Seminar Programmes

Hilary 2019

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Joanna Weinberg and Piet van Boxel


Catherine Lewis Lecture Room, Clarendon Institute


Tuesdays, 2.15-4pm




Downloadable Programme:



Week 1 (15 January)
Piet van Boxel (University of Oxford)
'Surenhusius and his Mishnah edition in context'


Week 2 (22 January)
Omer Michaelis (Harvard Divinity School)
'Juda ha-Nasi, Author Mishnae: authorship discourses between Medieval al-Andalus and Early Modern England'


Week 3 (29 January)
Robert Madaric Beer (University of Tübingen)
'Jacob Judah Leon and his models of the Temple and the Tabernacle in 17th century scholarship'


Week 4, 5 February
Scott Mandelbrote (University of Cambridge)
'Humphrey Prideaux and the history of Judaism in the 17th century'


Week 5, 12 February
Marcello Cattaneo (University of Oxford)
'The first English translation of the Mishnah: the scholarly contexts of William Wootton’s version of Shabbat and Eruvin (1718)'


Week 6, 19 February
Guido Bartolucci (University of Calabria)
'A German student of Isaac Abendana: Theodor Dassow and the Latin translation of the Mishnah'


Week 7, 26 February
Theodor Dunkelgrün (University of Cambridge)
'Isaac Abendana’s Mishnah translation (1663-1676) and Judaic studies in Restoration Cambridge'


Week 8, 5 March
Yosef Kaplan (Hebrew University)
'Haham Jacob Abendana, the author of a Spanish translation of the Mishnah. Steps towards an intellectual profile'






Lorna Hutson and Emma Smith


Mure Room, Merton College (except week 7, in Fitzjames 1, Merton College)


Tuesdays, 5.15pm


Weeks 1, 3, 7 and 8


All welcome. Wine and refreshments served.


Week 1 (15th January)
Eric Langley (University College, London)
‘To Stretch; to Flinch: Shakespearean Tenderness’

This paper – obeying Derrida’s insistence that we ‘extend an ear and tenderly attend to the … words – tender, tend, extend’ – explores the state of tenderness in Shakespearean drama, working through the implications of Michel de Montaigne’s claim to ‘sympathise very tenderly with the afflictions of others.’ It considers the potential hazards and the cost of attentive, tender existence, where a nervous subject tenders themselves, ‘stretch[ing] and expand[ing] outwards’ towards the recipient of their compassionate feelings, before examining the ‘tender-minded’ (King Lear) figures of Shakespearean drama in the context of period’s passionate pathologies, where to be attentive to others would be to simultaneously risk infection. The paper will conclude with some more tentative – possibly tenuous – speculations on one final piece of etymological wordplay, in considering the legally inflected concept of ‘extenuation’, assessing both the merits and limitations of extending mercy, or stretching the tenure of the otherwise ‘strict’ or ‘precise’ legal sentence.


Week 3 (29th January)
Helen Smith (University of York)
'“Being thus poetically composed”: Early Modern Women's Elemental Poetry’

Like many of her contemporaries, Hester Pulter was fascinated by the stuff of the world. Questions of the nature, status, and transmutations of the elements play out across her poetry, most explicitly in the remarkable ‘The invocation of the Elements the longest Night in the Year 1655’. In this paper, I will explore Pulter’s elemental verse, tracing her poetic conversations with precursors and contemporaries including Ovid, George Herbert, John Donne, and particularly Anne Southwell, and Anne Bradstreet. I propose to explore Pulter’s ‘elemental method’ showing how she finds a compelling imaginative connection between poetic materials, the stuff of the world, and the inventive forms into which ideas might be collected, dispersed and reassembled.


Week 7 (26th February) [NB location: Fitzjames 1, Merton College]
Mary Nyquist (Toronto)
‘Tyrannicide, Sacrifice, and Law in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

This talk starts by challenging two views, first, that Plutarch’s Lives have been exhaustively searched for materials relevant to Julius Caesar and, second, that tyranny and tyrannicide were rather fuzzy, threatening notions at the time Shakespeare produced his plays.  Drawing on unexamined materials by Plutarch that relate to sacrifice and to legislation regarding tyrannicide, Nyquist will argue that Shakespeare’s drama foregrounds the conspirators’ complacent disregard of forensic evidence pertaining to tyranny and that it thereby offers spectators (or readers) an opportunity to determine whether Caesar can be said to be tyrannous and, if so, at which moment ambiguities might be said to be resolved. Shakespeare's use of antityranny rhetoric and discourse will also be closely examined.


Week 8 (5th March)
Lena Cowen Orlin (Georgetown University)
‘What Shakespeare’s Funerary Monument Tells Us About his Overnights in Oxford’

With its carved portrait bust of a man holding a quill in his right hand and a sheet of paper with his left, Shakespeare’s funerary monument shows its subject as an author. This has made it a site of scrutiny for those who believe that someone else wrote the plays and poems. As the anti-Stratfordian argument has it, writing implements were at some point added to the representation of a pork butcher or wool dealer. One theory is that a monument to Shakespeare’s merchant father was re-inscribed to the son. The very number of buttons on the sculpture’s doublet has become a subject of controversy. This talk will analyze the monument’s place in Shakespeare’s biography. Oxford University is where we find the key to its legitimacy.




Neil Kenny


Hovenden Room, All Souls College


Wednesdays 2.00-3.30pm (except 4 February, on Monday)


Weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8



Week 2 (23 January)   

REBECCA BULLARD (University of Reading):
‘Deaths of eminent persons’: Obituaries and Social Hierarchies in Early Eighteenth-Century England

JOHN GALLAGHER (University of Leeds):
A Conversable Knowledge: Language-Learning in Early Modern Educational Travel


Week 4 (Monday 4 February)

NEIL KENNY (All Souls College, Oxford):
Ore, Lore, Status: The Curious Case of the Baron and Baronne de Beausoleil

RICHARD SCHOLAR (Oriel College, Oxford):
French à la mode in Restoration England


Week 6 (20 February)  

JONATHAN PATTERSON (St Hilda’s College, Oxford):
Colbert’s Police Files: Between Bureaucracy and Literature

BRIAN BREWER (Trinity College Dublin):
The Figure of the Merchant in the Works of Miguel de Cervantes


Week 8 (6 March)  

EVA GRIFFITH (Independent Scholar):
Christopher Beeston: His Plays and Place in the Social Hierarchy of Early Stuart London

KATHERINE IBBETT (Trinity College, Oxford):
Une petite Venise: The Seventeenth-Century Beaver




Katherine Ibbett


Maison Française d’Oxford


Thursdays, 5.15 (tea at 5)


Weeks 1, 3, 5, and 7


All welcome!


