Category Archives: History

Disease and death

‘They fell ill daily in their thousands … many fell dead in the open streets … such was the multitude of corpses there was not sufficient consecrated ground to bury them’.  And: ‘the plague came from afar … that part of the world called Asia’. A historian in 2120 describing the horrors of a century earlier? Extracts from a comparative study of plagues and pestilence? An epidemic seen from the grassroots today? No, Boccaccio and Villani talking of events in Italy as the Black Death and other disasters wreaked their havoc, as quoted by Tim Parks in the introduction to his dispatch from northern Italy, ‘Milan in a time of coronavirus‘ in this week’s TLS (March 20, 2020). For descriptions of life in the plague-ridden Florence of 1630, see the review in the LRB (20 March, 2020) of John Henderson’s Florence Under Siege: Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Yale UP 2019).

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ITALIAN OPERA FROM THE MEDICI TO BELLINI

THIS LECTURE SERIES HAS HAD TO BE POSTPONED BECAUSE OF CURRENT PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS

Joseph Talia OAM, singer, artistic director, teacher and scholar, will be giving a series of talks on Italian opera from the Renaissance to Bellini between March and November 2020 at CO.AS.IT, 199 Faraday St, Carlton, from 6.30-8.00 pm on the last Tuesday of every month (except June). Entry is free, an aperitivo is included, but registration is requested. Apart from his teaching work, Maestro Talia is the author of the trilogy A History of Vocal Peda­gogy: Intuition and Science; Vocal Science for Elite Singers; and Italian Bel Canto in the Age of Vocal Science. Here is his description of each of the 8 lectures ……
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Art: high, low and mixed

The third issue (January 2020) of the open-access journal Modern Art of the Center for Italian Modern Art (New York), is dedicated to the proceedings of the conference “Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s Twentieth-Century Italian Art (1949)”. CIMA’s publications advance innovative scholarship in the area of twentieth-century Italian art and promote Italian modern artists who remain particularly understudied among US audiences. On a different front, the publication of Emma Barron’s book Popular High Culture in Italian Media 1950-1970: Mona Lisa Covergirl (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) has been very favourably received (Barron was one of the 2019 ACIS Save Venice Fellows). Here is the review  in the latest issue (2020) of the journal Modern Italy.

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Violence in the borderlands

Defined as ‘borderlands’ by Tracey Banivanua Mar, the sugar towns of North Queensland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries hosted a great variety of ethnic groups: Chinese, Indian, Japanese, ‘Malay’, Pacific Islander and later South European. Violence between members of different groups was common. In ‘Beyond whiteness: violence and belonging in the borderlands of North Queensland’ (Postcolonial Studies, February 2020, online ahead of publication) Maria Elena Indelicato examines the case of three South Sea Islanders attacking an Italian farmer in the city of Ingham in 1927. The motive behind that particular attack remains unknown. Indelicato treats it not as a random episode but as a sign of the way in which migrants were involved in the subjection of ‘natives’ and South Sea Islanders. Violence can thus be seen as a claim to belonging by migrants, Italian or not, and as a technology used by settlers to manage ‘undesired’ populations.

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Exploring Venice’s past and present

Jen McFarland, enrolled in a History MA at the University of Melbourne, spent September to December 2019 in Venice as an ACIS Save Venice Fellow researching the identity, status and activities of the pizzocchere (associations of lay religious women) in the city in the 16th century. It was not her first exploration of religion there. In 2019 the journal Renaissance Studies published her study of Catherine of Siena’s incorporation into the iconography held in the Dominican convent of Santi Giovanni e Paolo in the late 15th century, in particular the ways in which the convent wanted to emphasise Catherine’s status as a legitimate stigmatic and to promote the then-current Dominican reform. Jen has written an interesting piece summarising her recent stay in Venice which can be found here.

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ACIS Save Venice Fellowships 2020

ACIS is calling for applications for up to two ACIS Save Venice Fellowships for 2020. The Fellowships are based in Venice, open to postgraduate and early career researchers, cover the three months between mid-September and mid-December 2020, and are worth $8000 each. Fellows will be EITHER a current Masters or PhD candidate in any area of Italian Studies at an Australasian university OR a postdoctoral researcher in any area of Italian Studies within 3 years of successful completion of their Masters or PhD at an Australasian university. The Fellowship is designed for those researchers and scholars whose research and/or career can benefit in any way from a period in Venice and the use of the city’s substantial resources. ACIS expects that people working in the fields of History, Art History, Fine Art, Cultural and Media Studies, and Restoration and Museum Studies will be particularly interested, but applications will be welcome from any field across the humanities and social sciences. Further information about the Fellowships and the application process can be found here and on the page under Fellowships. The closing date for applications is 9 March, 2020.

