Early Modern Circle 2015

Juliet's balcony, Verona (Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)
Juliet's balcony, Verona
(Photograph: Andrew Stephenson)

March 16

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Dr. Gordon Raeburn (University of Melbourne)

The Plague, Fear and Death in Early Modern Scotland

This paper investigates the links between the plague, in terms of both the fear of the plague and the physical manifestation of the plague, the death and burial of those afflicted by the plague, and communal and personal identity in the towns and cities of early modern Scotland.  The paper looks at the communication and spread of information and rumour concerning plague, attempts to prevent the spread of the plague itself through various means, including barring entry to the towns and cities to strangers, and the threat of death to those strangers and those who harboured them.

This paper also investigates those who had died of the plague, as they were almost always buried outside of the locations reserved for Christian burial in the early modern period, and this certainly would have affected the identity of these individuals in death, in the eyes of their loved ones, and the community at large.  If these individuals were of some significance to the community as a whole, or if the numbers of those killed by the plague were particularly high, this may have affected the community’s own sense of identity, and this paper will investigate the extent to which this was actually the case.

Dr Gordon Raeburn is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Centre for the History of Emotions at the University of Melbourne

April 20

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Dr. Andrea Rizzi (University of Melbourne)

The Renaissance of Anonymity

Recently  published studies of literary anonymity have variously challenged scholars of  Renaissance literature, history and music to rethink how they use and  interpret the early modern Anon. This new rethinking can assist literary  scholars, musicologists and historians in comprehending premodern anonymity. In  this paper I aim to broaden the debate around anonymity beyond the confines of  English literature and to establish a common ground within Renaissance studies.  The central question addressed in this paper is whether the attention of scholars facing early modern anonymity should be placed on the concealed name  and whether their energies are best served by trying to unmask its concealment.  I suggest that the challenge is not to ask what early modern Europeans kept  secret, but rather to investigate the communicability of these anonymous  acts.

May 18

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Dr. Catherine Kovesi (University of Melbourne)

Guns  ’N Roses: Fruits of the Hunt and the Inauguration of Doge Leonardo Donà dalle  Rose

In 1605  Leonardo Donà dalle Rose was elected the 90th doge of the Venetian Republic.  Known for his religious devotion and restraint, Leonardo is reputed not to have  wanted an inaugural banquet and to have muted the usual feasting associated  with major celebrations in the city. However, research in the family’s private  archives reveals that, whatever his private thoughts about feasting, from the  moment he was elected, Leonardo was drawn into a ritual of hunts and feasts  that soon took up an inordinate amount of his dogal duties. This paper, part of  a much wider new research project on the Donà dalle Rose, seeks to tease out  these feasts and their significance in the broader ritual life of the  city.

June 25 (Note change of date)

Niall  Atkinson, University of Chicago

Two Bells, a Rock and a Hammer: Sound and Silence in Renaissance Florence

At one  end of the Renaissance urban auditory spectrum was the urban regime of  ecclesiastic and civic bell ringing, whose dense interconnected and repetitive  cadences reverberated throughout all of medieval Christendom, organizing social  life, regulating economies, and binding communities to the buildings and spaces  they inhabited. At the other end of the spectrum was the largely  unregulated noise of labour and urban oral sociability. Whether it was  politically motivated citizens trying to read behind the official  pronouncements of the government, merchants bent on acquiring economic  information, conspirators, public pacts, burdened animals, market hawkers, mechanical labourers, or professional storytellers singing to boisterous audiences, the chaotic noise of civic life was also dense with meaning.  It is in the acoustic dialogue between these extremes where the soundscape of  Renaissance Florence can teach us a great deal about how urban space and time  were structured, how contemporaries derived meaning from the built environment  about themselves and their past, and how listening to the noises a city made  was a critical social skill.

Four  stories – two about bells, one about a rock, and another about a hammer – provide  the basis upon which the relationship between sound and silence, bodies and  space, can be productively investigated for the ways that the meaning of urban  space is often an acoustic construction.