Week 1 (17th Jan)
Kathleen Perry Long (Cornell)
"Transforming Dystopia, Performing Utopia in the Island of Hermaphrodites”


Week 3 (31st Jan)
Todd Reeser (Pittsburgh)
“Essaying affect with Montaigne”


Week 5 (14th Feb)
Dorine Rouiller (Geneva/Oxford)
"La journée cosmopolite de Théophile de Viau”


Week 7 (28th Feb)
Jess Stacey (The Queen's College)
"Authors of Catastrophe: narrative and periodisation in eighteenth-century France"





Prof Ros Ballaster, Prof Christine Gerrard, Prof Abby Williams, Dr David Taylor, Prof Nicole Pohl, Christy Edwall, Helen Brown, Alex Hardie-Forsyth


Massey Room, Balliol College (except Week 6, in Mansfield College)


Tuesdays, 5.30pm


Weeks 2, 4, 6

All are welcome!


Week 2 (22 January)

‘Civil Rage: Poetry and War in the 1740s’

Professor Thomas Keymer (Chancellor Jackman Professor of English, University of Toronto)


Week 4 (5 February)

‘Jane Austen and the Novel as Complex System’

Professor Sean Silver (Rutgers State University of New Jersey)


Week 6 (19 February) [Venue: Seminar Room East, Mansfield College]

‘Lady in a Veil’ Performance based on the life and works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, followed by a discussion.

Dr Georgina Lock (Nottingham Trent University)



Downloadable Programme:




Alexandra Franklin


Horton Room, Weston Library


Mondays, 2.15pm


Weeks 3, 5, 7


All welcome.


Week 3 (Monday, 28 January 2019)

Dr Mathelinda Nabugodi (Newcastle University)

'The Shelleys' German translations'


Week 5 (Monday, 11 February 2019)

Dr Mary-Ann Constantine (University of Wales)

'Antiquaries on Tour: Exploring the Pennant-Gough Correspondence'


Week 7 (Monday, 25 February)

Dr Lorenzo Calvelli (Università Ca' Foscari)

'Lost and Found: Early modern transcriptions of a Hellenistic Interstate Treaty from Crete'








St Catherine's College


Mondays, 5.00pm




Week 1 (14 January)

Sarah Vowles Department of Prints & Drawings, British Museum

‘Confronting the canon: Two new drawings in the Mantegna and Bellini exhibition at the National Gallery’


Week 2 (21 January)

Simon Gilson Italian Department, Oxford University

‘“Making Aristotle vernacular" in Padua and Florence: Benedetto Varchi's Italian translations and commentaries on Aristotle 1538-43’


Week 3 (28 January)

Lorenzo Caravaggi Balliol College, Oxford

‘A knight and his library in the age of the aristocratic communes: Romanitas, chivalry, and urbanitas in the 12th and 13th centuries’


Week 4 (4 February)

Martin Kemp Trinity College, Oxford

‘“It’s yours for $450 million.” Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi’


Week 5 (11 February)

Lia Costiner Merton College, Oxford

‘Mercanti artisti: Illustrating the book in the late-medieval Italian home’


Week 6 (18 February)

Caspar Pearson History of Art Department, Essex University

‘Between shipwreck and the giants: Leon Battista Alberti’s letter to Filippo Brunelleschi’


Week 7 (25 February)

Matilde Malaspina Lincoln College, Oxford

‘Aesop’s Fables in the 15th-century Veneto, in manuscript BL 10389 and print’


Week 8 (4 March)

Viktoria von Hoffmann Fund for Scientific Research, F.R.S.-FNRS / University of Liège

'The Sense of Touch in Italian Renaissance anatomy’





Margaret Bent


Wharton Room, All Souls


Thursdays, 5.00-7.00pm


Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8


All are welcome.


Week 2 (24 January)

John Milsom, Liverpool Hope University

‘Polyphony, in four parts: composing, performing, listening, reflecting’

Over the past three decades, much thought has been given to the matter of how sixteenth-century composers conceived and crafted their polyphonic works, especially ones made mainly in fuga (imitation). In general, however, this research has been academic and abstract; the dialogue between musicologists and performers has barely begun, even though the musical ideas and issues explored through analysis might be relevant and interesting to singers, players and directors. As for listeners, they tend to be sidelined altogether. Rarely is it asked how any performance of a polyphonic work, let alone an analysis-informed one, is processed by a listener, and indeed is differently processed depending on that listener’s experience, knowledge, and familiarity with the work in hand. This in turn leads to the question of what it means to ‘appreciate’ and ‘understand’ a polyphonic work, especially when issues that were arguably of central concern to the composer are barely apprehended by most modern listeners, let alone savoured by them. Might the richest engagement with sixteenth-century polyphony therefore be attained not only by performing it and listening to it, but also by considering it from the angle of how it was made?


Week 4 (7 February)

Étienne Anheim, Directeur d'études, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

‘The musical chapel of the popes in Avignon during the fourteenth century’

The Avignon Court of the popes, during the 14th century, was the birthplace of a new institution that would play a major role in the history of Western music, the chapel. The reform of Benedict XII in 1334 and the creation of the first "Master of the Chapel (magister capelle)" in 1336 marked a break with the tradition of the liturgical chapels inherited from the Carolingian model. The chapel was now a musical curial service provided by specialized musicians, if not “professionals”,  trained in the best cathedrals of the north of France. The rich archives of the Avignon Court allow us to reconstruct this process. We can describe the sociology of the singers, explore the daily functioning of the chapel in the Palais des Papes and question the repertoire in use. We can thus try to understand how Avignon gave a new geographical, aesthetic and symbolic dimension to Ars Nova polyphony in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages.

This seminar will be held in conjunction with the third international study day of the MALMECC project 'Avignon as transcultural hub' on Feb 8th, St Luke's Chapel, Radcliffe Humanities Campus. Confirmed speakers include Anna Alberni, Étienne Anheim, Karen Cook, Sarah Griffin, Karl Kügle, Sofia Lannutti, Christophe Masson, David Murray, and Philipp Nothaft - for further information and to register (free of charge), see 


Week 6 (21 February)

Roger Bowers, University of Cambridge

'Composer biographies – the cases of John Dunstable and 'Roy Henry''

It may be not the most glamorous component of musicology, but the establishment of the biographies of composers remains an essential task. In the case of John Dunstable there seems at present to be a surfeit of material, much of it contradictory, fugitive, and inconsistent; there are too many John Dunstables. In the case of ‘Roy Henry’ the name is idiosyncratic, and there are only two possible candidates; nevertheless, even that is one too many.

Dunstable may be shown to have been a musician engaged at the top of his profession, but of character otherwise conventional for his time. He was fortunate to merit employment by members of the top aristocracy, and by them was temporarily rewarded even with crumbs of loot falling from the table of the French wars. Meanwhile, as merely ‘Mr John Dunstable, of London’, a detail of his long association with William Trokyll, his parish priest at St Stephen, Walbrook, does now encourage the rehabilitation of an item of biographical information long known but lately rather disregarded; and this in turn engenders some speculation about his earlier career.   

