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HomePastoral academies. A global phenomenon?

Pastoral academies. A global phenomenon?

Académies pastorales. Un phénomène global ?

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Published on Thursday, April 27, 2023


The international symposium “Pastoral Academies. A global phenomenon?” offers an opportunity for researchers in literature and history to meet and discuss a phenomenon that has never been studied in its European or even global dimension: the development, from the 16th to the very early 19th century, of literary academies or cenacles adopting forms and names taken from bucolic literature.



According to Hippolyte Taine (1866), there was a “time of Arcadians and pastoral academies”. For Taine, the category of 'pastoral academy' refers to only one example: the Accademia dell'Arcadia in Rome, associated (once again) with the alleged decadence of Italian art, in this case figurative art, in the 17th and 18th centuries. But the Arcadia was not the only literary academy to adopt forms and names from the Greco-Latin bucolic tradition. From the first half of the sixteenth century until the very end of the eighteenth century, writers, poets and scholars founded pastoral academies, becoming shepherds for the duration of a session spent reading or debating poems or prose texts, sitting on the grass or on the seats of a rustic theatre. Such groups existed under various names – Germanic languages prefer the names “society” (Gesellschaft, Society) or “company” (Genossenschaft) to the Mediterranean word “academy” – at least in Germany, England, Croatia, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and perhaps elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Brazil and on the island of Hispaniola.

This symposium proposes for the first time to explore this phenomenon from a global perspective. Do pastoral academies demonstrate unity and coherence as a whole? Do they have common features that can be recognised across cultures and periods? Conversely, if there is a model for a pastoral academy, how do its achievements differ from one another? Is its evolution over time marked by a movement toward the same directions? These are the questions we would like to address.

In the Encyclopédie, D'Alembert assigns the article “Académie” to the two fields, “History, Literature”. The symposium necessarily adopts a perspective that is both literary and historical. From a literary standpoint, the investigation will focus on three moments of the academic literary experience. The academies are places of reception of the European pastoral tradition; they then use it as a symbol of their poetics and their position within the literary field (Bourdieu). Finally, they produce a new literature, largely bucolic, which can in turn influence the pastoral tradition and new academies. From a historical point of view, the pastoral academies constitute a privileged object for a comparative history of forms of sociability, at the intersection between sociology of literature and history of the writers and the scholars.

This symposium takes an approach that has yet to be seen in the field. While there is a long tradition of research on certain well-known academies (the Arcadia, the Blumenorden in Nuremberg), the international dimension of the phenomenon has remained largely neglected. For a long time, the prejudice against pastoral disguise discouraged comparisons between academies based on this aspect. There have been, however, a few works that have paved the way for comparisons between pastoral academies. Finzi (1907) compares, with several inaccuracies, the Arcadia and the Blumenorden. The numerous “colonies” of the Arcadia in distant countries naturally offer a suitable terrain for such investigations. Candido (1995) revealed the existence of an Arcadia Ultramarina in Brazil (Vila Rica/Ouro Preto). Renucci (2020) not only studied colonies in Slovenia (Ljubljana), France (Marseilles) and Santo Domingo (Port-au-Prince), but also looked at the “voyage du modèle institutionnel” (journey of the institutional model) of the Arcadia, especially in Croatia (see also Vidan 2000). These studies have shown that the Roman academy became in the 18th century throughout Europe the reference and archetype of the pastoral academy. The earlier period, however, remains hitherto unexplored.

The establishment of such a collective work poses the problem of a universal definition of ‘academy’. The academic phenomenon has taken different forms in each country, influencing national traditions of research on the subject. The German tradition recognised academies (Sprachgesellschaften) by their linguistic-nationalist agenda, distinguishing them from simple cenacles (see Otto 1972; Conermann 1978). Historians of the Italian academies gave importance to the presence of statutes (Maylender 1926-1930). In France, the so-called “private” academies were for a long time neglected in favour of the royal academies (D'Alembert lists only the latter in his article, with the exception of the 'bizarre' Italian circles). Today, these criteria are being questioned and a broader conception seems to impose itself, at least in the French (Roche 1978; Viala 1985; Mauzaric 2000) and Italian (Pecorella 1968; Donato 2000) contexts. We will therefore borrow from Donato (2000) the definition of academy as a “form of sociability” (see Agulhon 1968) of writers and scholars. The speakers can return to this definition and, if necessary, discuss it. Pastorality, on the other hand, is defined by the presence of references to the pastoral world in the name and signs of the group, as well as in the academic pseudonyms of those who were part of it.

