Category Archives: Medieval

Language Variation in Renaissance Italy

Josh Brown   Stockholm University

Renaissance Italy saw the creation of the Italian language and of most major European standard languages. In Italy itself, no political centre dominated the entire peninsular, so no standard language was immediately obvious. The dialect chosen for the standard had the most prestigious literary tradition – Florentine. The existing literature has shown how Florentine emerged as a dominant variety in Lombardy – a wealthy region particularly interesting for its mix of political centralisation and persisting local traditions – but it has focussed on literary texts, leaving an entire period of language evolution and variation unexplored in the belief that models of language variation and changes of literary standards will suffice to explain linguistic phenomena in non-literary texts. This bias has recently been discussed by Adam Ledgeway from the University of Cambridge in a lecture at NYU Florence. In my earlier research I looked at the spread of Tuscan in a corpus of non-literary merchant texts sent from Milan in the late 14th century. I am now extending this project to the analysis of the letters of a Milanese nun, Margherita Lambertenghi (?-1454), to produce an innovative conceptualisation of processes of language change in late medieval Lombardy. Continue reading

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Dante’s Commedia: the map and the meaning

220px-Portrait_de_DanteHere are details of two recent contributions to Dante Studies. Andrea Gazzoni (Pennsylvania) has created an interactive map of the places mentioned in the Commedia, funded by the Price Lab for Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. A set of layers allows users to explore the map according to different parameters, with pop-up cards describing each mention of a place and quoting Dante’s text. This is a beta version: further materials and analyses will be added later. And John Kinder (UWA) reflects on the source of the continuing interest in the Commedia 750 years after its author’s birth, arguing that its religious sense touches something specific to the modern condition.

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Inaugural CMRS symposium: Monash University, 24 April 2015, 9.15-4.30

Lorenzo_di_Credi_woman_Metropolitan-detail-640x400The inaugural Annual Symposium of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Monash University is entitled ‘”Tied with indissoluble chains”: Languages of Exile and Imprisonment in Medieval and Renaissance England and Italy’ and will take place at the Monash Club, Monash University, Clayton, on Friday 24 April 2015 from 9:15 to 4:30pm. The plenary speaker willl be Susan Broomhall (UWA). Details of the event, other speakers and registration can be found here (STOP PRESS: registrations are now closed because of the excellent response but anyone wanting more details of the programme and theme is welcome to contact the convenors, Lisa Di Crescenzo and Sally Fisher).

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Lectureship in Italian Studies: University of Edinburgh

156002191The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, invites applications for the post of Lecturer in Italian, with particular responsibility for Medieval Italian literature and culture. The position is full-time, open-ended and available from September 1st 2015. It covers teaching in Italian at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum. The successful candidate will have a record of excellence in research, with publications appropriate to her/his career stage and a commitment to innovative approaches to teaching. Full details including the application procedure are available from the Head of Italian, Davide Messina.

Applications close on Thursday 2 April 2015 at 5pm (GMT).


RISM: Peter Howard (September 2)


and the Italian Cultural Institute  in Melbourne

have great pleasure in inviting you to a talk on

Charting Cultural Transformation through Renaissance Preaching


A/Prof Peter Howard (Monash University)

Monday 2 September at 6pm

Italian Cultural Institute,  233 Domain Road, South Yarra

How did the artists of the Sistine Chapel wall frescoes develop and execute a complex programme in an amazingly short period of time? How do we explain the configuration of public space in early Renaissance Italy? Who authorized the magnificent display that characterizes Renaissance Florence? These are just some of the questions on which light is shed if an expansive role is assigned to preaching in late medieval and early renaissance Italy. This argument is a reversal of the image of the mendicant “penitential preachers” that Burckhardt constructed a century and a half ago but that still prevails, even among some scholars. Most commonly, the historiography identifies the humanists as the innovators of the day and as the disseminators of a renewed classical culture. This can be overemphasized. I argue that evidence suggests that a traditional medium such as the sermon was just as, if not more, responsible for a new historical and social vocabulary which equipped Florentines in particular to meet the demands of a rapidly changing society.

For catering purposes please book at Tel. 03 – 9866 5931

For more information on RISM please contact Dr Patrizia Sambuco (Monash University).

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Dante: essays in honour of John A. Scott

Portrait_de_DanteA collection of essays on Dante, “Legato con amore in un volume, edited by John Kinder and Diana Glenn, has just been published by Olschki to honour John Scott, emeritus professor at the University of Western Australia, on his 80th birthday. The volume, with contributions from the world’s leading Dante scholars, is organised around three themes: Dante and the Italian cultural tradition; the Commedia;  and Dante and the Anglophone world.

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From text to stone: translation on the Italian peninsula in the later Middle Ages

Pippa Salonius   CMRS, UCLA


Orvieto’s cathedral

With this blog entry I hope to make the paper I gave at a recent conference at Monash University a little more accessible to those of you who enjoy Italian history and art. I study the Italian cathedral, specifically the cathedral in Orvieto, and much of my work concerns its façade discourse: What did the images presented there mean to their audience? Who was that audience? Who was responsible for the content of that message? The theme of the ANZAMEMS conference at Monash was “Cultures in Translation” and the material I presented concentrated on the idea that translation extends beyond the literary sphere of text into the broader communicational field of ‘the arts’ in general. This is particularly true of medieval Europe, where there was great discrepancy in vernacular speech from one geographic region to another, and the educated ruling class communicated in Latin. Literacy was, generally speaking, a privilege of the educated male élite. In my paper ‘Text and Image at Orvieto’ I was trying to stress how important the language of images was as a universal means of addressing the medieval public.

Continue reading

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Imagining Poverty 1220-1520: An interdisciplinary research project

Anna Welch   Monash University/MCD University of Divinity

Many readers will know about the Make Poverty History campaign – an alliance of over 70 aid and development organisations, community and faith-based groups in Australia who are working towards the United Nations’ goal of halving global poverty by 2015.800px-Make_Poverty_History_banner_2005_Jersey Sadly, poverty is all too prevalent in the present. As historians, we have a duty to deepen our community’s engagement with its past. As humans, we have a moral responsibility to strive for a more just and equitable world. So in the spirit of poet and philosopher George Santayana’s oft-quoted observation (‘those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it’)  how have people experienced and understood poverty in the past? Continue reading

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The Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS)  is holding its Ninth Biennial Conference on 12-16 February 2013 at the Caulfield Campus of Monash University in Melbourne. yorkwindow2The theme of the conference is ‘Cultures in Translation’ in order to explore the many varieties of translation at work in medieval and early modern studies. Papers will deal with diversity and change in areas such as language, culture, religion, space. They will examine how medieval and early modern cultures understood translation and how modern scholars make disciplinary, linguistic and social translations in their work.

The keynote speakers are: Chris Baswell (Columbia University), Anne Dunlop (Tulane University), John Najemy (Cornell University) and Charles Zika (University of Melbourne). You can find the full conference programme here.

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