Prof Martin McLaughlin at Monash University: three key events in September and October


Italian Studies and RISM at Monash University are pleased to announce the visit of Prof Martin McLaughlin (University of Oxford) who will join us for two weeks at the end of September as Distinguished Visiting Scholar. During his visit Prof McLaughlin will give the following public lecture to which everyone is warmly invited and which will take place at the Monash Caulfield Campus, room S/S230 on TUESDAY OCTOBER 1, at 5.30pm.

Calvino, Eco and the transforming power of world literature

Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco wrote many essays on world literature, so much so that they would both have been major literary critics even if they had not written any novels.

Both authors were also influenced by many non-Italian writers in their creative works.  However, the way they interpreted and were inspired by texts from other literatures was different.  This seminar seeks to compare these two major Italian writers in terms of both their criticism of world literature and the different ways their fiction was transformed by it.  What emerges is Eco’s privileging of medieval texts as opposed to Calvino’s love for Ariosto, and in the modern era their differing reactions to major figures such as Joyce and Borges.  What they have in common is their capacity to draw creative inspiration even from texts that are very remote from their own poetics.

Bookings for catering purposes:

Scholars in Renaissance Studies will be pleased to know that Prof McLaughlin will also give a seminar for the Med-Ren Research Seminar Series of the History School at Monash. This seminar will be on FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 27 at 11am in Monash Clayton Campus Building 11 (Menzies), E561 :

Burckhardt’s portrait and Alberti’s self-portraits of the artist: the Dog, the Fly and the Autobiography

Jacob Burckhardt’s influential description of Alberti as a ‘universal man of the Renaissance’ has been subjected to several critiques, like many other aspects of the Swiss historian’s Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860). However, while an obvious point of comparison is the main source for Burckhardt’s portrait, Alberti’s own autobiography (the Vita, 1438-41), very few critics have analysed in any depth two other autobiographical texts, the Latin eulogy for his dog, Canis (c. 1438), and his reworking of Lucian’s Encomium of the Fly, the Musca (c. 1443).  This seminar offers a more detailed examination of these works than has been carried out hitherto, concentrating in particular on three aspects:  the structure of the eulogies, their use of sources, and the significance of their links with Alberti’s Latin autobiography.   The Canis and the Musca turn out to be not just displays of the humanist’s rhetorical virtuosity, but idealized if comic self-portraits:  their emphasis on the main themes that resurface in the Vita (versatility, work ethic, friendship and humour) reveal them to be works that are as serious as they are ludic, and are key ingredients in the author’s self-fashioning.

On THURSDAY OCTOBER 3 at 3 p.m in Monash Clayton Campus, Building 11, room E561, Prof McLaughlin will offer a seminar within the Translation Studies seminar series. On this occasion he will be also discussing his latest work, the translation of Calvino’s letters, published by Princeton University Press this year:

Calvino in English translation: from the early fiction to the letters

Calvino wrote in 1963 that ‘one reads a text only when one translates it or when one compares the original with a translation’.  UnknownIn the light of this comment, this seminar considers the range and quality of the English translations of Calvino’s creative and non-fictional works, and asks whether or to what extent one is really reading Calvino when reading English translations.  Apart from outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the available versions, it also reflects on the particular difficulties that a Calvino text poses for the English translator, whether it be fiction, non-fiction or letters.

Martin McLaughlin is Agnelli-Serena Professor of Italian Studies at Oxford and Fellow of Magdalen College.  Amongst his publications: Italo Calvino. Letters 1941-1985 (Princeton University Press, 2013), Dante in Oxford (Legenda, 2011), Biography and Autobiographies in Modern Italy (Legenda, 2007), Petrarch in Britain. Interpreters, Imitators and Translators over 700 Years (British Academy, 2007), Writing Visibility. The Visual and the Textual in Calvino (Legenda, 2007), Italo Calvino (Edinburgh UP, 1998), Literary Imitation in the Italian Renaissance (OUP, 1995).

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