A partial census of pastoral academies, limited to France, Italy and Germany, can be found in the appendix to Penge (2022). Fictional academies, which only ever existed in books, such as the Harpías de Madrid (Castillo Solórzano 1631), will also be of interest. As virtual images of a culture’s academic ideal, they represent a particularly interesting case study for countries, such as Spain, where the phenomenon of pastoral academies has seen limited development.

We propose the following topics of research.

1. Towards a reasoned mapping of pastoral academies

Census. One of the objectives of this conference is to establish an inventory of pastoral academies. Any study of an unknown or forgotten academy by the scientific community is welcome; conversely, it seems necessary to carry out a “critique” (in the Kantian sense) of known pastoral academies, their pastorality having sometimes been too lightly determined. While the phenomenon seems to be chronologically limited to the 16th and 18th centuries, any earlier (such as the Palatine Academy allegedly founded by Charlemagne, where some Virgilian names are to be found) or later pastoral academies can be relevant objects of study. The comparison with experiences of sociability in other areas and continents, where a conception of the shepherd specific to other cultures arises, can also be tackled.

Socio-cultural history. An uneven distribution of pastoral academies seems to emerge in Europe, although the current state of research may bias this observation. What are the reasons for the development of pastoral academies, or their absence? Did they face competition from other models of learned sociability? Pastoral disguise was frequently practised in salons, or even courtly societies without literary inclinations (Académie des Parfaits Amants, in Saxony), which may have hindered the appropriation of the subject by literary circles. What is the sociological composition of pastoral academies? We call in particular for a socio-cultural history of the phenomenon, in line with the work of Quondam (1973) on Arcadia and Boutier, Marin and Romano (2005) on the Italian academies. Questions involving their network and affiliations can also be addressed. Did members of the pastoral academies know each other, were they in contact with each other? Did they rely on competing or alternative networks, such as freemasonry?

2. A Pastoral Republic of Letters?

Reception of the pastoral. By definition, the common feature of pastoral academies is the choice of the shepherd as the symbol of the academy. This has been described, for example, as “figuration” (Denis 2001) or as the use of an “identification model” ('Identifikationsmodell': Wiedermann 1978); Morei (1761) speaks of a “pastoral idea” ('idea pastorale'). The relationship of the academies to the shepherd is therefore worth analysing. The real referent is not without interest in the era of economic transition from Sully's 'ploughing and grazing' (‘labourage et pâturage’) to world trade. But the model for these academicians-shepherds is of course the literary herdsman with the Greek name, whether he lives in Arcadia, Mantua or on the banks of the Lignon. So what role does pastoral literature play, and what pastoral literature might one speak of? What do these experiences tell us about the reception of the pastoral?

Related figures and themes. As an alternative to the shepherd, other figures have served as models for the profile of academies and their members. We can mention the knight (the Paladins of the Round Table, in Paris), the sailor (several Italian academies ‘of the Argonauti’), the miller (the Crusca), the druid, the angel and even the mason. These different choices of representation can be compared with the pastoral idea. The Greco-Latin universe naturally has a privileged relationship with the bucolic world (a hyperonymic relationship?). Moreover, the pastoral academies mobilise themes (garden, flowers, poetic competition) that had already been the hallmark of older circles, such as the medieval Consistories of the Gay Saber in Toulouse (later the Académie des Jeux Floraux) or in Barcelona. Jean-Jacques Ampère (1841) even describes the Jeux Floraux of Toulouse as a ‘pastoral academy’, in the same way as the Arcadia and the Blumenorden.

3. The Muse and the musette

Poetics. The unity of the phenomenon also arises as an important aspect to consider in terms of the pastoral academies’ position in the literary space. What questions and debates do the pastoral academies deal with, and how do they respond to them? How do they relate, to name but a few examples, to the quarrels between gallantry (preciosity) and erudition (pedantry), between Ancients and Moderns, and later between rationalism and naturalness, between Baroque and (neo)Classicism? In the specific case of Arcadia, does the old explanation of the anti-Baroque meaning of the pastoral form still apply? Studies in comparative poetics will be of particular interest to us. While there probably cannot be a common poetics for all pastoral academies, it is nonetheless interesting to note how they are similar or different from each other.

