Dido in Oxford

June 24, 2013

edoxEarly Drama at Oxford (EDOX)  is beginning a systematic study of plays written and/or performed in the Oxford colleges between 1480 and 1650. Exciting events for this year are headed by a unique opportunity to view stagings of two Elizabethan Dido plays, William Gager’s Dido (1583) and Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage (21 September), and two related conferences, ‘Theatrum Mundi: Latin Drama in Renaissance Europe’ (13-14 September) and ‘Performing Dido: Theatre performances and conference at Christ Church’ (22 September). For further details, see the new EDOX website.

solid-cropWhat kind of knowledge does poetry give us? The fifth annual CEMS conference brought together an international array of scholars, and close to a hundred delegates, to explore and assess early modern responses to this question. In his introductory remarks, David Norbrook identified two potentially contradictory impulses behind the conference: to set early modern literary study within a broader intellectual world, and also to recognize the particularity of poetics and of the literary, at a time when they seem in danger of being subordinated to a very generalized history of cultures and mentalities, and beyond that to be eclipsed in the demand for education to have a direct economic impact. Luc Deitz gave a fresh perspective on Julius Caesar Scaliger’s Poetices libri septem as a pivotal work in developing the concept of polymathy. Colin Burrow explored the paradoxes of gaining an individual voice through imitating the inimitable Cicero, showing how imitation involved forma as well as discursive content. Perrine Galant offered a striking case study of such imitation in  Michel de L’Hospital’s engagement with his public role through Neo-Latin verse. Jan Loop discussed the ways in which European scholars tried to assimilate Arabic poetics to Hebrew models before they developed a stronger sense of its cultural specificity. The limits of early modern syncretism emerged in other papers. Nigel Smith presented the work of the German poet Quirinus Kuhlmann, who rejected literary imitation in a turn to prophetic inspiration, and in the combinatory sonnets of his Himmlische Liebes-Küsse invented a form of word-sculpture. In his keynote lecture Ralph Häfner discussed the role of myth and poetry in the exploratory writings of a differently heterodox figure, Johann Albert Fabricius. Kristine Haugen showed with what zest another controversial figure, Isaac Vossius, dismantled traditional accounts of Greek prosody. In a lively round table led by Terence Cave, Gavin Alexander, Micha Lazarus and Martin McLaughlin reviewed the the themes of the day, which had indeed highlighted early modern polymathy but also in different and unexpected ways revealed the irreducible role of formal stuctures, and suggested ways of moving beyond the dichotomies of the utile and the dulce.