The overall theme of this year’s workshops was “Reading Publics in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Renaissance Europe.”
Despite burgeoning interest in print culture, the history of the book, and reception studies, much empirical and critical work remains to be done on the rise and development of reading publics in early modern Europe. Printed books helped to create and reinforce important networks of readers founded upon intellectual, social, and ideological interests. At the same time, however, designations of the Renaissance as “the age of print” make it easy to forget that manuscripts circulated widely and scribal culture retained a powerful presence, creating its own sets of social relations—often very different in nature from those transacted in print, even when the same individuals were involved.
Aside from the ongoing need for closer investigation of both these media in relation to questions of material production, diffusion, and socio-cultural contextualization, the realm of book consumption has been particularly neglected. By consumption, we mean the effects of print and manuscript culture upon the act of reading and its broader implications—religious, ideological, intellectual, literary—for both individual readers and networks of readers. Kallendorf, in his Virgil and the Myth of Venice (1999), for example, has shown how Venetian readers of Virgil formed a closely knit community, one whose social and political values were mapped onto the classical text and whose reading in turn contributed to the shaping and consolidating of Venetian ideology.
Closer study of these fields and questions, in both print and manuscript, has been facilitated by rapid developments in scanning and digitization, which have begun to make available, often in unprecedented numbers, new primary resources and materials. And yet the availability of these resources not only varies greatly depending on language, author, country, and period, but also calls for careful methodological reflection.
This workshop will offer an opportunity to compare digitized versions with physical inspection of manuscript and printed copies, to provide students with a clearer sense of digitized resources available—and planned—for the study of textual communities in early modern Italy, France, Spain, and England; and at the same time to prompt scrutiny of the advantages, problems, and limitations of digitization.
The summer workshop aims to address all the above issues. Three focused case-studies will be used to explore and contextualize how books, both Latin and vernacular, in manuscript and in print, were produced, distributed, and consumed.
Read the workshop blog.
These key questions will be addressed throughout:
- the role of reading in fostering networks, developing ideas, and forging shared ideological beliefs
- the differences and similarities between print and manuscript cultures and their impact upon reading communities
- the differences and similarities between reading practices and networks in Italy and in other European countries.
Drawing upon established expertise in English, Renaissance Studies, and Italian at Warwick, Italy will be a primary focus, but with strong cross-disciplinary attention to areas across Europe.
The three main case-studies/strands of the workshop will be:
- Italian vernacular literature, in particular the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century printed works of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch, including their reception in England
- Platonism, astrology, and magic, in particular the works of Ficino and his followers
- philosophical and medical works, with special attention to the reception of Aristotle and Galen
Preliminary List of Guest Speakers
This is one of a series of collaborative programs between the University of Warwick Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies, funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.