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Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science

Periodic Report Summary 2 - GBR (Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science)

The project has been investigating the history of ingenuity in the early modern period. Beginning with the “language” of ingenuity, the team researched systematically the word histories of ingenium and genius and their vernacular synonyms in French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and English. This has resulted in the first ever lexical history of these terms as they appeared in published dictionaries from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. This research in historical lexicography provided the groundwork for exploring the histories of the “concepts” of ingenuity and genius in several domains. The team explored the fortunes of these concepts in natural philosophy, artistic theory, mathematics, medicine, rhetoric and authorial practices. Particular attention was paid to their intersection with theories of the imagination, to Descartes’ writings on ingenium, and to their role in the theory and practice of art and literature.