2012 Vicenza

Combined BSDN/EMRG Conference in Vicenza

Published: 31.10.2012 (Last updated: 24.04.2013; republished 12.02.2018)

The EMRG (Early Modern Research Group, pronounced “emerge”) helmed by Professor Roy Eriksen at the University of Agder joined forces with the BSDN for a conference that lasted from October 17 to October 22 this year.


A mere sampling of the brainpower involved.

In the beautiful setting of Vicenza in northern Italy, members of the two Shakespeare and early modern research groups convened to hear papers on topics ranging from Shakespeare’s descriptions of young, female characters, assessments of Shakespeare and his contemporaries’ use of the visual arts and architecture as structural and aesthetic models for their works, later artists, satirists, comic book and manga creators’ configurations of Shakespeare in eighteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century settings, to Shakespeare’s relationship with his medieval past, to the translation and cultural transposition of Shakespeare into Kiswahili and much more.

The thematic overlappings of the various papers that were presented helped to enrich, strengthen and nuance the overall picture that was presented, making this one of the most intellectually fruitful meetings yet in this series of symposia and conferences, and there seemed to be a general agreement that the coming together of the two research networks had been benificial. Furthermore, the setting (the venue was in the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, and a later excursion went to Giulio Romano’s Palazzo Té) contributed to the intellectual atmosphere in pleasingly topical and instructive manners.

These were the participants, listed in order of appearance:

Charles Mosely‘s (University of Cambridge) paper, “What’s in a name…” focused on The Theatre in Shoreditch, pointing out that the choice of the word “theatre” was far from being as obvious a name for a playhouse as it might seem today.

Ágnes Matuska (University of Szeged, Hungary) presented a paper called “Versions of the Theatrum Mundi” in which she expounded on the possible metaphorical meanings, sources and ramifications of “all the world is a stage”.

Helen Cooper‘s (University of Cambridge) paper “Multiplying the Unities” demonstrated how Shakespeare replaced the classical precepts of unities of place and time with the polysemous and liberated multiple concepts inherited from the medieval period.

Svenn-Arve Myklebost‘s (University of Bergen) paper, “Shakespeare’s Sources?,” was an exposition of how the aesthetic, classically inflected world picture of Shakespeare’s time may  or may not be recognized in current configurations of his plays in manga and comic book form, and what the effects might be.

Joe Sterret, (Aarhus University) in a paper called “Rereading Prayer as a Social Act,” argued that prayer in and of itself is a form of performance whose inclusion in a theatrical setting, such as in Claudius’s prayer scene Hamlet, both underscores and challenges its own structures.

Jean-Christophe Mayer (CNRS Montpellier) presented an account of how early modern readers used Shakespeare’s works in a mode  of self-fashioning, shedding light both on how they read Shakespeare and how they saw themselves. Mayer’s paper, called “Life with the Bard – Shakespeare and the Shaping of Early Modern Selfhood,” was based on scouring archives for marginal notes and mentions of Shakespeare in personal correspondence.

Deanne Williams (York University, Canada) read her paper called “Shakespeare’s Italian Girls,” in which she focused on Shakespeare’s representations of young females and the words usually associated with them, words such as “froward,” “perverse” and “peevish.”

Fernando Cioni‘s (Università degli Studi, Florence) paper “Refashioning Italian Theatrical and Dramatic Conventions,” investigated how Italian uses of the prologue, the epilogue and the induction were appropriated and altered in an English fashion by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, from the 1580s onwards.

Sophie Chiari, (Université Aix-Marseille) in a piece entitled “Spectres of Italy in Measure for Measure,” laid to rest the discussion whether “Vienna” in MfM is supposed to read “Ferrara,” placing in its stead a much more sophisticated notion of geographical and cultural references in Shakespeare’s oeuvre in general and in Measure for Measure specifically.

Kavu Ngala‘s (Telemark University College) paper, “Configuring the National Space through Shakespeare,” relayed how Julius Nyere, the first president of the newly independent Tanzania, personally translated Shakespeare into Kiswahili as a cornerstone of a specifically Tanzanian and African, rather, intriguingly, than English cultural identity.

Siri Vevle (University of Bergen) presented a paper, “Gillray’s Shakespeare and the Creation of English National Identity,” in which she not only demonstrated the sophistication of the satirist Gillray’s configurations of Shakespeare in a topical political context, but also showed how such sustained allusions to Shakespeare would  become part of a national self-fashioning.

Roy Eriksen‘s (University of Agder) account of Shakespeare’s verbal and structural allusions to Giordano Bruno in the complex play Love’s Labours Lost, entitled “Anti-Petrachism on the Stage: Shakespeare and Bruno’s Speaking Emblems,” expounded on the parodic intricacies inherent in using and interrogating Neo-Platonist and Anti-Petrarchan classical humanist ideas and ideals.

Muriel Cunin (Universitè de Limoges) presented a paper called “‘A Most Strange Story’: Circumscription in The Tempest,” linking Prospero’s attempts to control and delimit the other characters in the play with art historical precepts and conventions developed by Alberti in De Pictura.

Paul Davies, (University of Reading) the art historian, presented a piece named “Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico: Designing an All’antica Theatre,” in which he explained the classical background that Palladio worked from and adapted upon creating the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, a theatre that the group had visited on the day before Davies’ lecture.

Francois Laroque‘s (Universitè Sorbonne Normale-Paris 3) “What’s in a Name: Romeo and Juliet, Giulio Romano and Shakespeare’s Art of Memory” addressed homonymic, art-theoretical and structural parallels between R&JThe Winter’s Tale and the name of Giulio Romano, revealing similarities, differences and the complex development of Shakespeare’s intellectual relationship with Italian art and architecture.

Stuart Sillars‘s (University of Bergen) “Shakespeare and Visual Structures: Reading the Shrew induction” also brought in the art of Romano, nevertheless arguing that the images mentioned in the induction to The Taming of the Shrew are not references to specific art works, but rather reveal a satiric approach to contemporary connoisseurship as well as a deep knowledge of European visual culture.