< June 2018 >
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From Melancholy to Euphoria: The Materialisation of Emotion in Middle Eastern Manuscripts

A symposium at The University of Melbourne.

Image: MUL 134. Middle Eastern Manuscripts, Special Collections, The University of Melbourne Library. Used with permission.

Date: Tuesday 26 to Wednesday 27 June 2018
Venue: The University of Melbourne
Enquiries: Sophie Lewincamp (email: lews@unimelb.edu.au)
Registration: Click here
Further details and program: see the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation website.

This symposium will examine the relationship between text, manuscript production (calligraphy and illumination) and the elicitation and excitation of emotions in this form of transmission of knowledge and beliefs. The Middle Eastern Manuscript Collection in the University of Melbourne Library comprises works in Arabic and Persian, as well as Turkish, Urdu, Ethiopic, Syriac, Hebrew, Sanskirt, Pushtu, Prakit and Mongol scripts. The texts include Islamic religious texts, with Qur’ans and commentary on the Qur’an, as well as significant poetic works, educational textbooks and writing on history, biography, astrology, mathematics, philosophy and weaponry. In particular, the collection contains a number of significant Persian texts that examine heightened religious and secular emotional states within literary and visual material culture. These texts provide both an immersive emotional experience for those reading or performing the words, and a translational experience for readers of both the text and images where the beauty of the illumination and calligraphy acts as a catalyst for admiration, veneration and contact.

This symposium will examine the relationship between materiality (the constructed form of the manuscript), the textual content, and the emotional resonance that is elicited by those engaging with  the  texts. Taking the various manifestations of love, both religious and secular, depicted within these texts, and linking these to the great Persian stories told in text and music, this seminar will explore how a deep understanding of the text and the depiction of the stories within traverses an emotional continuum from melancholy to euphoria.

The symposium program includes four high profile keynote speakers including national and international academics and artists. The two-day symposium includes a public lecture, manuscript exhibition, workshops, and cultural events (Persian traditional music and Sufi dance).

Papers focus on emotions, projected within the stories and poetries of Middle Eastern manuscripts as well as emotions which are excited during the process of manuscript production; calligraphy, painting, book binding, decorating etc.

The emotions include but are not limited to the following:

  • Melancholy
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Remorse
  • Longing
  • Awe
  • Ecstasy

Keynote Speakers:

  • Professor Robyn Sloggett AM, Director, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Material Conservation, The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Stefano Carboni, Director, Art Gallery of Western Australia
  • Professor Mandana Barkeshli (Head of Applied Arts and Design, International Islamic University, Malaysia)
  • Professor Amir Zekrgoo (Professor of Islamic and Oriental Arts, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, International Islamic University, Malaysia)


This symposium is hosted by the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne), with support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Image (thumbnail): MUL 17 close of illuminations. Middle Eastern Manuscripts, Special Collections, The University of Melbourne Library. Used with permission.