Early Modern Circle 2012

Juliet's balcony
Juliet's balcony, Verona

Programme for 2012

Wednesday 29 February

South Lecture Theatre (room 224), first floor, Old Arts

Andrea di Robilant

From Venice to Greenland: The Medieval Voyages of the Zen Brothers to the North Atlantic

Andrea di Robilant, a journalist for La Stampa in Rome, is the highly successful author of A Venetian Affair and Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon. This seminar will focus on his latest book Venetian Navigators: The Voyages of the Zen Brothers to the Far North (Faber and Faber 2011).

12 March

North Theatre, Old Arts (Room 239)

Professor James Walvin, University of York

The Zong Massacre and the Problems of Historical Reflection

In 1781 a British slave ship, the Zong, left West Africa carrying 442 Africans, arriving in Jamaica with only 208. Many had died in the crossing, but 132 had been thrown overboard by the crew, whose aim was to claim for the Africans on the ship’s insurance. But why should the crew deliberately kill people they intended to sell for a profit? And what transformed an ordinary group of sailors into mass-murderers? There has been a recent and expansive interdisciplinary literature inspired by the history of genocide and mass killings. In the process, scholars have turned their attention to the concept of ‘evil’ as a historical force: What is it, what brings it about, what makes ordinary people do terrible deeds? Can historians begin to rethink Atlantic slavery in the context of this debate? And what do we learn from the example of one single slave ship, the Zong in 1781-1783?

23 April

North Theatre, Old Arts (Room 239)

Professor Randall Albury, University of New England

Multiple Audiences in and for Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier

The Book of the Courtier is a complex work addressed to multiple audiences, both within and outside the text, and it conveys different messages to each group. Failure to appreciate this point accounts for the view which many critics have formed, incorrectly I argue, that the text is characterized by a fundamental ‘indeterminacy’ or ‘dialogic openness’. Who, then, are these multiple audiences?

The book is aimed firstly at the general literate public, to whom it presents literary entertainment and a memorialization of the court of Urbino at the peak of its refinement. Secondly, it addresses actual and aspirant members of courts (including princes as well as courtiers), setting out a model of courtly conduct in both the personal and the professional sense, together with advice about survival and advancement in the court environment. Finally, it seeks to attract the attention of a small group of careful readers who will exert themselves judiciously to uncover a more veiled meaning within the text.

These three cohorts comprise the ‘external’ audiences to which the text as a work of literature is addressed. But the actions described within the text are also addressed to multiple ‘internal’ audiences, again three in number: the principal courtiers of Urbino, both male and female; a group of frequent male visitors to the court; and another group of male visitors from the papal court who are in attendance only because of unique circumstances. The presentation will consider the textual evidence for the treatment of these audiences as distinct groups to whom different messages are addressed, and will then outline some of the consequences of this approach for the interpretation of The Book of the Courtier.

21 May

North Theatre, Old Arts (Room 239)

Dr Keith Hutchison, The University of Melbourne

An Angel's View of Heaven: The Mystical Cosmology of Pintorichhio's 1503 “Coronation of the Virgin”

Although Galileo's defence of Copernican heliocentricity is one of the classic loci for illustrating the tension that sometimes arises between science and religion, it is a strange (but relatively unknown) fact the heliocentricity emerges in religious contexts before it is popularised by early modern astronomers. It can often be found in the background to religious paintings, like Botticelli's late 15c depiction of Dante's arrival in heaven, or Pintoricchio's early 16c 'Coronation of the Virgin'. After demonstrating this rather trivial fact; my talk will sketch a tentative answer to the obvious question: What is going on in these depictions? I will be observing that the cosmology at issue is very different from that revived by Copernicus. The sun in these pictures is not the material sun, but its immaterial prototype -- something far grander, and a traditional figure for God. Its centrality is in heaven (itself the prototype of the material world) and modelled on that of the celestial pole, another traditional location for the seat of divinity. Yet the depictions may well be revealing a belief that the material universe had a heliocentric design, even if that design was not achieved, perhaps as a consequence of some ancient catastrophe (like the Fall).

Download a pdf version of this abstract with images included.

18 June

Old Arts, room 209

Professor Dale Kent, The University of Melbourne

Cosimo de’ Medici’s autorità over Florentine Citizens and Foreign Friends

Contemporaries often described Cosimo de Medici's power as “autorità,” an elusive attribute that distinguished him by comparison with other influential citizens of the Florentine republic. This paper will argue that he enjoyed autorità largely because he exemplified the patronage practices and patriarchal ideals that structured his society and framed personal relationships within it. It will explore the expression of his autorità in the advisory councils to the city's governing magistracy and in his relations with Francesco Sforza, his closest foreign ally and Duke of Milan.

