Intensiivseminar “Truth and Proof Thinking Historically with Carlo Ginzburg”

Truth and Proof
Thinking Historically with Carlo Ginzburg
September 19–20, 2014, Tallinn University

Graduate course of the Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts

2 ECTS credits

Organized by the Estonian Institute of Humanities, Tallinn University, and Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts

This intensive seminar invites Ph.D. (and advanced M.A.) students in various fields of cultural research to discuss together with Prof. Carlo Ginzburg, one of the most original and influential historians of our time, the current issues of cultural history and culture studies. The seminar, consisting of lectures and discussions, addresses more specifically the complex relationship between truth and proof, both in historical and epistemological terms.

The general aim of this seminar is an interdisciplinary discussion of current research topics methodologies in culture studies, the enhancement of international cooperation in scholarship, and the involvement of young researchers or graduate students in an academic exchange of ideas that would go beyond the usual conference or lecture outline. The participants will include, in addition to prof. Ginzburg, five established Estonian scholars and about twenty-five doctoral students.

Carlo Ginzburg (born in Turin in 1939) is a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles, author of a considerable oeuvre, comprising about twenty books. He has ranged very widely in his scholarly work, but his main and major contributions have been made as an historian of early modern Europe. A pioneering work of microhistory, Il formaggio e i vermi (The Cheese and the Worms, 1976) remains one of the most successful and widely-imitated examples of the genre. As well as being a highly imaginative and productive historian, Professor Ginzburg has been a methodological innovator of wide influence. He has written about the nature of historical evidence in Miti emblemi spie (1986; Clues, Myths and the Historical Method, 1989), and about the idea of historical proof in History, Rhetoric and Proof (1999). He has also reflected in his historical works on the nature of his own practice, highlighting in particular the importance of the connections between anthropology and cultural history.

September 19, 2014 (open for public)

Venue: Tallinn University (Uus-Sadama 5), M-134

16:00–16:15 Introduction

Dr. Marek Tamm (Tallinn University)

16:15–17:15 Schema and Bias: A Historian’s Reflection on Double-Blind Experiments

Prof. em. Carlo Ginzburg (University of California, Los Angeles)

17:15–17.45 Discussion

Venue: Tallinn University (Uus-Sadama 5), Atrium (3rd floor)

18:00–19:00 Public presentation of the Estonian translation of Carlo Ginzburg’s book No Island is an Island (Tallinn University Press, 2014)

September 20, 2014 (for registered participants)

Venue: Tallinn University (Uus-Sadama 5), M-648


09.30 Welcome coffee

Chair Dr. Marek Tamm

10:00–11:00 On Small Differences: Ekphrasis and Connoisseurship

Prof. em. Carlo Ginzburg (University of California, Los Angeles)

11:00–11:40 History as Amplification

Mr. Hent Kalmo (Université Paris X-Nanterre)

11:40–12:20 Some Observations on the Semiotics of Space and Non-Space in the ‘Divine Comedy’

Dr. Ülar Ploom (Tallinn University)
12:30–14:00 Lunch for registered participants

14:00–14.40 What Does the Estonian Werewolf History Tell Us About the Thiess’ Trial?

Dr. Merili Metsvahi (University of Tartu)

14.40–15:20 Towards the Semiotics of (In)sincerity

Prof. Mihhail Lotman (Tallinn University / University of Tartu)

15:20–16:00 Towards a History of Truth: Some Theoretical Reflections and Medieval Examples

Dr. Marek Tamm (Tallinn University)

16:00–16:30 Concluding discussion

Seminar abstracts

Requirements for participation

Interested graduate students (maximum 25) can apply for the seminar by sending a letter of motivation (ca 100 words) to Tuuli Piirsalu ( by September 5, 2014. Students who are not members of GSCSA are required to add a short CV to specify their education and research interests. You will be notified of your participation by September 8, 2014.

Students are expected to do preparatory reading in order to participate in the discussions. Upon full participation in the study programme and completion of a 2000-word essay (in Estonian or in English) in connection to Carlo Ginzburg’s work (deadline November 30, 2014) students will be awarded 2 ECTS points.

The language of the seminar is English.

Participation in the course is free of charge; the accommodation and travel costs of the students of GSCSA will be reimbursed.

Program director: Marek Tamm <>

Student coordinator: Tuuli Piirsalu <>

Preparatory reading

Carlo Ginzburg, No Island is an Island. Four Glances at English Literature in a World Perspective (Columbia University Press, 2000). Available also in Estonian: Ükski saar pole saar (Tallinna Ülikooli Kirjastus, 2014, to be published in early September).

Carlo Ginzburg, “Morelli, Freud and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method”, History Workshop, No. 9 (Spring, 1980), pp. 5–36.

Electronic copies are available for registered participants; please address to Tuuli Piirsalu (

Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies is funded by the European Union through the European Social Fund.