For the composer a date of death in 1453 can now be confirmed, so that he may be distinguished from a thuggishly unprincipled county gentleman of the same name who died in 1459. This Dunstable (who may in fact have been close kin of the composer) enjoyed both landed estates in Essex and on the Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire border, and property interests in London. Also, from a position in 1427/8 on the outer affinity of a great lady, Joan of Navarre, Queen dowager of England (as widow of Henry IV), he had emerged by 1436 as a major purveyor for her – at a very high price – of some commodity currently highly desirable, most probably security.

Realistically, ‘Roy Henry’ can be only King Henry IV or King Henry V, of England. There is at present no ‘smoking pen’, and this issue can be resolved only on a balance of probabilities. Indications are that the case to be made for Henry IV is much the stronger. In view of his conspicuous concern both for the consolidation of the role of his Chapel Royal in general, and also for the welfare of its most junior members; of his receipt during 1392/3 of some personal attention from one member of the ensemble of five French singing-men who formed the core of the household chapel of his father, John of Gaunt; and of his description by a well-informed contemporary as micans in musica, it is not easy to see how a countervailing case even stronger can be built for Henry V.


Week 8 (7 March)

Laurence Libin, Curator of Musical Instruments emeritus at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

‘Reconstructing medieval instruments: Why bother?’

Too little is known about medieval instruments and their playing techniques to justify claims that any reconstruction is “authentic” in terms of design and musical qualities. Reliable evidence is lacking; iconography, written descriptions, modern “folk” practices, and the few surviving exemplars furnish only vague clues to how medieval instruments were made and played, though some types, bells for example, may be better understood than others. Each type of instrument presents unique problems, and solutions adopted in one locale may not have been widely or lastingly applied; yet we have no choice but to generalize. Even if, by chance, a new replica should sound exactly like an original did when it was new, how could we know this? As with performers’ interpretations of medieval notation, instrument makers can at best aim to arrive somewhere within a broad, defensible field of possibilities largely defined by consensus rather than fact. In the face of such uncertainty, why do musicians and makers bother? 

In discussion with Jeremy Montagu, a pioneer of England’s post-War early music movement, we will explore the sources, motivations, and opportunities for reconstructing various types of medieval instruments. Examples will be shown.




Ian Archer, Alexandra Gajda, Steven Gunn and Lucy Wooding


The Breakfast Room, Merton College


Thursdays at 5pm (tea from 4.45)




Suggested preparatory reading follows the titles.


Week 1 (17 January)

Prof. Andrew Hopper (Univ. of Leicester)

‘The Human Costs of the Civil Wars’

David J. Appleby and Andrew Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (2018); Mark Stoyle, ‘“Memories of the maimed”: the testimony of Charles I’s former soldiers, 1660–1730’, History, 88 (2003), 204–26; David J. Appleby, ‘Unnecessary persons? Maimed soldiers and war widows in Essex, 1642-62’, Essex Archaeology and History, 32 (2001), 209–21; Geoffrey L. Hudson, ‘Negotiating for blood money: war widows and the courts in seventeenth-century England’, in Jennifer Kermode and Garthine Walker (eds), Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (1994), 146–69; Eric Gruber von Arni and Andrew Hopper,  ‘Welfare for the Wounded’, History Today, 66 (2016), 17-23.


Week 2 (24 January)

Thomas Pert (Lincoln College)

‘“The Prince Elector is going from hence to London, I imagine for no good”: The Elector Palatine, Parliament, and the Civil War c.1638-1644’

C.V. Wedgwood, 'The Elector Palatine and the Civil War', History Today, 4 (1954), 1-10; Motives and reasons, concerning his Highnesse the Prince Elector Palatines coming into England...                (London, 1644). [available on EEBO].


Week 3 (31 January)

Joel Butler (Wadham College)

‘Two Interesting Episodes from the Embassy of William Harborne to the Ottoman Empire’

Tobias Graf, The Sultan's Renegades: Christian-European Converts to Islam and the Making of the Ottoman Elite, 1575-1610 (2017); Christine Woodhead, ‘Harborne, William’ in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Matthew Ward (Kellogg College)

‘A principle of “Natural Justice”: Sir William Petty and the “Royal Absolutist” Case for Excise’

William Ashworth, Customs and Excise: Trade, Production, and Consumption in England 1640-1845 (2010); D’Marris Coffman, Excise Tax and the Origins of Public Debt (2013); Noah Dauber, State and Commonwealth: The Theory of State in Early Modern England, 1549-1640 (2016).


Week 4 (7 February)

Dr Ian Archer (Keble College)

‘The Carmen of London and Stereotypes of the Labouring Poor’

I.W. Archer, The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London (1991), ch. 4; D. Woodward, Men at Work: Labourers and Building Craftsmen in the Towns of Northern England, 1450-1750 (1995); J.M. Fewster, The Keelmen of Newcastle.Labour Organisation and Conflict in the North-East Coal Industry, 1600-1830 (2011), intro and ch 1.


Week 5 (14 February)

Michael Heimos (St Cross College)

‘“As you know the storie of Storie”: Loyalty & Religion at Common Law, 1571-1608’

Polly J. Price, ‘Natural Law and Birthright Citizenship in Calvin's Case’, Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, 9 (1997), 73-145; Ronald Pollitt, ‘The Abduction of Doctor John Story and the Evolution of Elizabethan Intelligence Operations’, Sixteenth Century Journal, 14 (1983), 131-56.


William White (St Anne’s College)

‘Preaching, Royalism, and Episcopalian “Conformity” in Interregnum England’

Robert Bosher, The Making of the Restoration Settlement (1951), chs. 1 & 2; Kenneth Fincham and Stephen Taylor, ‘Episcopalian Conformity and Nonconformity, 1646–60’, in Jason McElligott and David Smith (eds.), Royalists and Royalism during the Interregnum (2010), 18–43.


Week 6 (21 February)

Emily Glassford (Lincoln College)

“'For their owne singuler lucre”: Perceptions of Strangers as an Economic Threat in London and at the English Court, c. 1450-1558’

Ian Archer, ‘Responses to Alien Immigrants in London, c. 1400-1650’, in Il Ruolo Economico Delle Minoranze in Europa Secc. XIII-XVIII (2000), 755-74; Jessica Lutkin, ‘Settled or fleeting? London’s  medieval immigrant community revisited’, in M. Allen and M. Davies (eds), Medieval merchants and money: Essays in honour of James L. Bolton (2015), 137-55.; Sylvia Thrupp, ‘Aliens in and Around London in the Fifteenth Century’, in A. Hollaender, P.E. Jones, and W. Kellaway (eds), Studies in London History Presented to Philip Edmund Jones (1969), 251-72.


Heather McTaggart (Lincoln College) ‘Conflict and Collaboration: The Spanish Ambassadors in the Elizabethan Court’

Michael J. Levin, Agents of empire: Spanish Ambassadors in sixteenth-century Italy (2005), Ch. 7; Diana Carrió-Invernizzi, ‘A new diplomatic history and the networks of Spanish diplomacy in the          Baroque era’, International History Review 36 (2014), 603-18; Alexander Samson, ‘A Fine Romance: Anglo-Spanish Relations in the Sixteenth Century’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 39 (2009), 65-94.


