Contexts of Early Modern Literary Criticism in Italy and Beyond
The symposium, designed for a broad audience of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, local scholars, and the interested general public, will introduce participants to:
- the extraordinary array of relevant research materials in the collection of the Newberry
- the crucial debates in early modern Italian literary criticism
- the range of exemplary texts and their respective audiences
- a case study of interdisciplinary methodology for understanding and exploring the contexts of early modern literary critical writings.
A crucial feature of intellectual culture in early modern Italy was the reception of classical texts of literary criticism, such as Horace’s Ars Poetica, Longinus’ On the Sublime, and most importantly, Aristotle’s Poetics. The Poetics quickly became a central text for literary criticism in the period after its translation into Latin by Alessandro de’ Pazzi in 1536. These works provided poets with precepts for their compositions, ideas of genre, and a means to justify literary experimentation. Many of the interpretive debates surrounding these texts occurred on the printed page in various translations, commentaries, polemic treatises and published lectures. While the ideas on poetry in these works were explored by Bernard Weinberg, in his 1961 A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance, few have yet explored these works from the more recent perspectives of book history and material culture. Weinberg was a professor at the University of Chicago and bequeathed his collection of early modern Italian literary criticism to the Wing collection at the Newberry Library.
This symposium aims to explore the contexts of early modern literary criticism in Italy through three lenses, of readers, publishers, and collectors, including such questions as:
- Who were the publishers and booksellers of literary criticism in this period?
- What was the market for such works and how did this shape physical aspects of their publication (typography, bindings, size, ornamentation, etc.)?
- How did printing allow such debates to reach interlocutors beyond the immediate academic, intellectual, civic and national contexts in which they emerged?
- Did publishers take any particular position in these debates?
- Who read and collected such texts in the early modern period both in Italy and beyond? What criteria guided their acquisitions?
By beginning to reconstruct such contexts this symposium hopes to call attention to the complex social and economic dynamics of early modern literary debates and to create dialog between the disciplines of book history, the study of material culture, and history of ideas. This case-study symposium hopes to build skills and provide new perspectives for scholars who work on early modern European cultural history, while introducing interested members of the general public to new approaches in the field.