CFP: Imaginary Renaissance: The Reception of Renaissance in Contemporary Culture
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Imaginary Renaissance: The Reception of Renaissance in Contemporary Culture International conference Paris, EPHE/Rouen, 1st-2nd April 2016 Organizing committee: Mélanie Bost-Fievet (EPHE), Perrine Galand (EPHE), Louise Katz (CNRS) and Sandra Provini (Université de Rouen) Scientific committee: Anne Besson (Maître de conférences HDR à l’université d’Artois), Véronique Gély (Professeur à l’université Paris-Sorbonne), Daniele Maira (Professeur à l’université de Göttingen), Gérard Milhe Poutingon (Professeur à l’université de Rouen), Jean-Charles Monferran (Professeur à l’université de Strasbourg), Isabelle Pantin (Professeur à l’École Normale Supérieure), Stéphane Rolet (Maître de conférences à l’université Paris 8), Jean Vignes (Professeur à l’université Paris-Diderot)
Reception studies, today a growing research field in France, have largely addressed the presence of the Middle Ages and, more recently, of classical Antiquity in the 20th and 21st centuries , while paying increasing attention to the fantastika and contemporary popular culture. The 2012 conference on « The Influence of Greek and Latin Antiquity in Contemporary Science-Fiction & Fantasy Works » has shed light on the complex levels of rewriting, quoting and (mis)appropriation at play, and the fertility of classical myths and patterns in the elaboration of secondary worlds; it also highlighted the role of the Renaissance as a crucial turning-point in the reception of classical Antiquity in the 20th and 21st centuries.
However, this time period, from early Quattrocento to late 16th-century, has not yet received, in France at least, all the attention it seemingly deserves, as is the case for English-speaking scholars and the British Renaissance . Indeed, the very idea of reception is at the core of the Renaissance, since many humanists and artists used to comment, imitate, or reinvent the classical and medieval texts, creations and concepts. A great many works have been dedicated to classical reception in the Renaissance, and highlighted the period as a model for the use of ancient material and sources in the creation process. Yet little attention has been paid to the manner in which the works, men and ideas of the Renaissance may have informed our contemporary imagination , and the 20th- and 21st-century creations may have appropriated this material . The reception of the Renaissance in the 19th century is far better known, and was recently furthered , while the early 20th century was, sometimes, addressed . There has also been some interest for the reception of this or that ‘great’ author, in a wider, diachronic perspective: one might mention Rabelais, Ronsard, Montaigne or d’Aubigné, as well as, last but not least, Shakespeare and Cervantès, each of whom was the topic of monographs and collective volumes. Still, the attention has been focused on the 19th century , which appears as a major milestone in the contemporary reception of the Renaissance. This reception in the past fifty years is what we wish to address, with particular interest for popular works and culture, in order to delineate its specificities.
- Which events have weighed the most on our collective imagination?
- Are there national particularities in this field of influence?
- What is the fate of humanism in modern representations, and how do we perceive its purpose in European history?
In order to answer these questions, we shall take into consideration a wide array of creations: literature, particularly genre literature (science-fiction, fantasy and the fantastika, mysteries and thrillers, romance) and best-sellers; comics and graphic novels; cinema; television series; board, role-playing and video games. Three topics seem to be of particular relevance: - the reception of European Renaissance literature. We will address actualizing approaches, literary rewritings and on-screen transpositions of the period’s works – without solely considering the most widely-adapted author of all, Shakespeare.
We shall ask ourselves which kind of imitation is found among contemporary authors: a patient, precise contamination of particular sources (like the futuristic retelling of Tasso’s Jerusalem delivered in François Baranger’s Dominium mundi), which might lead to detailed, hypertextual analyses ; the transposition of ‘transfictional’ characters into new worlds (such as Prospero and Caliban in Simmons’s Olympos); or the reference to cultural elements made into universal myths, which have become separated from their time and frame of invention (Romeo and Juliet, from science-fiction to musicals).
We shall also examine the new editions and commentaries which exploit Renaissance works to serve new causes: the Satire Ménippée, during the French Revolution and the Third Republic, or La Boétie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, which had frequent reprints in Europe, in times of revolution and war.
We will also wonder how the works of More, Machiavel or La Boétie might have influenced the currently fashionable dystopias. Some attention will also be paid to the biographical fictions and biopics dedicated to writers (Rabelais, Montaigne, Marie de Gournay…) as well as the contemporary readings of humanistic works, considered as ‘sources’ for the moderns (Stefan Zweig, Michel Butor, Milan Kundera, Carlos Fuentes, Antoine Compagnon).