Erudite sociability. The participants are also invited to delve into the understanding of culture in the pastoral academies. Do they share a certain idea of sociability? From the point of view of tone, is there a humanistic coexistence or a classical separation between playfulness and seriousness (see Gvozdeva 2014)? From the point of view of behavioural norms, is the pastoral academy the domain of honesty? Or rather, should the academician-shepherd — if the Astrée is the breviary of courtiers — adhere to norms of civility and dissimulation? From a gender perspective, how is the ancient question of women's access to culture, “women's quarrel”, reshaped by pastoral academies? While there are indeed academies reserved for men, others were mixed or exclusively female (the English Society of Friendship; the Austrian Ister-Nymphen).

Production. The literature produced by the academies should also be investigated. What is the effect of the academy on the text? Lavocat (1998) has studied the case of the 'academic pastoral novel' in Italy, France and Spain; the study deserves to be extended to poetry and drama, as well as to other geographical areas. What kind of literary activity is conceivable for academic shepherdesses? Did they go beyond the limits of the genres, subjects and styles traditionally reserved for women? Was there a feminine or even a (proto)feminist pastoral? We would like to mention here the database Donne in Arcadia (Crivelli 2003) and the anthology of texts by women writers of the Blumenorden (Schuster 2009).

4. Ideological, political and religious issues

Academy and State. The relationship of academies to power and the ruling class has already been the subject of a line of classical studies (Cochrane 1961; Benzoni 1978). It is appropriate to address this question in the case of pastoral academies. Do they have a relationship of vassalage to the state, acting as its lever on the internal front (control apparatus) or external front (instrument of soft power)? There have been cases of pastoral academies being closed by the local government (Brazilian Ultramarina). Are they then, conversely, places of opposition, or even conjuration?

Internal politics. The forms of government of the academy, often conceived as a fiction of the state, can also have a certain subversive impact. Campanelli (2019) has shown that the Arcadia was the site of an experiment in new theories of the social contract. The statutes and political practice of the academies therefore deserve to be studied, both in relation to contemporary philosophical and political debates and in relation to women's voting in democratically organised circles. It will also be useful to explore confessional issues. Did the academies have an imposed religion (one might think of a principle of cuius academia, eius religio) or were they tolerant, even ecumenical? Did they welcome intra-religious movements (Jansenism, Quietism, Pietism), libertinism, and even atheism? Were there any non-Christian academics, for example Jews?

The event is sponsored by the Centre d'Études et de Recherches Comparatistes (CERC) of the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, and by the Accademia dell'Arcadia in Rome.

It will take place on 5 and 6 April 2024 at the Maison de la Recherche of the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, 4 rue des Irlandais, 75005 Paris.

How to submit a proposal

Proposals should include a title, an abstract (250-350 words), the language of the paper and a brief bio-bibliographic note.

The deadline is 31 July 2023.

The proposals must be uploaded on the site of the symposium: https://academies.sciencesconf.org/

If you already have a sciencesconf or HAL account, connect using the button on the top right ("login"). Otherwise, create a sciencesconf account ("login" --> "create account"). You will then be able to deposit the proposal in "my submissions" (tab on the left).

We accept papers in French, Italian, Spanish and English. Abstracts must be in French or English.

Scientific Committee

Jean Boutier (EHESS/CNE), Maurizio Campanelli (La Sapienza/Italianistica), Carlo Alberto Girotto (Sorbonne Nouvelle/LECEMO), Françoise Lavocat (Sorbonne Nouvelle/CERC), Yen-Mai Tran-Gervat (Sorbonne Nouvelle/CERC), Pierre Zoberman (Sorbonne Paris Nord/CERC) et Luca Penge (Sorbonne Nouvelle/CERC)

Organizing Committee

Noemi Linardi (Sorbonne Nouvelle/CERC) et Luca Penge


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Crivelli, Tatiana, ed. 2003. Donne in Arcadia. Zurich: Université de Zurich. https://www.arcadia.uzh.ch/

Appetecchi, Elisabetta,Maurizio Campanelli, Cristina Di Bari, Achille Giacopini and Mario Sassi, eds. 2021. I testi statutari del Commune d’Arcadia. Roma: Accademia dell’Arcadia.

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Campanelli, Maurizio, 2019. “«Per l’avanzamento del nostro Commune». Diritto e filosofia alle origini dell’Arcadia.” In Canoni d'Arcadia. Il custodiato di Crescimbeni, edited by Maurizio Campanelli, Pietro Petteruti Pellegrino, Paolo Procaccioli and Corrado Viola, 11–31. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

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Cochrane, Eric, 1961. Tradition and Enlightenment in the Tuscan Academies 1690-1800. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.

