The second of two conferences on ‘Ancient Rome and Early Modern England’ was held at Jesus College on 21-22 May. The first conference, held at the Huntington Library, concentrated on politics and political thought: the focus here was on literature. Roman plays of course received a lot of attention: Paulina Kewes explored ‘Constitutional Instability in Titus Andronicus’, Richard Hillman made the case for neglected French influences on Shakespeare’s Rome, Warren Chernaik discussed representations of Caesar, and the topic of Blair Worden’s plenary lecture was ‘Clarendon, Ben Jonson, and the Conspiracy of Catiline’. Richard Rowland analyzed representations of domestic violence from Sophocles through to the early modern period. The reception of Roman poetry was surveyed across a wide range of writers through the period, with papers by Daniel Andersson on the reception of Juvenal, Edward Paleit on the reworking of Lucan in Jacobean drama, Gesine Manuwald on Thomas Campion’s debt to classical poetry, Sheldon Brammall on topical aspects of John Vicars’s Virgil translation, and David Norbrook’s plenary lecture surveyed different political receptions of Lucretius’ De rerum natura. Poets’ views of Rome were not always idealizing: Adam Swann found the ‘curse of Roman influence’ in Milton’s History of Britain. Papers on the translation and reception of prose writers ranged from Katie East on Cicero and Serena Connolly on the Distichs of Cato to Fred Schurink on military contexts of  classical translations. Freya Cox Jensen gave an overview of translations of Roman historians, showing how far the forthcoming Universal Short-Title Catalogue will change our understanding of authors’ relative popularity. Richard Serjeantson discussed political aspects of Francis Bacon’s writings and Tracey Sowerby explored ‘The Roman Influence on English Diplomatic Thought’. Tom Roebuck, discussing the reception of Athenaeus, and Nick Hardy, speaking on ‘Rome and Greek Identities in Early Modern British Erudition’, reminded us that Rome was less rigidly demarcated from other parts of the ancient world than later academic divisions have implied.

Advertisements

Though based on the online English Short-Title Catalogue, this new resource is based on much new research and offers additional information on intermediary translators and liminary material. It is now easy, for example, to locate texts translated from English into Latin; and from Latin into Scots.

In the latest session in the series (19 May), Elizabeth Scott- Baumann and Ben Burton introduced their project for an Electronic Database of Poetic Form, which as received initial funding from the John Fell OUP Research Fund. The pilot project will permit searches for metrical structure and rhyme scheme across a sample of texts from the 1590s –Venus and Adonis, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and The Passionate Pilgrim; the plan is then to extend the database across texts of the 1590s. This can offer a ‘genealogy of form’, complicating labels like ‘Venus and Adonis stanza’ by showing that this ‘common verse’ stanza had been used by Southwell as a ‘sacred parody’ before Shakespeare turned to the form. Online searching would be easier and more varied than in printed compilations like Ringler’s and May’s. There was discussion of the extent to which nuances of form and rhyme could be incorporated in searches; fuller details of the proposal can be found here.

Philip West, who is editing James Shirley’s poems for a new OUP edition of his Complete Works, discussed a database he has compiled for the edition. His researches have located many poems not listed in Peter Beal’s Index of English Literary Manuscripts and revealed his habit of transferring materials from one work to another. The database makes possible line-by-line comparison of different versions of a given poem, and a demonstration showed how illuminating this can be.

The above image accompanied the colloquium in honour of Felicity Heal (Jesus College, 30 April), and though not actually a portrait of Dr Heal, reflected the warmth of the tributes she received for her many contributions to early modern history in what Diarmaid MacCullough described as ‘the era of Felicity Heal’. Other participants were Ian Archer, Anna Bayman, Christopher Haigh, Ralph Houlbrooke, Rosemary O’Day, Helen Parish, and Christine Peters, and the colloquium ranged widely over early modern religion and culture.