Niall  Atkinson is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Art History and the  College at the University of Chicago
Situated primarily in Italy, Atkinson's  current scholarship considers the social dimensions of architecture through a  series of research themes derived from his interest in the historical understanding  of urban experience. His book The Noisy Renaissance: Sound,  Architecture, and Urban Life in Early Modern Florence will be published by  Pennsylvania State University Press.

July 27

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Dr. Francesco Borghesi (The University of Sydney)

Peace  and Concord as Ideals in Fourteenth-century Italy

This paper analyses some political and  religious uses of the concept of philosophical concord mostly in Thomas  Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and addresses the  function and spread of concord as an aspiration between the thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries in the Italian peninsula. Understanding it as political friendship and common good, as well as  an aspiration to peace, it also looks at the diffusion of the  Latin term concordia as deriving from the Greek homonòia.

August 17

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Professor Anthony Bale (Birkbeck, University of London)

Mount Joy: An Emotional History of a Landscape

In   the Middle Ages, it was customary for pilgrims to Jerusalem to gain   their first glimpse of the city from the hill of Nabi Samwil, a few   miles north of Jerusalem. Here, pilgrims record   various ceremonies, including dismounting from their horses, kissing   the ground, weeping and ecstasies. The mountain was named, by the   western pilgrims, Mount Joy, explicitly putting emotion into the   landscape. In my paper today, I will offer my work-in-progress   on thinking about the contexts and the cultural resonances of Mount   Joy. My research shows that the idea of the Mount Joy was taken from   western Europe - in particular from Paris, Rome and Santiago - to   Crusader Palestine, in a culture of valorised mountaintop   viewing that demands we think carefully about premodern histories of   mountains, of vistas and of emotions.

Anthony Bale is Professor of Medieval Studies at Birkbeck College in the University of London.   He is working on the late medieval English experience of the Holy   Land and is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Centre   for the History of Emotions.

September 21

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Dr. Daniel Derrin (2015 S. Ernest  Sprott Fellow, University of Melbourne, and Macquarie University)

The Laughable, Persuasiveness and the Early Modern  Moral Imagination: The Renaissance Commentary on Roman Comedy

How  exactly was early modern humour a means of persuasion? Scholars have explored  what early modern people found laughable, and its power to change things, by  giving attention to jest books, rhetorical handbooks, poetics manuals and the  writing practices of comedy and verse satire. There has been recurrent interest  in the points at which ‘serious’ ideology intersected with ‘non-serious’ humour. However, much of our understanding has been developed along structuralist lines. A long scholarly tradition sees the humour of the period  as an opportunity for subverting the social structure. On the other side of  that coin, some scholars more recently have wanted to emphasize the means by which  the higher class laughed at (and therefore policed) the lower, or how  patriarchy ridiculed women.

In  my research as an S. Ernest Sprott fellow during 2015 I have been examining  some of the understudied Renaissance commentary on Plautus and Terence for the  light it may shed on those issues. This paper presents some of the findings of  that research. It explores the possibility of questioning a structuralist  picture of laughter in the period as merely anarchic or conservative. Such a  formulation tends either to overstate humour’s power or reproduce the  serious/non-serious binary. I shall focus on where the (moral) imagination  figures in the period’s debates about Roman comedy. What access can we have to  early modern ideas, expressed through comedy, about the ethos or moral philosophy that we (often too simply) label ideology? Commentators suggested  that the laughable embodied a distortion of what could be imagined as a good  life. Very often the rhetorical construction of laughable distortion reflected  an entirely normative set of moral ideals. But did it always? Comedies  themselves were routinely defined as a kind of mimesis with a happy ending  envisioning reconciliation and social harmony. Could comedy’s engagement of the  moral imagination add something fresh to our understanding of how early modern  humour appropriated to itself serious persuasive power?

