Was Dante telling the truth? Re-reading Dante’s Vita nova, chapters V-XII at UCL, a report by Kate Sparrow

1 month on from our event at UCL, here’s a chance to refresh your memories of the presentations, or read about them for the first time, if you weren’t able to join us!

Re-reading Dante's Vita nova

UCL, 10 November 2017

image-6-png.jpeg The Giuntina from the UCL Special Collections book display

At the second event in the ‘Re-reading Dante’s Vita nova‘ series, researchers from all over the UK came together with interested students and members of the public to hear new ideas about Dante’s formative early work, the Vita nova, presented by researchers from UCL’s School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS). Dr Catherine Keen and Dr Alex Lee welcomed us on the day, and we were also joined by researchers from the University of Notre Dame via video uplink.

Sophie Fuller (a PhD student at UCL) reports:

The second meeting of the ‘Re-reading Dante’s Vita nova’ project followed a display of special editions of the Vita nova with presentations from both UCL staff and students. Giulia Gaimari, a current PhD student, opened the presentations with an overview of chapters V-XII of the Barbi edition…

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Call for Papers – SEEING (WITH) DANTE – AAIS 2018, Sorrento, 14-17 June #AAIS2018

Please circulate and consider submitting to our call for papers for AAIS 2018:

Dante’s works are thick with visionary and visual scenes. Readers are encouraged to see with Dante as he narrates his love for Beatrice in the Vita Nuova, and to look at and through the Commedia as visual artefact (‘Aguzza qui, lettor, ben li occhi al vero, / ché ‘l velo è ora ben tanto sottile, / certo che ‘l trapassar dentro è leggero.’, Purg. VIII, 19-21). Dante himself is commanded to look innumerable times throughout the poem. The visual textures of Dante’s texts have also provoked a long tradition of visual responses to his works. Building on seminal contributions in recent scholarship (Iannucci, 2004; Braida and Cale 2007;  Lehner, 2017), this panel seeks interventions expounding the role played by the visual arts in the cross-cultural mediation and interpretation, appropriation and popularisation of Dante’s textuality and imagery from the early modern era to postmodernity. The intention is historicize the modes of visualisation of Dante’s poetry in both traditional and more experimental forms of representation ranging from painting, illustration and sculpture to film, graphic novels and videogames. In mapping the dynamics of this Dante’s productive responses in visual arts, the panel will discuss:

  • The visuality of Dante’s works: from the lyrics to the Commedia, in terms of their material imagery, visual and visionary language, episodes of ekphrasis, synaesthetic and optical illusions and effects. Dante’s seeing, and the reader as observer.
  • ·The construction of the visual canon: from Botticelli’s Disegni per la Divina Commedia (1480-1495) to Robert Rauschenberg Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno (1958-1960) and beyond.
  • The dialectic of centrality/marginality at play within the canon: i.e., the macroscopic predilection for the representation of the Commedia over the Vita Nuova and other minor works; as well as the microscopic selection of episodes and passages from the poem itself.
  • The multiple uses of illustration as commentary: from early modern manuscripts to nineteenth-century illustrated editions for young and adult readers.

Please submit abstracts of not more that 200 words, a brief biographical note, and requests for audio-visual equipment to David Bowe (University of Oxford) david.bowe@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk and Federica Coluzzi (University of Manchester) federica.coluzzi@manchester.ac.uk by 20 December 2017.

Dante’s World

This looks likes a wondrous exhibition. It’s exciting to see the level of engagement and re-elaboration of Dante’s work across media at the moment.

The exhibition of Rachel Owen’s new illustrations of the Inferno at Pembroke College, Oxford, represents another rich addition to this tradition.

RachelOwenFlyer-jpgforwebsite

Part of this must certainly be to do with this particular temporal sweet spot, between the 750th anniversary of Dante’s birth (which we celebrated in 2015) and the 700th anniversary of his death (to come in 2021), but this isn’t the only explanation.

Dante’s have been a source texts for visual, musical and new literary art for centuries, something I’ve written about elsewhere, and it’s rewarding, as a researcher, to see the everliving and developing nature of his artistic legacy.

