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Inventing medieval literature (16th-17th century)

Inventer la littérature médiévale (XVIe-XVIIe siècles)

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Published on Friday, November 13, 2015 by João Fernandes

Summary

This conference aims to study the categories and periodizations used by 16th and 17th century antiquarians to classify the texts gathered today under the name "medieval literature". We examine the motivations behind antiquarian interest in texts which were difficult to read and understand, carried moral and religious values perceived as "alien", and were sometimes considered useless if not harmful to read, but were nevertheless recognized as reliable sources on past habits. Special attention will be given to discourses of continuity (origins of a modern language) or rupture (medieval "barbarity" or "popery") in which these texts were used as supports.

Announcement

Argument

"Literature of the Middle Ages" is a relatively young category in the long history of the study of medieval texts. The expression seems not to go back further than the first half of the 19th century. In France, for example, it was used by Abel-François Villemain as a title for twenty-four lessons of the "Cours de littérature française" which he taught at the Sorbonne (1829–1830), and by Émile Lefranc as a subtitle for one of the volumes of his Histoire élémentaire et critique de la littérature (1840). In 1852, Paulin Paris claimed it for the title of a chair which he hoped to have created at the Collège de France and which he held there from 1853 onwards. By "literature" these intellectuals meant a set of works with an "aesthetic" value, which expressed the national "genius" or "spirit". In this sense, the notion was narrower than that of litterae, which, from the 16th century onwards, was the main object of the historia literaria and in particular of scholarly undertakings such as the Maurists' Histoire littéraire de la France (1733–), Girolamo Tiraboschi's Storia della letteratura italiana (1772–1782) or Joseph Berington's A Literary History of the Middle Ages (1814).

Of course, the authors and works making up the medieval literary canon in the 19th century had interested the Republic of Letters earlier. Since the 1940s, the interest of Early Modern antiquarians in this matter has been the subject of many studies. Several of them, however, contented themselves with transferring the category "medieval literature" to centuries during which no distinction was made on the one hand between literature and the rest of the written production, and on the other hand – at least before the 17th century – between the Middle Ages and the adjacent periods of Antiquity and Renaissance. Moreover the early interest in "medieval literature" was often studied from a disciplinary perspective: one picked out what already conformed or did not yet conform to the rules of philology and literary history, or pointed at the antiquarian's lack of knowledge.

This conference aims to escape from such teleological conceptions by studying the categories and periodizations used by 16th and 17th century antiquarians to classify the texts gathered today under the name "medieval literature". The question of the models of such classifications (for example, the Aristotelian opposition between "history" and "poetry") will be addressed. We examine the motivations behind antiquarian interest in texts which were difficult to read and understand, carried moral and religious values perceived as "alien", and were sometimes considered useless if not harmful to read, but were nevertheless recognized as reliable sources on past habits. Finally, special attention will be given to discourses of continuity (origins of a modern language) or rupture (medieval "barbarity" or "popery") in which these texts were used as supports. In order to address these issues, sources such as bibliographical repertories, catalogues of private manuscript or printed book collections, the paratext of text editions (dedicatory epistle, preface, critical apparatus), reading notes (commonplace and adversaria books) or scholarly correspondence could be relevant.

Submission guidelines

Proposals for contributions (with title and a summary of max. 2000 characters) should be sent to Yann Dahhaoui (Yann.Dahhaoui@unil.ch) and Barbara Wahlen (Barbara.Wahlen@unil.ch) by

30 January 2016.

The conference will be held at the Lausanne University on the 6th and 7th october 2016

Scientific committee

Places

  • Université de Lausanne
    Lausanne, Switzerland (1015)

Date(s)

  • Saturday, January 30, 2016

Keywords

  • réception, antiquaire, histoire des savoirs

Contact(s)

  • Barbara Wahlen
    courriel : Barbara [dot] Wahlen [at] unil [dot] ch
  • Yann Dahhaoui
    courriel : yann [dot] dahhaoui [at] unil [dot] ch

Information source

  • Yann Dahhaoui
    courriel : yann [dot] dahhaoui [at] unil [dot] ch

To cite this announcement

« Inventing medieval literature (16th-17th century) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, November 13, 2015, https://calenda.org/345005

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