Early Modern Circle 2011

Juliet's balcony
Juliet's balcony, Verona

Programme for 2011

21 February

Professor Michael Hunter, Birkbeck, London

The Role of Fraud in the 'Decline of Magic'

Fraud is a category frequently invoked in relation to witchcraft and related phenomena in early modern England, yet little examined. This paper will consider the dynamics of accusations of fraud in the period, the extent to which these were contested, and the implications of this for attitudes to magic more generally.

21 March

Dr Charlotte Smith, The University of Melbourne

The Changing Image of the Turk in German Print From the Sixteenth to the Seventeenth Century

This paper examines printed images of the Turk in the German-speaking lands of the Holy Roman Empire. It extends my recent PhD on sixteenth-century printed images through the reinterpretation of these and their accompanying texts in later centuries, moving into early forms of ‘Orientalism’. The paper focuses on military settings, biblical illustrations, travel literature, costume studies and historical representations of the Ottoman Empire and its Sultans. In doing so, I consider how changes in image and interpretation of Turks were stimulated by advances in printing technology and increased interaction between rulers and subjects of the Holy Roman and Ottoman Empires.

18 April

Dr Heather Dalton, The University of Melbourne

The Cabot Project: International Collaboration and the Voyages to America of John Cabot and the Merchants of Bristol

16 May

Two shorter papers:

Emma Nicholls, Monash University

Silk Production in the Imagination of Fifteenth-century Florentines

The topic of silk in Renaissance Florence has generally come under the aegis of economic and textile historians. Their labours have produced many fruitful insights, but the degree of specialist knowledge needed to engage with them has sometimes stymied appreciation of their wider social, political and cultural ramifications. Aiming to address this, the paper re-examines the Trattato dell’Arte della Seta, a fifteenth-century silk manufacturer’s manual known in the existing scholarship. The treatise is not only - and certainly not simply - a repository of data on the weaving and business practices of fifteenth century Florentines, however. Rather, it reveals its participation in the construction of idea of silk apart from actual production or any material artefact. This reification of silk had particular significance within the economic and political environment of fifteenth-century Florence.

Tracey Griffiths, The University of Melbourne

The Stuff of Life and Death: First Steps Towards Understanding Clothing Colours in Late Medieval and Early Modern Italy

Gowns of bright crimson red, the most intense, lively colour then available, distinguished Venetian and Florentine officeholders. Dark colours, by way of contrast, signified mourning, with black reserved for close relatives. Black was considered inappropriate for officeholders, however, and in Venice even officials in deep mourning for a parent or brother could not wear black without special permission.

These mutually exclusive colours of official and mourning dress provide the point of departure for this paper. Emerging from the early stages of my PhD research, it will explore some of the visual, linguistic and conceptual complexities of studying past clothing colours.

20 June

Tim Ould, The University of Melbourne

Jacopo Zucchi's Frescoes in the Palazzo Ruspoli, Rome and Their Printed Sources

Jacopo Zucchi’s frescoes for the gallery of Orazio Rucellai’s palace in Rome are remarkable for their complexity and their encyclopaedic scope. Painted after 1584 in what is now the Palazzo Ruspoli, the frescoes cover the vaulted ceiling and walls with a dense system of images from the planetary gods along the central axis of the vault down to the dogs and birds of Aesopic fables at floor level. Zucchi’s book on the cycle, the Discorso sopra li Dei de’ Gentili (Discourse upon the Gods of the Pagans), was published posthumously in 1602 and gives many insights into the meaning of the images, their context and their sources. This paper will examine the printed sources, both images and text, used by Zucchi. It will also consider the possible learned collaborators who helped the Florentine painter to devise the program and to write the Discorso.

15 August

Dr François Soyer, University of Southampton

Monstrosities of Nature: Demonic Possession, Ambiguous Gender and the Inquisition in the Early Modern Iberian World

This paper examines the issue of transgenderism in early modern Spain and Portugal by focusing its analysis on the situation of individuals whose behaviour diverged from the normative gender roles (female or male) that were commonly accepted by society. It focuses on a case-study: the trial of Maria Duran, a Catalan woman and novice in the Dominican Convent of Our Lady of Heaven in Portugal who was arrested and put on trial by the Inquisition in Lisbon between 1741 and 1744. After an eventful life that saw her run away from her husband, dress as a man and serve as a dragoon in the Spanish cavalry before moving to Portugal, Maria Duran was arrested when well over a dozen women in her convent and in a Magdalene house that she had lived in beforehand confessed to having had sexual intercourse with her. The nuns and the inmates of the Magdalene house accused Maria Duran of being a man and of possessing a fully functional penis. The lengthy trial that followed led the inquisitors to strive to establish whether or not Maria was a man and whether she could have made a pact with the Devil that enabled her to have a secret penis and thus to temporarily alter her sexual identity. The case of Maria Duran exposes the manner in which female homosexuality baffled and challenged both ordinary people and the inquisitors.

19 September

Dr Andrea Rizzi, The University of Melbourne

Leonardo Bruni and the Inadequacy of Spoken Latin in Early Fifteenth-century Florence

This paper examines various passages from Leonardo Bruni's Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum (1401-1408), letter to Flavio Biondo (1435) and Vita di Dante e Petrarca (1436) where the author expresses anxiety for the inefficacy of Latin in public oratory. This talk suggests that Bruni, humanist par excellence, unwillingly exposed a critical issue in early fifteenth-century studia humanitatis: the practice of the Latin language is confined to the realm of the written word and cannot match the effectiveness of vernacular oratory. Bruni’s reluctant acceptance of the spoken vernacular as the most apt tool for public addresses implies that already in the early stages of Quattrocento Italy the Florentine vernacular had a clearly-defined role within the Tuscan milieu of Latin and Greek scholars. Bruni's acceptance of the usefulness of the vernacular language as an efficacious oratorial and rhetorical tool raises interesting questions on the nature of the so-called Latin humanism and the humanism's 'ambitions to spread its cultural values further down the social pyramid into the middle classes, and across gender lines to women' (Hankins.)

17 October

Dr Jacqueline Broad, Monash University

Margaret Fell and Quaker Feminism in Seventeenth-century England

On the strength of her 1666 pamphlet, Womens Speaking Justified, the Quaker writer Margaret Fell has been hailed as a feminist pioneer. In this short piece, Fell (1614-1702) puts forward several arguments in favour of women’s preaching. She asserts the spiritual equality of the sexes, she appeals to female exempla in the Bible and she reinterprets key scriptural passages that appear to endorse women’s subordination. Recent scholars, however, have questioned Fell’s feminist credentials. They point to the fact that, according to early Quaker philosophy, women are permitted to speak in church - but only in so far as they are vessels or mouthpieces for Christ; in every other respect, the seventeenth-century Quakers continue to either ignore or denigrate the female sex. In this paper I defend Fell’s status as a feminist and suggest that one significant aspect of her defence anticipates a prominent theme in later Protestant feminism.

14 November, Graduate Seminar Room 2, Old Arts (Room 209) - Note Change of Date and Venue

Julie Davies, The University of Melbourne

The Duchess of Beaufort and the Somersets: A Family's Interest in Early Modern Science

The Somerset family have been historically renowned for their changing fortunes, for their magnificent properties and their hunting prowess. In this paper I will explore their seventeenth-century interactions with some of the most notable scientific minds and their largely neglected contributions during this formative intellectual period.