Conermann, Klaus, 1978. “War die Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft eine Akademie ?  Über das Verhältnis der Fruchtbringenden Gesellschaft zu den italienischen Akademien.” In Sprachgesellschaften, Societäten, Dichtergruppen. Arbeitsgespräch in der Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, 1977: Vorträge und Berichte, edited by Martin Bircher and Ferdinand van Ingen, 103–130. Hamburg: Hauswedell.

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Donato, Maria-Pia, 2000. Accademie romane: una storia sociale, 1671-1824. Napoli and Roma: Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane.

Finzi, Giuseppe, 1907. “L’Arcadia tedesca.” In Saggi e Conferenze, 271–294. Firenze: Le Monnier.

Fumaroli, Marc, 1998. “Académie, Arcadie, Parnasse : trois lieux allégoriques du loisir lettré.” In L’École du silence. Le sentiment des images au XVIIe siècle, 32–48. Paris: Flammarion.

Gvozdeva, Katia, 2014. “Le monde ludique des académies italiennes : l'exemple des Intronati de Sienne.” In Savoirs ludiques: pratiques de divertissement et émergence d'institutions, doctrines et disciplines dans l'Europe moderne, edited by Katia Gvozdeva and Alexandre Stroev, 49–88. Paris: Champion.

Lavocat, Françoise, 1998. Arcadies malheureuses. Aux origines du roman moderne. Paris: Champion.

Mauzaric, Simone, 2000. “Aux origines du mouvement académique en France : proto-histoire des académies et génèse de la sociabilité savante. 1617-1666.” In Académies et sociétés savantes en Europe (1650-1800), edited by Daniel-Odon Hurel and Gérard Laudin, 35–47. Paris: Champion.

Maylender, Michele, 2002 [1926-1930]. Storia delle accademie d’Italia. Bologna: Forni.

Morei, Michele Giuseppe, 1761. Memorie Istoriche dell'Adunanza degli Arcadi. Roma: De Rossi.

Otto, Karl, 1972. Die Sprachgesellschaften des 17. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart: Metzler.

Pecorella, Corrado, 1968. “Note di classificazione delle accademie italiane dei secoli XVI-XVII.” Studi Sassaresi, III, 1: 205–231.

Penge, Luca, 2020. “L'idea pastorale : analogie, differenze e contatti fra l'Accademia dell'Arcadia e l'Ordine dei Fiori di Norimberga.” Atti e Memorie dell’Arcadia, 9: 221–250.

Penge, Luca, 2022. “De la flûte pastorale au faisceau de licteur. Quelques pistes de recherche sur le rapport entre académies pastorales et Révolution française. Avec une liste d’académies pastorales.” TRANS- Revue de littérature générale et comparée, 28. https://journals.openedition.org/trans/7714

Quondam, Amedeo, 1973. “L'istituzione Arcadia. Sociologia e ideologia di un'accademia.” Quaderni Storici, VIII, 23: 389–438.

Renucci, Léa, 2020. L'Arcadia per lettera: sociabilités épistolaires et réseaux académiques en Italie au XVIIIe siècle, doctoral thesis in history, defended on 16 October 2020.

Roche, Daniel, 1978. Le Siècle des Lumières en province: académies et académiciens provinciaux, 1680-1789. Paris: Editions de l’EHESS.

Summers, Claude and Ted-Larry Pebworth, eds. 2000. Literary circles and cultural communities in Renaissance England. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Taine, Hippolyte, 2018 [1866]. Voyage en Italie, edited by Michel Brix. Paris: Bartillat.

Viala, Alain, 1985. Naissance de l'écrivain : sociologie de la littérature à l'âge classique. Paris: Minuit.

Vidan, Gabrijela, 2000. “L’émergence des modèles occidentaux de vie associative dans les différentes régions croates (1690-1800).” In Académies et sociétés savantes en Europe (1650-1800), edited by Daniel-Odon Hurel and Gérard Laudin, 143–160. Paris: Champion.

Wiedermann, Conrad, 1978. “Druiden, Barden, Witdoden. Zu einem Identifikationsmodell barocken Dichtertums.” In Sprachgesellschaften, Societäten, Dichtergruppen. Arbeitsgespräch in der Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, 1977: Vorträge und Berichte, edited by Martin Bircher and Ferdinand van Ingen, 131–150. Hamburg: Hauswedell.



  • 4, rue des Irlandais
    Paris, France (75005)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Monday, July 31, 2023


  • académie pastorale, histoire, littérature, Arcadia, Blumenorden, comparatisme

Information source

  • Luca Penge
    courriel : luca [dot] penge [at] sorbonne-nouvelle [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Pastoral academies. A global phenomenon? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, April 27, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1b2v

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