Week 7 (28 February)

Graduate student transfer of status presentations


Week 8 (7 March)

Graduate student transfer of status presentations




All welcome to this interdisciplinary seminar which meets four times this term.

Please contact for further information


Week 1 Saturday 19 January, 10am, Weston Library, Blackwell Hall

For the quincentenary of the death of Emperor Maximilian I, there will be a Maximilian Study Day which will take place across Oxford in the Bodleian Library, Printing Press, Ashmolean Museum and the Taylorian, finishing with a Feast of early modern German food. Meet at the Weston Library, Blackwell Hall, at 10am on Saturday, 19 January 2019 where the day will start with collectively recreating a woodcut from the Triumph of Maximilian and seeing an exhibition of Maximilian-related books and manuscripts. Please email Prof. Henrike Lähnemann if you are interested in participating.


Week 5 Thursday 14 February 2 to 4 pm, New Powell Room, Somerville College

Katherine Bond (Anglia Ruskin) The Impact of Habsburg Court Culture on the Development of Costume Books

Richard Morris (Cambridge) Identity, Court Festivals, and the Politics of Access in the Early Modern Holy Roman Empire


Week 6 Wednesday 20 February 5:15 pm, Wharton Room, All Souls College - Joint session with the History of War Seminar

Astrid Ackermann (Jena) Bernhard of Weimar as Military Enterpriser


Week 8 Thursday 7 March 2 to 4 pm, New Powell Room, Somerville College

Barbara Eichner (Oxford Brookes) Music in a Divided City: The Introduction of Polyphony at St Katherine's, Augsburg

Matthew Laube (Birkbeck) Music, Piety, Conflict: Towards a Sonic History of the Netherlandish and German Home


Seminar Organisers: Louis Morris, Edmund Wareham, Róisín Watson


Downloadable Programme:


Rachael Hodge and Georgina Wilson


Seminar Room B, English Faculty


Tuesdays, 5.15pm


Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8


Please email or with any queries or if you would like to give a paper in Trinity Term.


Week 2 (22 January)

Philip Hunt: “Weren’t there any Ganymedes in the Globe audience?” Reconsidering the male homoerotic audience in Renaissance theatre


Week 4 (5 February)

Lakshmi Balakrishnan: Monetary and Affective Transactions in Shakespeare

Richard Phillips: George Peele’s Old Wives’ Tale and the Sleeping Narrator  


Week 6 (19 February)

Jake Arthur: Derivative, devotional, ‘disappointing’: early modern women’s biblical verse paraphrases

Leah Veronese-Clucas: “Suuing for grace”: the rhetoric of petition   


Week 8 (5 March)

The Graduate Forum will not run this week due to a clash with the Early Modern Seminar.


Seminar in the History of the Book

The History of the Book and French, Scottish, and British Authors, Hand-Printing in the 21st Century, 15cHEBRAICA, and introducing the digital resources of the 15cBOOKTRADE

Weston Library, Visiting Scholars’ Centre (VSC) – Hilary Term, Fridays 2.15pm

Convenor: Cristina Dondi (Lincoln College and 15cBOOKTRADE)


18 JANUARY 2019

Bumble-Bee Witches and the Reading of Dreams: Spectacular and Speculative Marginalia in a Renaissance Reader’s Montaigne

Earle Havens, Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts at Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, and Director, The Virginia Fox Stern Center for the History of the Book in the Renaissance


25 JANUARY 2019

NO SEMINAR (we are il London: The Archeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe,



Scottish and British Authors Published Abroad 1470-1700

Jane Stevenson, Senior Research Fellow, Campion Hall, Oxford



15cBOOKTRADE tools for the History of Art


15 FEBRUARY 2019

15cBOOKTRADE tools for Modern Languages, History, and Classics


22 FEBRUARY 2019



1 MARCH 2019

15cHEBRAICA: Capturing the former owners of Hebrew incunabula and their annotations in the Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI) database


8 MARCH 2019 – Weston Lecture Theatre

A very special book launch: Manuale Tipografico IV. A triumph of hand-printing aesthetics, paper and watermarks

Enrico Tallone (Tallone Editore, Turin), Carlo Ossola (Collège de France, Prof. of Modern Literatures of Neo-Latin Europe), Stefano Salis (Il Sole 24 Ore)



Convenors and


Refugee Scholars’ Room, Corpus Christi College


Wednesdays, 1pm-2.15pm




Downloadable Programme:


W. 1 – Wed. 16 Jan 2019 (1pm-2.15pm)
‘Introduction to Florentine Latin Humanism’
Introduction – Giacomo Comiati
Leonardi Bruni, The times of Bruni and De Temporibus suis (24-6) –Michael Malone-Lee


W. 2 – Wed. 23 Jan 2019 (1pm-2.15pm)
‘Thinking of Latin Antiquity’
Petrarch’s Letter to Varro – Herman Hermans
Cristoforo Landino, Xandra, I.22 – Giacomo Comiati


W. 3 – Wed. 30 Jan 2019 (1pm-2.15pm)
‘Alberti’s Autobiography and Burckhardt’s “Renaissance Man”’
Leon Battista Alberti, Vita – Martin McLaughlin


W.4 – Wed. 6 Feb 2019 (1pm-2.15pm)
‘Marsilio Ficino on How True Philosophy Leads to Happiness’
Ficino, Letter to Sebastiano Salvini (Letter IV, 32 in Opera omnia, p. 780) – Maude Vanhaelen


W. 5 – Wed. 13 Feb 2019 (1pm-2.15pm)
‘The Conspiracy against the Medici and Poliziano’s Coniurationis commentarium’
Poliziano, Coniurationis Commentarium – Marta Celati (University of Warwick)


W. 6 – Wed. 20 Feb 2019 (1pm-2.15pm)
‘Enea Silvio Piccolomini commentator and poet’
Piccolomini, Commentariorum Pii Secundi Pontificis Maximi libri – Guy Westwood
Piccolomini, Cinthia – Tristan Franklinos


W. 7 – Wed. 27 Feb 2019 (1pm-2.15pm)
Boccaccio, De mulieribus claris, 42 ‘Dido’ – Melinda Letts
Boccaccio, Eclogue 15, Phylostropos (114-221) – Adir De Oliveira Fonseca


W. 8 – Tuesday 5 Mar 2019 (1pm-2.15pm) [Note change of day]
Leonardo Bruni, Dialogi ad Petrum Paulum Histrum – Simon Gilson

Week 5:


Fabio Antonini (Birkbeck College, University of London):
‘A Diplomatic Narrative in the Archive: The War of Cyprus, Record Keeping Practices and Historical Research in the Early Modern Venetian Chancery’
Date: 12 February 2019, 4:30-6:30 pm
Venue: Gerry Martin Room, History Faculty


Just as critical approaches to diplomatic records should be mindful of their form and physicality, so too must they consider the context of their initial storage, preservation, and arrangement within a wider collection of texts. The recent ‘archival turn’ in historical studies has illustrated the pivotal role of record keeping institutions in the transmission of historical information across the centuries, and how their physical and organisational structures dictate the relationship between the historian and their sources. This paper focuses on the Secret Chancery of the Republic of Venice, and its role in shaping contemporary historical narratives of the outbreak of the War of Cyprus in 1570. It demonstrates that changes in record keeping practices corresponded with a shift in historical paradigms, by analysing how individual dispatches were organised and relayed from the archive by state historians to the reading public; and it examines the early development of the diplomatic record from a political tool into a historical and cultural artefact.