Daniel Derrin is currently  Junior Research Fellow at Durham University, and a research fellow at Macquarie University.  In 2014-15 he  held   the S.Ernest Sprott Fellowship fellowship from The University of   Melbourne, carried out at the Warburg Institute in London where he was   studying texts from the European commentary   tradition on Plautus and Terence.

He is also an Associate Investigator with the Centre for the History of Emotions, Meanings stream, specialising in the literary culture of early   modern Europe, with particular interests in the discourses of rhetoric   and of humour, and in the writing of Shakespeare, Francis Bacon and John   Donne.

October 19

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Dr. Lisa Beaven (University of  Melbourne)

The  Chapel of the Rosary in Santa Sabina, Sassoferrato’s Madonna of the Rosary and  the Confraternities of the Rosary in Rome

While  the rosary was a medieval rather than early modern invention, nonetheless it changed and adapted during the baroque period to play  a crucial role in Post-Tridentine religious practice and ritual. It is the rosary’s ability to reshape social structures through the  confraternities that I am interested in exploring in relation to emotional  communities. It was a form of prayer that blended both  vocal (recitations) with mental (interior meditation) aspects. Furthermore, it  was a form of worship that reinforced connections between  liturgy and visual culture. Chapels belonging to these confraternities, often located in larger churches, contained major paintings on the theme of the  Rosary. Many were placed on or just above the altar table itself so that the  priest and congregation could readily see the images during the celebration of  the Eucharist. One such painting was Sassoferrato’s Madonna of the Rosary,  painted for the rosary chapel in Santa Sabina. Sassoferrato’s painting was  painted for a new kind of Catholic, one whose identity  was increasingly shaped by ‘sensuous worship’, championed by the Jesuits and  made famous by the use of the imagination in the meditative techniques espoused  by Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. I intend to explore the iconography of such  paintings, along with the extensive printed record of Rosary confraternities,  to study the links between sensory immersion and emotional response.

Dr Lisa Beaven is a   postdoctoral research fellow with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the   History of Emotions and is based at the University of Melbourne. Her     research interests are  concentrated in the area of patronage and art   collecting in seventeenth century Rome, on the architecture and urbanism   of the city, and on the nature of visual culture and the Catholic   church in early modern Europe. Other research interests   include digital mapping, travel writing, relics and the relationship   between Catholicism and antiquarianism in the seventeenth century. Her book An     Ardent Patron: Cardinal Camillo Massimo and his artistic and   antiquarian circle: Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin and Diego Velazquez was published   by Paul Holberton Press, London, and CEEH, Madrid in 2010.

November 16

Seminar Room 506, Level 5, Babel Building

Dr. Heather Dalton (University of Melbourne)

Discovering the Women in the History of Discovery: Sebastian Cabot abd the Conquistador’s Widow

In June 1521 Catalina Medrano’s husband was   killed while fighting with Cortés in Mexico. Within two years, she had   married Sebastian Cabot, Seville's Pilot Major. Cabot is known for his   role in Bristol's early Atlantic voyages and,   over half a century later, the founding of the Muscovy Company. Little   is known of the period he spent in Seville with Medrano before her death   in 1547. If mentioned, Medrano is generally dismissed as 'a domineering   shrew' – a description based on statements   by Cabot’s enemies after his disastrous 1526 voyage to the River Plate.

In my paper I challenge the trope of the ‘difficult wife’   and demonstrate how Medrano's skills and her connections to those at the forefront of Atlantic discovery were crucial to her family’s wellbeing and to Cabot's career. I also discuss the fact   that ‘discovery’ history is generally all about the men and that this   is not always due to paucity of records relating to women. It appears   that in the case of Medrano in particular, records were simply ignored   and studies of Cabot, and the trading and knowledge   networks that sustained him, suffered accordingly.

Dr Heather Dalton is an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. Since completing her PhD in 2008, Heather has been associated with the universities of Melbourne   and Sheffield and is a member of the Cabot Project in Bristol.