Ordered Universe

A new exhibition opens in Durham this week, at the Palace Green Library Galleries. Curated by Annalisa Cipollone Dante: Hell, Heaven and Hope – A Journey through Life and the After-Life with Danteopens on Saturday 2nd December 2017, and runs until early March 2018. Following Dante’s poem The Divine Comedy with its tour through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, the exhibition features rare manuscripts of Dante’s work, printed copies and artistic responses to one of the greatest imaginative achievements of the Middle Ages. 

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Versions of a Feminine Voice: The Compiuta Donzella di Firenze

I have just had an article on the Compiuta Donzella di Firenze, the first woman to whom any poetry is ascribed in the Italian tradition, published with Italian Studies, the journal of the Society for Italian studies. Apart from the obvious researcher-joy of getting a piece through peer-review and out into the world (though I feel duty-bound to note that I have no horror stories of reviewer 2, all three of my readers were constructive and helpful in their comments), I’m particularly excited about this article for a few reasons.

Related image

A ‘Donzella Compiuta’ (4th from left) in Francesco da Barberino’s Documenti d’Amore

First, this project marks the start of a new direction of travel in my research, in which I focus on representations of feminine voices and female characters (I get into the particularities of that terminology a bit in the article, though it’s something I’ll gladly admit that I’m still grappling with, from a theoretical standpoint). These two categories include texts written by women and men, though the distinction between these authors is not straightforwardly one of authenticity versus inauthenticity. If anything, part of this work is allow the possibility of ‘inauthentic’ feminine voices into the works of early female writers in Italy, which have (especially in the case of the Compiuta Donzella, the first named-albeit pseudonymously-female poet of the Italian tradition) been reduced to simplistic, anachronistically post-romantic expressions of biography or true feeling by much past scholarship (though not in recent work by Justin Steinberg and Katherine Travers and some others). Those reductive readings of the Compiuta Donzella’s poetry were fuelled by a veiled misogyny, which could not allow a female author the same freedom of rhetorical flourish and artifice as a male writer. Something I counter in this article.

My second cause for excitement is that the Compiuta Donzella’s work is truly intriguing, rhetorically deft, and incisively ironic, poking fun at masculine literary tropes of suffering a the whims of an unresponsive beloved, by contrasting them with the social depredations suffered by women at the time. The wry critiques of her poetic and social context are part of what made me so keen to write about the Compiuta Donzella, and I really enjoy her poetry, a pleasure I hope comes across in the article. (I’ll be putting up some translations of the sonnets on thie blog soon so that any non-Italian speakers can get more of a sense of how the Compiuta Donzella’s poetry plays out, even if I can’t hope to muster her rhetorical fluency in translation). To see the Compiuta Donzella’s poems in their original manuscript, go to the Vatican’s digitized manuscript collection and view them on folios 129v and 170r of the Vatican Canzoniere (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Vat. Lat. 3793).

Last, but by no means least, Italian Studies has published a number of articles that have been really important to my research, so it’s really satisfying to see my work alongside that scholarship. And Here I want to repeat how positive the experience of publishing with them has been. The anonymous reviewers were constructive and helpful in their comments, even where critical, and the article is much stronger of their reviews, for which I’m really thankful (this has largely, if not entirely, been true of my experience of peer-reviewers over all, which speaks volumes of the kindness of (voluntary) academic strangers).

Here’s the abstract, so you know what you’re letting yourself in for, and I hope you enjoy reading it!

This article offers a detailed reading of the surviving sonnets of the poet known as the Compiuta Donzella di Firenze, paying particular attention to her performance of a feminine subject and critical engagement with common lyric tropes. A lack of biographical information about the Compiuta Donzella, the first woman to whom literary texts in the Italian vernacular are attributed, has led to speculation over her identity and ‘authenticity’, or to biographical readings of her texts. Acknowledging the same sorts of playful, ironic, and performative lyric subject and content in the Compiuta Donzella’s work that are commonly ascribed to other lyric voices allows us to appreciate the technical and thematic artifice in her sonnets. Comparative close readings of her surviving texts and some responses to them (by Guittone d’Arezzo, Maestro Rinuccino or Guido Guinizzelli, and an anonymous poet) provides a broader perspective on her work as engaged in active dialogue with the lyric context of thirteenth-century Italy.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00751634.2018.1402542

 

Rereading Dante’s Vita nova in print and in translation: a UCL Special Collections exhibition, by Paolo Gattavari (UCL)

This is a lovely write up of the exhibition of rare and important printed books of Dante’s works and about Dante, written by Paolo Gattavari, a PhD student at UCL.