Week 7


Prof. Mía J. Rodríguez-Salgado (The London School of Economics and Political Science)
‘Public news: An ambassador’s secret weapon. Diego Guzman de Silva’s interventions in the Low Countries from the embassy in Venice, 1568-1573’
Date: 26 February 2019, 4:30-6:30 pm
Venue: Gerry Martin Room, History Faculty


The papers of early-modern ambassadors have increasingly been used to study a wide range of topics. My own was in some ways traditional but also different: I wanted to find out the type of information that Philip II’s ambassadors in states not directly involved in the civil war in the Low Countries had of that conflict, and if possible learn something about the informants and what the ambassador did with that information. The results were disappointing in some embassies, but by dint of putting together some of the dispersed papers of the embassy in Venice, they yielded a wealth of material on the manipulation of manuscript news and Guzman de Silva’s use of the embassy in Venice in order to intervene in the politics of the Low Countries and change Philip II’s policy towards them.


Michaelmas 2018

Expand All



Exam Schools, High Street


Wednesdays, 5.00pm


Weeks 3, 4, 5, 6


The 2018 Oxford Wells Shakespeare Lectures will be given by Professor Margreta de Grazia, Emerita Sheli Z. and Burton X. Rosenberg Professor of the Humanities at the University
of Pennsylvania. Titled 'Shakespeare Without a Life (1564-1616)', the series addresses the fact that until the nineteenth century, Shakespeare had neither a biography nor an archive, and that his only works written in the first person--the sonnets--were
not part of the canon. By examining the absence of what would become foundational aspects of Shakespeare scholarship before 1800, this series will argue that other viable priorities were once at work.

Professor de Grazia has co-edited several works on Shakespeare and renaissance culture, and she is the author of Shakespeare Verbatim (Oxford, 1991), which traces the emergence of Shakespeare as a modern author, and Hamlet without Hamlet (Cambridge,
2007), which demonstrates how the modern tradition of psychologizing Hamlet has effaced both the play's and the protagonist's preoccupation with land and entitlement. Professor de Grazia has received fellowships from the American Council
of Learned Societies, the National Humanities Center, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and her second book, Hamlet without Hamlet, was awarded both the Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize and the Elizabeth Dietz Award.


Week 3 (24 October) Lecture 1: Shakespeare Without a Life

Week 4 (31 October) Lecture 2: Shakespeare's Timeline

Week 5 (7 November) Lecture 3: Sorting Shakespeare's Archive

Week 6 (14 November) Lecture 4: Shakespeare's Dateless Sonnets





Prof. Katherine Ibbett


Maison Française d’Oxford, 2-10 Norham Road


Thursdays, 5.15pm


Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7


Week 1 (11 October)

Will McMorran (QMUL)

'The Marquis de Sade, the 367th Passion, and the Marquise de Gange'


Week 3 (25 October)

Alain Génetiot (Université de Lorraine)

'Le sujet lyrique à l'épreuve de la mystique'


Week 5 (8 November)

Marc Schachter (Durham)

'Brantôme’s Lesbian Philology'


Week 7 (22 November)

Medieval-Early Modern Elements:

Katherine Ibbett (Oxford), Water / Peggy McCracken (Michigan), Fire



Seminar Leaders

Prof Ros Ballaster, Prof Christine Gerrard, Prof Abby Williams, Dr David Taylor, Prof Nicole Pohl, Christy Edwall, Helen Brown, Alex Hardie-Forsyth


Massey Room, Balliol College (except Week 8, in Dept. of Plant Sciences)


Tuesdays, 5.30pm


Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8


All Are Welcome!


Week 2 (16 October)

Professor Paul Goring (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

‘An(other) actor’s library: the case of Charles Macklin’


Week 4 (30 October)

Dr Carmen Casaliggi (Cardiff Metropolitan University)

‘Domestic Cosmopolitanism: Locating émigré identity in Germaine De Staël’s Coppet’


Week 6 (13 November)

Dr Emrys Jones (King’s College, London)

‘"Knowing My Family”: Dynastic Recognition in Eighteenth-Century Celebrity Culture’


Week 8 (27 November)

Stephen A. Harris (Druce Curator of Oxford University Herbaria)

‘Into the Archive’ visit to Dept of Plant Sciences to meet Eighteenth-Century Herbaria

Meet at the main door of Plant Sciences at 5.15pm prompt for access to the building.




Prof. Emma Smith and Prof. Lorna Hutson


Mure Room, Merton College (except Week 7)


Tuesdays, 5.15pm (except Week 7)


Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7


All welcome. Wine and refreshments served.


Week 1 (9th October)

Noel Sugimura (St John’s, Oxford)

‘Milton’s God and his Eighteenth-century Readers’


Week 3 (23rd October)

Raphael Lyne (Murray Edwards, Cambridge)

‘Shakespeare and the Wandering Mind’ [view abstract]


Week 5 (6th November)

Jennifer Richards (Newcastle)

‘Thomas Nashe Off the Page’ [view abstract]


Week 7 (20th November)

Laurie Maguire (Magdalen, Oxford)

‘The Rhetoric of the Page: Reading Blank Space’

Panizzi Lectures 2018, The Knowledge Centre, British Library, 19.00


Downloadable programme:



Raphael Lyne, ‘Shakespeare and the Wandering Mind’

It seems obvious that when we’re watching a Shakespeare play, we should pay attention. When our focus drifts, we risk missing something. However, philosophers and scientists have proposed that our minds do important work while they are wandering. I will argue, with reference to Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V among others, that Shakespeare depicts interesting patterns of attentiveness within his works, and that at times he also creates the opportunity and even the need for the minds of audiences and readers to wander productively.

Jennifer Richards, 'Thomas Nashe off the page'

‘[I]f asked what Nashe “says”’, C. S. Lewis wrote in 1954, ‘we should have to reply, Nothing. He tells no story, expresses no thought, maintains no attitude’. His writing is ‘pure literature’. But is this right? There is no doubt that Nashe is a difficult writer, but do we make his prose more difficult than we need to by focussing on his literary style? This paper shifts attention from the ‘literariness’ of Nashe's style to its performability. It explores Nashe’s involvement in the world of the London theatres, and his attempt to recreate the experience of live performance in his prose, focussing on the remarkable flexibility of his sentences. It also argues that Nashe's wish that a text should have a life off the page is not well served by the recent material turn in literary studies.






