silence, and sound an essential part of understanding rhythm? What is the role of the audience in understanding the meaning of rhythm? Does the Rule need a rhythm? What about epiphany? And is the event part of rhythm, in the sense that it disturbs the still waters of historical continuity?

This Internationalization Project represents a consolidation of a Dutch-French-German interdisciplinary network with the following partners: the NWO, the NIAS, the EHESS in Paris, the Institut Franco-Allemand/Sciences Historiques et Sociales in Frankfurt, and the University of Groningen.


Babette Hellemans and Alissa Jones Nelson (eds.), Degree Zero: Images, Improvisations, Sound, and Silence from 1000 to 1800 (Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming).


13.00 OPENING. Welcome by project leader Babette Hellemans

13.15-14.00 IMAGES. The Rhythm of Images in the Middle Ages
Jean-Claude Schmitt (EHESS, Paris)

14.00-14.30 WORDS. Flows of Tears: Layla in Oriental Medieval Poetry
Asghar Seyed-Gohrab (University of Leiden)

14.30-14.45 Q&A

14.45-15.15 COFFEE AND TEA

15.15-15.30 PITCHING THE BOOK. Brief presentation of the volume by the editors:
Babette Hellemans & Alissa Jones Nelson

15.30-16.00 THOUGHTS. The Literary Art of Scholasticism and the Creation of the World
Eileen Sweeney (Boston College)

16.00-16.45 SOUNDS. Listening at the Threshold: The Transformation of the Listener
Rokus de Groot (University of Amsterdam)

Babette Hellemans

Reception with drinks and nibbles


Participation is free, but registration is required since places are limited.

For registration, please send a message to