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A future for Italy’s ‘ghost towns’?

Kristen Sloan   University of Wollongong

Roghudi Vecchio, Calabria (Saverio Barbaro, 2009)

More than 5000 historical hamlets and rural and medieval villages in Italy have been in serious population decline (Serico Gruppo Cresme, 2008). Many were abandoned in the last century and today have become ‘ghost towns’. While long neglected as topics for cultural policy or academic study, a recent wave of political and popular interest in Italy’s borghi, coupled with an increasing number of initiatives to resuscitate them, suggest that their presumed destinies of decline, ruin and oblivion may have to be revised. Concern for Italy’s emptying towns is not an isolated phenomenon but part of a recent explosion of interest and action in abandoned sites throughout the world (De Silvey & Edensor, 2012). Today conversations about abandoned places are characterised by new ways of describing, perceiving and interacting with them: no longer as rubbish but as resources.    Continue reading

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Remembering Primo Levi

As part of the initiative Primo Levi: Writer, Witness, Scientist which commemorates the centenary of Levi’s birth, Paul Forgasz will give a talk on Italia Ebraica: The Jews of Italy. A historical perspective, on Tuesday 19 November 2019, 6.30-8pm, at 199 Faraday Street, Carlton VIC 3053 (free event, RSVP essential here). The Italian Jewish narrative does not fit neatly into the conventional divisions of the Jewish Diaspora: Mizrahi (Middle Eastern/North African), Sephardi (Spanish) and Ashkenazi (Franco-German). Indeed, there are maps of the Jewish world in which Italy is depicted as a distinctive and unusually complex sub-culture. The Jewish community in Rome is one of the oldest surviving diasporas, its antiquity reflected in a distinctive Roman liturgical rite still in use today. Italy has also been home to an Ashkenazi community since the late Middle Ages, and then, in the wake of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, a Sephardi community. Rabbis and scholars thus lived within the boundaries of traditional Jewish communities whilst simultaneously contributing to the cultural and intellectual traditions of the wider society of which they were a part. Paul Forgasz will provide a survey of the very rich and variegated history of the Jews of Italy: from their earliest presence in Roman times, to the highs and lows of the medieval Jewish experience, through to Italian Jewry’’s encounter with modern world.    Continue reading

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Where is Parnassus now?

Dear Muses? Essays in Poetry by Simon West (Puncher & Wattmann, 2019), a book of essays on Australian and Italian poetry, and especially on the presence of Classical and Renaissance literature in Austral­ia today, will be launched on Wed 9 Oct 2019, 6.30-8pm, at CO.AS.IT, 199 Faraday St, Carlton 3053. Does it make sense to invoke the Muses today? Few of us believe our poems will be better for praying to stola-clad women sitting on a mountain in Greece. Simon West asks the reader to consider the Muse as something more – a vehicle for acknowledging cultural legacies that radiate out from the past and into contemporary Australia. In addressing the Muses we talk to that inheritance. He examines our metaphors for reaching back after inspiration, imagining that heritage, rivers that nourish the red gums across floodplains. He ranges widely, bridging Classical and European interests with a celebration of Australian poets, while asking, always, where is Parnassus now? Continue reading

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Celebrating Italian Studies at UWA

The series of public lectures celebrating Italian Studies at UWA (where the first lectureship in Italian in Australia was established in 1929) continues. Following an introduction by John Kinder, the talks, which can be heard by clicking on the title links below, have been given by Robert Hollingworth (‘Shaping the invisible: Images reflected in music‘), Stefano Carboni (‘Venice and the Ottomans: A visual artistic journey between the Serenissima and Istanbul‘) and Susan Broomhall (‘Missing Magnificence: Tracing Catherine de Medici’s hidden cultural legacy‘). The series continues on 13 August, 6pm-7pm, Murdoch Lecture Theatre, UWA Arts Building, with a lecture by Catherine Kovesi on Italy and the Invention of Luxury. Luxury as a concept and practice has a long and often sordid past from which it has never entirely freed itself. Italy is at the heart of luxury throughout its chequered history, from its fifteenth-century definition and first articulations to its broader manifestations in present-day luxury brands and the untrammelled consumption of our age.

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