Re-reading Dante's Vita nova

The second seminar of the collaborative research project ‘Re-Reading Dante’s Vita nova’, held at University College of London on the 10th November, was accompanied by a book display showing a wide range of print editions of Dante’s works, from the editio princeps of the Vita nova, dating back to 1576, to translations of his texts into English and French.

displayUCL Library Special Collections hosted a display of books from their Dante Collection

The books on display were kindly made available by the UCL Dante Collection, an real treasure trove for anyone interested in Dante and the history of Dante Studies. With almost 3000 volumes, the Dante Collection took its origin from the bequest made in 1876 by the eminent Dante scholar Henry Clark Barlow and, from that moment onwards, it continued to blossom thanks to other donations or acquisitions.

The editio princeps of the Vita nova was…

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UCL Vita nova exhibition

This was a great second event in out #VitanovaUK series, hosted by colleagues at UCL, with a lovely exhibition of important early printed editions of Dante’s Vita nova and the Divine Comedy. Have a look for the Catherine Keen’s twitter live introduction to the collection on the #VitanovaUK hashtag.
There will be some more blogs about this and other events soon, so do keep an eye on the ‘Re-reading Dante’s Vita nova’ blog, and sorry about the coffee Kenneth…

Re-reading Dante's Vita nova

We’re delighted to announce that, as well as the presentations and discussion, there will be a small book display to accompany the day, featuring Special Collections material including the editio princeps of 1576, and some other wonderful 16th, 18th and 19th century material. This will be on display in the Special Collections Reading Room in the South Junction, adjacent to the main event in the Institute for Advanced Studies.

Full details on the poster:Vita Nova 10 Nov poster update

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‘Re-Reading Dante’s Vita nova’ 2, Friday 10 November, 2.00-5.00 pm, UCL

Updates on our next event in the #VitanovaUK series at UCL, 10 November, 2-5pm

Re-reading Dante's Vita nova

The Seminar is being hosted by UCL’s Institute for Advanced Studies, in the ‘Common Ground’ seminar space, Wilkins Building South Wing, UCL. The chapters proposed for close discussion this time are Vita nova ch. 5-12 (Barbi’s numbering), and the speakers will include (in alphabetical order) Giulia Gaimari, Catherine Keen, Jennifer Rushworth, and John Took.

Plans for the day are being finalised, so watch this space for a full formal programme. Meanwhile, please save the date, and spread the word.

RP-P-1931-2038 ‘Portrait of Dante and Beatrice’, by Bernard Essers, 1922 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

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Beyond Between Men: A symposium report – and a call to arms

A helpfully detailed conference report from a fascinating sounding conference, which I was sad not to be able to attend.

Rachel E. Moss

“Frynd synd on eorþan, / leofe lifgende leger weardiað”
[There are friends/lovers on earth, / dear ones living who lie in bed (together)]
The Wife’s Lament, a tenth-century Old English poem

conference The definitely-not-homosocial social space of the conference: relaxing over dinner

In Oxford, around 30 scholars from several disciplines, working on periods ranging from the early medieval to the near-contemporary, met to attend Beyond Between Men: Homosociality Across Time on the what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far – Monday 19 June. The Radcliffe Humanities Building, usually an airy space, gradually took on the feeling of a steam room as the day progressed. Yet delegates – with fans improvised out of the programme, slurping water and wryly tweeting pictures of the Circles of Hell – gamely stayed engaged from 9.30pm to 6pm, through an incredibly packed schedule. A plenary paper, twelve papers…

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