Ian Archer, Alexandra Gajda, Steven Gunn and Lucy Wooding


The Breakfast Room, Merton College


Thursdays, 5pm (tea served from 4.45pm)




Suggested preparatory reading follows the titles.


Week 1 (11 October)    

Dr Lucy Wooding (Lincoln College): ‘Inventing the English Bible in the reign of Henry VIII’

Susan Wabuda, ‘“A day after doomsday”: Cranmer and the Bible Translations of the 1530s’, in K. Killeen, H. Smith, R. Willie eds, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c.1530-1700 (2015), 23-37; Lucy Wooding, ‘From Tudor Humanism to Reformation Preaching’, in P. MacCullough, H. Adlington, E. Rhatigan eds, The Oxford Handbook of the Early Modern Sermon (2011), 329-47; Ian Green, ‘The Laity and the Bible in Early Modern England’ in R. Armstrong, T. O Hannrachain eds,   The English Bible in the Early Modern World (2018).


Week 2 (18 October)

Prof Jane Dawson (Univ. of Edinburgh): 'Three Coronations and a Union: 1567, 1590 and 1603’

Michael Lynch, ‘Scotland's first Protestant Coronation: Revolutionaries, Sovereignty and the culture of nostalgia’, in Luuk Houwen ed.,  Literature and Religion in late medieval and early modern Scotland  (2012), 177-207; David Stevenson, Scotland's Last Royal Wedding: the marriage of James VI and Anne of Denmark (1997); Alice Hunt, ‘The Bright Star of the North: James I and his English Coronation’ in M. Twycross, P. King, S. Carpenter and G. Walker eds, Medieval English Theatre 38: The Best Pairt of our Play. Essays presented to John J. McGavin, part II (2017), 22-37.


Week 3 (25 October)

Dr Jitka Stollova (Jesus College): ‘The Face of Tyranny: Richard III after Shakespeare’

Philip Schwyzer, ‘Lees and Moonshine: Remembering Richard III, 1485-1635’, Renaissance Quarterly, 63 (2010), 850–83.


Week 4 (1 November)

Dr Kelsey Jackson Williams (Univ. of Stirling): ‘Antiquarian Curiosities or Priceless Treasures? The Uses of Carved Stones in Early Modern History’

Nigel Llewellyn,  Funeral Monuments in Post-Reformation England (2000), ch. 6; Frits Scholten, Sumptuous Memories: Studies in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Tomb Sculpture (2003), introduction.


Week 5 (8 November)

Jonathan McGovern (Univ. of York): ‘Sheriffs at the Exchequer: The Reform of Shrieval Revenue Collection from 1530-1550’

Matthew Hale, A short treatise touching sheriffs accompts written by the Honourable Sir Matthew Hale (1683), 42-45; Myron C. Noonkester, ‘Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Decline of the Sheriff', The Sixteenth Century Journal 23 (1992), 677-98.


Week 6 (15 November)

Dr Richard Bell (Keble College): ‘Charity, Debt and Social Control in England’s Early Modern Prisons’

Craig Muldrew, The Economy of Obligation: The Culture of Credit and Social Relations in Early Modern England (1998), part 3 (esp. ch. 9); Richard W. Ireland, ‘Theory and Practice within the Medieval English Prison’, The American Journal of Legal History 31/1 (1987), 56–67; Steve Hindle, The State and Social Change in Early Modern England, 1550–1640 (2000), ch. 6.


Week 7 (22 November)

Christopher Gausden (Jesus College): ‘Preaching in the Early Jacobean Chapel Royal: Critiquing a New Regime’

Peter E. McCullough, Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching (Cambridge, 1998), ch. 3.

Tara Greig (St Cross College) ‘“But nowe adayes I see fewe hunt the harte as he ought to be hunted”:  The Social and Economic Contexts to Changes in Hunting in Seventeenth-Century England’

James Williams, ‘Sport and the Elite in Early Modern England’ Sport in History 28/3 (2008), 389-413.


Week 8 (29 November)

Dr Edward Legon (Historic Royal Palaces): ‘Sadler Saddled: Reconciliation and Recrimination in a Restoration Parish’

Matthew Neufeld, The Civil Wars after 1660: Public Remembering in Late Stuart England (2013), introduction; David Appleby, ‘The Restoration county community: a post-conflict culture’, in J. Eales, A. Hopper eds, The County Community in Seventeenth-Century England and Wales (2012), 100-24.



Downloadable programme:




Dr Dmitri Levitin and Sir Noel Malcolm


Hovenden Room, All Souls (except Week 1)


Wednesdays, 5.00–6.45pm




Access is via the entrance to the College on the High Street–please ask at the porter’s lodge for further directions, or consult the information at

All very welcome.


Week 1 (10 October)

MARK GOLDIE (Cambridge)

‘John Locke and America’ [Please note alternative venue: Seminar Room 3]


Week 2 (17 October)


‘Persecutors, judges, and defendants: defining libertinage in early seventeenth-century France’


Week 3 (24 October)


‘Secret and privy counsel in early modern England’


Week 4 (31 October)

Mogens Lærke (CNRS, Paris)

'Grotius on Ecclesiastical Counsel and Declarative Rule’


Week 5 (7 November)

SARA MIGLIETTI (Warburg Institute)

‘Contemplation, reflection, and love of God: new perspectives on Jean Bodin’s ethics and theology’


Week 6 (14 November)


‘Montpellier vitalism and vital materialism’


Week 7 (21 November)


‘The archive of Constantijn L’Empereur (1591–1648): a microcosm of Christian Jewish scholarship in seventeenth-century Northern Europe’


Week 8 (28 November)

NOEL MALCOLM (All Souls College, Oxford)

‘Early modern ideas of religion as “imposture”: the case of Islam’


Downloadable programme:


Wednesday 18 October 2017 at 3.00 p.m.
Visit to the THE QUEEN’S COLLEGE and the PEET LIBRARY by kind invitation of the Librarian, Amanda Saville. Places are limited, and those wishing to attend are asked to inform the Secretary at least two days in advance.

Wednesday 23 May 2018 at 3.00 p.m.
Visit to CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE LIBRARY by kind invitation of the Librarian, Joanna Snelling. Places are limited, and those wishing to attend are asked to inform the Secretary at least one week in advance.





Rachael Hodge and Georgina Wilson


English Faculty Seminar Room B


Tuesdays, 5.15pm


Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8



Week 2 (16 October)

Introduction session and welcome drinks. 

All early modern graduate students are warmly invited for the brief introductory session of our graduate forum, followed by free drinks and a chance to meet other early modernists.


Week 4 (30 October)

Beatrice Montedoro: 'What did early modern compilers hope to learn from dramatic extracts?'

