Arjan van Dixhoorn – Performative literary culture in late medieval and early modern Europe (1300-1700)



Event Date: 17 – 18 September 2011
British Library Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

The Italian Academies 1525–1700 Project presents:


This major international conference is being hosted as part of the AHRC funded research project The Italian Academies 1525-1700: the first intellectual networks of early modern Europe.

Academies represent a vital and characteristic dimension of early modern culture.
There were ca. 600 Academies in Italy in the period 1525-1700. Frequently international in membership, and in correspondence with scholars across Europe, they were fundamental to the development of the intellectual networks later defined as the ‘République des Lettres’, and to the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe. Their membership included pioneering scientists, writers, artists, political thinkers, and representatives of both sexes and all social classes. The interests of the Academies ranged from the humanities, to the figurative and performance arts, natural sciences and medicine; many were interdisciplinary in their outlook and activities.

However, the social and cultural phenomenon of the Italian Academies has hitherto attracted relatively little research due in part to the wide range of their interests and difficulties in accessing relevant information.

The conference aims to explore research questions raised by the activities of Academies in this period.

Arjan van DixhoornPerformative literary culture in late medieval and early modern Europe (1300-1700)

From the 1300s onwards, and particularly in the fifteenth century, several regional clusters of literary associations and institutions were created in the urban centers and networks in France, the Occitan regions on both sides of the Pyrenees, the French- and Dutch-speaking urbanized regions of the Low Countries, the cities of Northern Hanseatic and of Southern Germany, and the city of London. These associations and institutions, that have received little attention by international scholarship, shared some important cultural features (festivity, theatricality, competition, love of knowledge for the sake of the self and the common good) that rooted in the civic conviviality of less institutionalized forms that permeated the urban regions of late medieval and early modern Europe. The Italian academies and their Spanish offspring were the latest branches that took inspiration from these cultural forms. In the course of the sixteenth and in particular in the seventeenth century, several core features of the underpinning performative literary sociability became increasingly problematic as a model for (vernacular) knowledge and civility. My paper will submit a possible framework for the comparative, European, long-term history of these earliest modes of organized literary sociability in Europe and for the evaluation of their historical significance.



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