20 August

Old Arts, room 209

Professor Trevor Burnard, The University of Melbourne

Population and Settlement in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century British Atlantic World in Comparative Perspective.

This essay explores (to use an old nineteenth-century distinction) colonies of settlement and colonies of exploitation in the British Empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with an aim to see what was truly distinctive about British American colonization in this period. Drawing on Benjamin Franklin's pioneering essay in political economy, Observations on the Increase of Mankind (1760), written during the Seven Years' War, at the point that the white population of the British Empire was about to be dwarfed by the acquisition of Bengal and its millions of Indians, it seeks to understand how members of the early modern British Empire tried to conceive of the relationship between population and settlement in three separate ways - through imperial, oceanic and oriental discourses.

17 September

Old Arts, room 209

Professor John Griffiths, The University of Melbourne

The Prehistory of the Vihuela: 15th-century Images, Documents and Extrapolations

15 October

Old Arts, room 209

Dr Veronique Duché, Dr Andrea Rizzi, Dr Vicente Pérez de León and Professor John Griffiths, The University of Melbourne

Translating Authorship in Early Modern Europe: Case Studies and Tentative Conclusions

This paper discusses the complex practices and understandings of authorship in the translation and circulation of early modern European literary texts and music (1450-1650). To date, little work has been carried out on early modern authorship and translation. Translation is understood here as intertextual, intragenre or interlinguistic rewriting of texts across cultures and societies. Through the discussion of three case studies from Italian, French and Spanish literature and music, the presenters reveal the translatability and ubiquitousness of authorship in early modern Europe.

1 November (Thursday)

North Theatre, Old Arts (Room 239)

Professor Ann Shteir, York University

Figuring and Refiguring Flora, Goddess of Flowers, in Early Modern Culture

In Roman mythology and popular culture, the goddess Flora rules over the flowering of plants and as such is to be appeased, lest buds not set and grain not grow. A figure of reproductive power, nurturant and material, and also an eroticized and pleasure-seeking figure, she has carried conflictual beliefs about the female sexed and gendered body across centures. With reference to Ovid's account of Flora in his calendar poem Fasti, this talk will consider early modern figurings and refigurings of Flora in Botticelli's Primavera, a 17th-century horticultural manual and a few 18th-century British botanical publications.

Monday 19 November

A free public lecture at 6.30 in the Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre

Professor Guido Ruggiero, University of Miami

Machiavelli the Wimp: Mocking One's Emotions and Self-Presentation in the Renaissance

Full details.

Machiavelli trembling before love’s arrows? Machiavelli overwhelmed by emotion? This lecture proposes a decidedly different Machiavelli from the mythic dominating male. Looking anew at the whole range of his literary production, a distinctive more passive and more emotional Machiavelli emerges, if not as a wimp, at least with a self- mocking laugh.

Guido Ruggiero, Chair of History at the University of Miami, is a notable historian in the fields of gender, sex, crime, magic, science and everyday culture, in Renaissance and early modern Italy. His innovative approaches include microhistory, narrative history, the melding of literature, literary criticism, and archival history. Amongst his publications are The Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice; Binding Passions: Tales of Magic, Marriage and Power from the End of the Renaissance; and Machiavelli in Love: Sex, Self and Society in the Italian Renaissance.

Tuesday 20 November

A free day of seminars, workshops, discussion and a play from 10:00 to 5:30 in the Medley Linkway, Level 4, John Medley Building.

Guido Ruggiero, Laura Giannetti, John Gagn, Una McIlvenna, Catherine Kovesi, Nerida Newbigin

Pleasure, Desire and Greed in the Renaissance

Full details.

Laura Gianetti - Temptations of the Flesh: Food, Gluttony and the Senses in the Renaissance Imagination
Guido Ruggiero - Imagining Sex, Pleasure and Blasphemy in Boccaccio’s Decameron from a Historical Perspective
John Gagné - Three French Kings and the Imagery of Desire
Una McIlvenna - Capons, Cuckolds and Concupiscence: Scandalous Desire at the Early Modern French Court
Catherine Kovesi - Depicting Lust in the Sacred Spaces of Italy
Nerida Newbigin - The Pleasure of Plays in Renaissance Florence

A group of colleagues will read from Ruggiero and Giannetti’s translation of Machiavelli’s play La Mandragola.