Early Modern Circle
The Early Modern Circle is an informal, interdisciplinary seminar group open to interested students, academics and researchers. Drinks are provided and a gold coin donation helps to make this possible.
The group meets at 6:15 on the third Monday of the month, unless noted otherwise below.
To be added to the mailing list, please email Andrew Stephenson - andrewws@ unimelb.edu.au.
Programme for 2015
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
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Francesco Borghesi (The University of Sydney)
Peace and Concord as Ideals in Fourteenth-century Italy
Professor Anthony Bale (Birkbeck, University of London)
Mount Joy: An Emotional History of a Landscape
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?
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. Heather Dalton (University of Melbourne)
The Conquistador’s Widow: Navigation, Trade and Gender in Sixteenth-century Seville