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Portraying the Prince in the Renaissance: The Humanist Depiction of Rulers in Historiographical and Biographical Texts
4-6 November, Humboldt Universität Berlin (Germany)
The collaborative research center “Transformations of Antiquity” at the Humboldt University in Berlin is now soliciting abstracts for an international conference devoted to the portrayal of rulers in historiographical and biographical texts written by Renaissance humanists in the period from 1350-1550.
In the larger context of interdisciplinary research on the transformative reception of antiquity across the ages and the development of a nuanced theory of how such inter-epochal cultural change actually takes place, an équipe within the research center, led by Prof. Johannes Helmrath, has focused for the past nine years on the topic of Renaissance humanist historiography and its relationship to ancient sources, methods, practices, and models. Having hosted conferences and issued publications that approach this topic by way of language and media, literary practice and social context, and the transformation of ancient narrative strategies, the research group is now turning its attention to the portrayal of individuals in humanist texts.
An emphasis on contingency and human agency (as opposed, for example, to divine providence) has long been considered a hallmark of Renaissance historiography. The conference begins from this premise but also aims to review it critically. Rulers, who occupy a central place in both the organization and the content of so many historical works, will provide the focus. By investigating the manifold ways these individuals and their historical impact are portrayed, contributors will offer crucial insight into this essential aspect of humanist literary production and the broader humanist conception of history. The texts and authors discussed at the conference should represent the broadest possible chronological and geographical spectrum (within the boundaries set) in order to facilitate the identification and description of temporal continuity and change on the one hand, national and regional similarities and differences on the other.
But what exactly is an historical text? As difficult as this question can be for modern scholars, it is even thornier when applied to the Renaissance. As opposed to ancient authors like Nepos and Plutarch who distinguished clearly between biography and historiography, humanists were less scrupulous in observing the distinction between life-writing and the narration of historical events. On the contrary, the line between these activities is often blurred in humanist writings of an historical nature, which tend to be characterized by a hybridization of quite disparate text types and a successful integration of various discourses. Thus countless ostensible works of history, such as Paolo Emilio’s De rebus gestis Francorum (1539), are structured biographically along a line of founding figures and kings. On the other hand, writings whose titles suggest that they belong to the genre of biography, such as Lorenzo Valla’s Gesta Ferdinandi regis (1449), appear to modern eyes rather as examples of historiography. Yet again, a work like Thomas More’s Historia Richardi regis Angliae eius nominis tertii (1513) could legitimately be considered a biography. Thus when approaching the issue of how rulers were portrayed in works of history, it seems useful to undertake a broader investigation of historiographical and biographical texts.
A primary aim of the conference is therefore to encourage discussion of the distinguishing characteristics of and links between the various genres in which the historical portrayal of rulers features prominently. One thinks immediately of the nationally focused res gestae, decades, and historiae in which rulers play a decisive role, such as Antonio Bonfini’s Rerum Ungaricarum decades (1503), Elio Antonio de Nebrija’s Rerum a Ferdinando et Elisabe Hispaniarum regibus gestarum decades (1509), and Polydore Vergil’s Anglica historia (1514). The portrayal of individual rulers is also a key element in biographically arranged chronicles and annals, such as Hartmann Schedel’s Weltchronik (1493) and Johannes Aventinus’s Annales ducum Boiariae (1521). In addition, historical epics like Basinio Basini’s Hesperis (ca. 1450-57, on Sigismondo Malatesta), Giovanni Mario Filelfo’s Amyris (1471-76, on Mehmed II), even Girolamo Vida’s Christiad (1535) should be considered, as could the edition of the medieval hexametrical work Ligurinus, curated by Conrad Celtis and other members of the sodalitas Augustana (1507). Nor ought biographical collections to be neglected; while Platina’s Vitae Pontificum (1479) clearly embodies a history of the papacy, the political history of early-fifteenth-century Europe is inscribed in the vignettes of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini’s De viris illustribus (ca. 1449). Discrete biographies, such as Tito Livio Frulovisi’s Vita Henrici V (1436), round out the list of traditionally recognized historical genres. Yet a case can be made for others as well, such as satires, funerary anthologies, panegyric orations and poetry, funeral orations, hagiographies, and commentaries, all of which have a strong biographical component.
Beyond the question of genre, the theme of the conference could also be approached by considering the various uses and transformations of ancient biographical models in humanist works. What influence was exercised by Suetonius and his thematic, as opposed to chronological, and thus highly selective mode of biography? To what extent were humanist texts characterize
IABA Europe Conference 2015 - Dialogical Dimensions in Narrating Lives and Life Writing
27-29 May 2015, Centre for Atlantic Studies, Funchal, Madeira (Portugal)
Following three successful conferences in Amsterdam (2009), Tallinn (2011) and Vienna (2013), the 2015 IABA Europe conference will be hosted by the Centre for Atlantic Studies (Your text to link...
), Madeira Island, and co-hosted by the European Journal of Life Writing
(Your text to link...
The Centre for Atlantic Studies (CEHA) is located in Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira. CEHA is a government Institution (Autonomous Government of Madeira) founded in 1985. The research carried out by CEHA focuses on Atlantic history and on particular in the relationship between Madeira, Azores, Canary and Cape Verde Islands. More recently it has centred on life narratives through the Memoria project, which has been developed since 2013. The purpose of this project is to promote the importance of the individual in the course of history. Through the gathering of personal documents (letters, postcards, journals, photos, notes etc.) and interviews we are creating an archive and digital database that is available to investigators and the general public.
The fourth IABA Europe conference would like to advance contemporary discussion on narrating lives (telling life stories) by exploring dialogical dimensions in the creation and interpretation of life narrative and life writing, and the tensions to which these may give rise. We welcome proposals for papers which address the following themes, as well as other papers, films or any other creative medium considering life writing themes:
• The effects of power relations in society on which lives are written, by whom, and in what form.
• The interplay between auto/biographical fact and fictive or rhetorical construction.
• The role of archives in preserving, publishing and ‘canonising’ life stories.
• The relationship between the writer/producer of ego documents and the researcher/reader, looking at the various ways in which a life is (or could be) re-created.
• Internal dialogical structures in autobiographies, various other kinds of ego documents and life narratives, e.g. the range of different narrating voices and subject positions in auto/biographies.
• Dialogue and (inter)mediality: dialogical dimensions involved in or provided by the specific medium/media used to document, narrate or explore a life, e.g. the impact of the possibilities of reader response in digital life writing and ‘social media’.
• The impact of narrating other people's lives on our own lives.
• Dialogue and the question of the ethics of life writing.
• The impact of narrating lives on trade and communication in Atlantic history.
Conference languages: English and French
Deadline for abstracts: 30 March 2015.
Notification of acceptance: 14 April 2015
Please send your abstract (max 300 words) and a short CV to: Claudia Faria, firstname.lastname@example.org