Finally, we wish to examine the fate of the Renaissance language, with which many French writers have felt a keen affinity, and of the word-plays that appear as specific to the period (in the works of Aragon, the OuLiPo or Robert Merle’s Fortune de France). The English-speaking world, too, will not be forgotten: Shakespeare’s language has given rise to numerous literary experimentations, such as Ian Doescher’s rewriting of the two Star Wars trilogies in the manner of the Bard. - the reception of visual arts, performance arts, and symbolic imagery.
We wish to question our memory of Renaissance works of art, for which the public interest is still quite keen, as witnessed by the high frequentation of expositions as well as the many advertising boards that refer to Renaissance pictures; movie directors, too, borrow from composition or lightning devices that are immediately recognizable as characteristic from the period. This lasting influence of Renaissance imagery also transpires in pastiches (Bruegel is visually quoted in Astérix) and creative (mis)appropriations (Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q.).
We also wish to examine the manner in which Renaissance painting, especially the Italian and Dutch traditions, has fostered modern fantasies, as illustrated by the many mysteries and thrillers that dwell on the assumed enigmas of these works (Dan Brown, Iain Pears, Arturo Pérez-Reverte). Many fictions also re-imagine the lives of painters and the conditions that prevailed when they created their works (Sophie Chauveau, Jean Diwo, Tracy Chevalier); some figures even become shrouded in quasi-mystical theories, like Leonardo da Vinci. Furthermore, we shall examine the fate of other artistic forms, such as theatre, dance and music, as well as the endeavors of certain companies or music ensembles to broaden their diffusion (Ris et danceries, Doulce Mémoire).
We will also ponder on the way in which some instrumental techniques are re-visited (lute-playing in Sting’s album), and Renaissance verse is put into song. We may, finally, address the reception of a more diffused symbolic imagery, which becomes especially visible in the building of secondary worlds: urban landscapes (one might remember Jaworski’s Ciudalia or Scott Lynch’s city of Camorr, both reminiscent of Venise or Genoa in the Renaissance); sacred and occult practices (around the arts of alchemy, in Yourcenar’s The Abyss, or the character of Nostradamus); plot theories; the world of parties, masquerades and carnival; the rediscovery of a lost or unknown past. - the reception of historical events, scientific inventions, and the great discoveries.
We will assess, in the representation of historical events or characters, the share of fantasy, deliberate anachronism, and care for veracity. Thus, we will study the way in which the Reform and Religion wars are present in collective memory, while often being re-read through the prism of contemporary events (the war in Bosnia, for example, in Chéreau’s rendering of the Saint-Barthélémy in Queen Margot).
We will also study the still-vivid legends surrounding some dynasties, such as the Borgias (who have inspired countless plays and novels, from Hugo and Dumas to Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and Mario Puzo, and two modern TV series, The Borgias and Borgia), the Tudors (in its namesake TV series, as well as the many novelizations and movie adaptations of the life of Elizabeth the 1st), or the last of the Valois (in Jean Teulé’s Charly 9, to mention only the most recent title inspired by this family). It seems important, in particular, to revisit the genesis of the legends around these characters, and to mention the 19th-century works which settled their characteristics in contemporary imagination: historians have demonstrated how the ‘légende noire’ of the Valois, still vivid in popular culture, should be largely disproved in scholarly approaches. The women in particular, from Lucrezia Borgia to queen Margot or the ‘black’ queen Catherine de’Medici, fall victims to stubborn clichés, which paint them as courtesans or witches, while literary history has long been silent about the works of the greatest women writers of the Renaissance.
We will also wonder how our contemporary imagination was imprinted by the great discoveries: that of the New world (in Rufin’s novel Brazil Red, Malick’s film The New World or the TV show The Mysterious Cities of Gold), Copernic’s revolution and Galileo’s works, or the invention of the printing press (for example in Anne Cunéo’s Le Maître de Garamond). We shall question how they resonate with today’s post-modern epistemological and technological changes (world globalization, numeric revolution…).
We may, finally, examine the concern for historical realism in the conception of settings and costumes, in cinema (Tavernier’s Princess of Montpensier) as well as the videogame industry (Assassin’s Creed 2).
By exploring all these leads, we hope to draw the first draft of a map delineating our collective memory of the Renaissance. Therefore, we wish to study the Renaissance as a myth, with its heroes and (oft-forgotten) heroines, its places of predilection, a myth which was built and transmitted by generations of scholars as well as artists, novelists, directors, who have passed on some topical representations as well as constantly reinvented the period. In order to better define this ‘imaginary Renaissance’ in contemporary culture, our conference, with a firmly interdisciplinary approach, will bring together academic contributions and exchanges with writers and creators, who will be invited to reflect upon their practices and relationship to the Renaissance. It is opened to specialists of the Renaissance with an interest in its contemporary reception, as well as specialists of comparative literature, 20th- and 21st-century literature, art history and the performing arts.
Paper proposals, presented as abstracts no longer than one page, should be sent to the organizers along with a short bio-bibliography, before July 1st, 2015, to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org