Laura Wright: 'Rhetorical sounds and Shakespearean silences'


Week 6 (13 November)

Kate Allan: ‘That instruction, and good counsel, may bee furthered by an honest and pleasant recreation’: George Wither’s Use of the Volvelle in A Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Modern

Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull: 'Battling the B course: Questions Answered and Fears Alleviated'


Week 8 (27 November)

Fraser Buchanan: 'Imagining Atheism in George Gifford’s Countrie Divinitie’

James Misson: Wax, lead and stone texts: 'Citing materiality with typography in the sixteenth century'



Week 2

Title: First discussion session: Relazioni and diplomatic reporting

Venue: Habbakuk Room, Jesus College

Time: Tuesday, 16 October, 4:30-6:30


Abstract: Next Tuesday (16 October) will mark the beginning of our Network's discussion group. The theme for this session will be "Relazioni and diplomatic reporting". Please read the three following articles in advance of the seminar, which we shall then discuss over tea and biscuits, in a very informal and relaxed atmosphere!

a) Vivo, Filippo de, ‘How to Read Venetian Relazioni’, Renaissance and Reformation 34.1–2 (2011), 25-59:

b) Vivo, Filippo de, ‘Archives of Speech: Recording Diplomatic Negotiation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Italy’, European History Quarterly, 46.3 (2016), 519-544: 

c) Queller, Donald, ‘The Development of Ambassadorial Relazioni’, in John Rigby Hale (ed.), Renaissance Venice, London, 1973, pp. 174-196


Look forward to seeing many of you there!



Week 3

Title: Secretaries and the Persian Cosmopolis in the Making of an Anti-Safavid Diplomatic Discourse

Speaker: Dr Christopher Markiewicz (University of Birmingham)

Venue: Habbakuk Room, Jesus College

Time: Tuesday, 23 October 2018, 4:30-6:30


Abstract: This paper focuses on the role of secretaries in shaping an Ottoman diplomatic discourse on the Ottoman conflicts with the Safavids and Mamluks during the reign of Selim I (r. 1512–20). Understandably, most scholarship on the diplomatic interactions of the Ottoman Sultanate with its eastern neighbours during these years has focused on the exchange of royal letters between the Ottomans and their principal adversaries. Significantly, throughout these years of tumultuous conflict, the Ottoman Sultanate also developed and maintained a much broader correspondence with other eastern polities and prominent notables in an effort to explain and legitimize its campaigns and conquests, to obtain logistical support and intelligence from local allies in Iran, and to initiate military alliances with other major powers designed to bring about a decisive end to the rule of the Safavid shah Ismail (r. 1501–24) in Iran. Crucially, secretaries, and especially Persian émigré secretaries, were central to the realization of these objectives. In their work within the Ottoman chancery, these secretaries drew upon their broad learning and mastery of epistolography (insha) in composing Ottoman royal letters, the form of which contributed significantly to their political or diplomatic function. In composing these documents, these émigré secretaries frequently drew upon decades of administrative experience within courts in Iran and rekindled their trans-imperial networks of scholarly and professional affiliation in an effort to mould a unified international discourse of anti-Safavid opposition and advance the quickly evolving and complex Ottoman ‘eastern policy’.  



Week 4

Title: Second discussion session: Material letters and diplomacy

Date: 30 October 2018, 4:30-6:30 pm

Venue: Ferrar Room, Hertford College

Abstract: We are pleased to inform you that the theme for our second discussion session will be “Material letters and diplomacy”. Please read the three following articles in advance of the seminar, which we shall then discuss over tea and biscuits, in a very informal and relaxed atmosphere!

a) Jonathan Gibson, ‘Significant Space in Manuscript Letters’, The Seventeenth Century, 12 (1997), 1–10:

b) Giora Sternberg, “Epistolary Ceremonial: Corresponding Status at the Time of Louis XIV”, Past and Present, 204 (2009), 33–88;

c) Heather Wolfe, “‘Neatly sealed, with silk, and Spanish wax or otherwise:’ The Practice of Letter-locking with Silk Floss in Early Modern England,” in In Prayse of Writing: Early Modern Manuscript Studies, ed. Steven W. Beal and S. P. Cerasano (London, 2012), 169–189.

Look forward to seeing many of you there!




Week 5


Title: Diplomatic Correspondence Networks and the Progress of Scientific Knowledge: Luigi Lorenzi and the Spread of the Practice of Smallpox Inoculation in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany

Speaker: Ruggero Sciuto (University of Oxford)

Venue: Habbakuk Room, Jesus College

Time: Tuesday, 6 November 2018, 4:30-6:30



Over the past decades, many scholars have sought to trace how smallpox inoculation was first introduced in Europe and to analyse its tremendous socio-political impact. Indeed, academics are well aware of the extraordinary influence that works such as Voltaire’s Lettre sur l’insertion de la petite vérole or La Condamine’s Mémoires sur l’inoculation de la petite vérole had on the eighteenth-century French public sphere. However, much remains to be said on the dense web of interpersonal relations that ensured the circulation of these major works and magnified their impact.

Using unpublished sources from the personal archives of Luigi Lorenzi, resident minister to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany from 1735 to 1765, my paper will insist on the crucial role played by diplomatic correspondence networks in spreading the practice of smallpox inoculation across Europe. I shall argue that Lorenzi encouraged the adoption of this medical practice in at least three different ways, namely by ensuring the circulation of La Condamine’s Mémoires and letters across the Italian peninsula, by attracting international attention to the experiments conducted by Tuscan doctors, and by leveraging his status as resident minister of a powerful country to render smallpox inoculation fashionable among the Florentine élites. By thus emphasising Lorenzi’s role in championing smallpox inoculation, I also aim to cast light on the oft-underestimated importance of early modern diplomats in furthering the progress of scientific and medical knowledge, a topic which, in spite of its undeniable interest, has been left almost completely unexplored to date.



Week 7

Title: Helmer Helmers (University of Amsterdam) – ‘Cold War. Dutch Public Diplomacy in the Truce Period, 1609-1621’
Date: 20 November 2018, 4:30-6:30 pm
Venue: Ferrar Room, Hertford College


In 1609, with the help of French and English mediation, the United Provinces and Spain concluded a twelve-years Truce. The Truce period which followed is usually studied by Dutch historians in a rather parochial fashion, with much emphasis on the religious conflicts between Remonstrants and Contraremonstrants, and the temporary public sphere which this brought about. While this is very important, it obfuscates just how disturbing this twelve years' deal was on the international level, and how profound its impact on international relations.

Hugo Grotius famously said that a truce was nothing more than a slumber of war. In the words of Timothy Hampton, a truce is a hybrid event, which simultaneously involves an end to violence and a continuation of the state of war by other means. This paper seeks to analyse this war by other means by focusing on two weapons with which the Dutch now fought on the international stage: diplomacy and the political press. Both were developed with tremendous energy, and combined, they contributed significantly to the rising tensions in Europe. The Truce was a cold war in which the two largest armies in Europe were anxiously watching each other, and like the Cold War of the 20th century, it led to a culture of fear and anticipation, to a climate of conspiracy theories, and to a hardening of ideological conflict that does much to explain the intensity of the domestic religious troubles. While hostilities ceased in the Low Countries themselves, and could in theory have lessened tensions in Europe, the Truce actually exacerbated confessional divides: the tension, the violence, the propaganda, and last but not least the soldiers, were exported abroad, to the Rhineland, to London, to France, to Bohemia. No development in European international relations, from the succession conflict in Julich to the Spanish match, could be separated from that single question that would shake English politics to its foundations in the early 1620s: Spain or The Netherlands?






Dr Margaret Bent


Wharton Room, All Souls, (except Week 8, in the Hovenden Room)


Thursdays 5 –7 p.m. (except Week 8, on Tuesday)


Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8


All are welcome. 


Week 2 (Oct 18)
Antonio Chemotti (HERA Project SoundMe - Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw):
‘Musical past and regionalism in early modern Silesia: the hymnbook of Valentin Triller’


Week 4 (Nov 1)
Elizabeth Eva Leach (University of Oxford):
‘The motets of Douce 308: evidence for a more extensive monophonic tradition?’


Week 6 (Nov 15)
Margaret Bent (All Souls College):
‘The contents and provenance of the fragmentary royal choirbook of the 1420s: an update’


Week 8 (Tuesday Nov 27, Hovenden Room)
Elena Abramov van Rijk (Jerusalem):
‘The non-Italian Ars nova, or how to read the madrigal Povero Zappator by Lorenzo da Firenze’





Antonio Chemotti, ‘Musical past and regionalism in early modern Silesia: the hymnbook of Valentin Triller’

Always a borderland territory, Silesia was a meeting point for different ethnic groups, cultures, and confessions. In the 16th-century, most of the Silesian estates turned to the Reformation, but remained subjected to the Catholic Habsburgs, who ruled over Silesia as kings of Bohemia. Tolerance between the Lutheran and Catholic parties, caused by mutual dependence, existed side by side with confessional conflicts within the Evangelical church, stirred by the strong presence of radical spiritualist movements. Notwithstanding its multicultural and multiconfessional character, Silesia developed a strong territorial and ideological cohesion. This peculiar situation influenced artistic practices, among them music. In my contribution, I will focus on one specific musical source, Ein Schlesich [!] singebüchlein, edited by the Lutheran pastor Valentin Triller, and published in Wrocław, the ‘capital city’ of Silesia, in 1555. Curiously, the hymnbook avoids the usual ‘Lutheran’ hymn repertoire, and instead relies on a more peculiar and markedly retrospective repertoire. I will argue that the characteristics of the hymnbook’s paratexts and content are representative of a specific Silesian ‘regionalism’ (intended as regional consciousness), and they mirror the theological debate within the Silesian evangelical church.  Analysis of the polyphonic hymns will also serve to address the reasons behind the survival of ‘archaic’ repertoires (a common phenomenon also in other central European regions), the ways of their circulation beyond borders and confessions, and their role in shaping religious and regional identities.


Elizabeth Eva Leach, ‘The motets of Douce 308: evidence for a more extensive monophonic tradition?’

This paper, which is work-in-progress, considers the 63 motets collected in Oxford Bodleian Library, Douce 308. Most have refrains, often split between the opening and closing lines of the motet text, and all are presented without musical notation or any indication of tenors. Where concordances exist, the texts of D308 are invariably in motetus parts, but the concordances also make Douce 308 a unique witness to a mixture of material from the mainstream polyphonic motet tradition and the otherwise unique monophonic 'motets entés' of Trouvère MS N. This paper will propose that more motets known today only in polyphonic version may have had origins as monophonic motets. It will consider what the lost monophonic motet repertoire might have looked like and ask how the motet repertory might have come to be so largely polyphonic given this possible origin in monophonic, refrain-related, material.


Margaret Bent, ‘The contents and provenance of the fragmentary royal choirbook of the 1420s: an update’

In articles published since the 1970s, I have gradually pieced together what remains of a royal choirbook of the 1420s. New fragments have turned up periodically, including some so far unpublished. Where the fragments could be related to book bindings which inadvertently ensured their survival, the binder was the early-16th-century Cambridge stationer Nicholas Spierinck. There are now 18 leaves or partial leaves, with parts of 32 or 33 compositions. The main criteria for linking them were the presence of one of two principal scribes, and the unusual high-quality monochrome initials, some with human or animal figuration, including lions and an antelope favoured by the Lancastrians, which point to royal patronage, possibly by the younger brothers of Henry V: John Duke of Bedford or Humphrey Duke of Gloucester or their stepmother Queen Joan. Some pieces were copied into the main body of the manuscript directly from additions to the Old Hall manuscript, probably while that book was still in use in the chapel of the infant Henry VI, because the new copies were made before corrections were made to the Old Hall versions. Considerable overlaps with Old Hall, and a very similar overall arrangement, also point to a royal provenance. I will assess the repertory, which gives some prominence to Dunstaple, who is present in Old Hall only as an anonymous later addition. I will show how the fragments are linked, including some later additions, and suggest a possible route for the manuscript’s final destination in Cambridge. I will also revise my proposed dating of Old Hall, to which the fragmentary choirbook gives some context.


Elena Abramov van Rijk, ‘The non-Italian Ars nova, or how to read the madrigal Povero Zappator by Lorenzo da Firenze’

The term Ars Nova taken in a larger sense is often used to label the European professional music of the fourteenth century, separating it from the music of the previous period, the so called Ars Antiqua. The notion Ars Nova perfectly fits the music of the fourteenth-century French composers, but it becomes fairly problematic in attempts to apply it to the Italian contemporary music. In Italy were practically absent the most salient characteristics of the French Ars Nova music, as for the genres, the musical techniques and the use of the verbal text. For that reason, in order to define the Italian music from the 1340s to the first three decades of the fifteenth century, the term Trecento is in use, even though formally the phenomenon in question is not precisely coinciding with the temporal limits of the fourteenth century.

French Ars nova motets and French theoretical treatises, which discussed the new art of composition and notation, were well known in Italy, as several examples of them transmitted in Italian manuscripts testify. However, neither the theory nor the compositions by themselves prompted the Italians to adopt this style as a model to follow. The French isorhythmic technique, however, was used in two madrigals: Lorenzo da Firenze’s Povero zappator and Francesco Landini’s Sì dolce non sonò [col lir Orfeo]. Evidently, Landini’s madrigal honours Philippe de Vitry, so that the use of the isorhythmic technique in it is conceptually well justified. What then could have been the reason to use the isorhythmic technique even in a more sophisticated way in the madrigal Povero zappator, written by Lorenzo da Firenze, or Lorenzo Masini, the elder colleague of Landini in the St. Lorenzo church in Florence? The poetic text of this madrigal, unlike that of Landini’s Sì dolce non sonò, tells about a lone sailor in tempestuous sea. It did not attire much attention of scholars. However, as we will see, this text, which at first glance appears to be an ingenuous poem typical of the Trecento musical madrigals, is not only the clue about the understanding of Lorenzo’s intentions, but in a larger perspective it discloses the perception by the Italian Trecento musicians of the musical thinking of their transalpine colleagues.

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