Report – Irish Renaissance Seminar at the University of Limerick, 5th November 2016

 

Guest report by Dr Carrie Griffin

The Centre for Early Modern Studies, Limerick, was delighted to welcome delegates and speakers to the autumn meeting of the Irish Renaissance Seminar, held for the first time at the University of Limerick. We gathered on a beautiful, crisp Saturday in UL’s Kemmy Business School for an afternoon of papers on the theme “Early Modern Otherness: Outlaws, Exiles, Outsiders”.

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Our three-paper panel session opened at 1pm with Dr Clodagh Tait, a lecturer in the History Department at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick and a member of the executive committee of the Limerick Centre for Early Modern Studies. Clodagh’s paper, entitled “Outlawed Emotions: Lordly Rage and its Consequences in Early Modern Ireland”, was concerned with what the State Papers can tell us about the language around reports of emotional outbursts, cursing, oaths, and verbal violence, in particular focusing on Turlough Luineach, seemingly renowned for overawing others through rage and violent language. She argued that our sense of an idealised Irish lord, an impression formed from the honour values associated with that community and the praise-poetry composed for them, might in fact be challenged by this evidence, which seems to have more to do with emotional responses in a predominantly “face-to-face society”.

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Dr Clodagh Tait

 

The Gaelic lords and the peculiar nuances of Bardic poetry were the subject of the second paper in this panel. Dr Gordon Ó Riain’s paper “A Fifteenth-Century Ulster Poet in Exile”, traced the fortunes of Conchubar, a poet exiled by his patron ÉinrÍ (one of the O’Neill of TÍr Eoghain). From his uncertain position as an outcast in Connacht, the poet composed a poem that includes a warning of an impending full satire; this warning found formal expression in the poem in a tréfocal, and its inclusion augments the kind of praise offered by the poet in this context.

Finally in this session Evan Bourke, a PhD researcher with the RECIRC Project, NUIG, presented a paper entitled “The ‘Burden[some] Sister’: The Reception and Representation of Jean Appelius (nee Dury) in the Hartlib Circle, 1641-1661”, showcasing research on letters that evidence the social exclusion suffered by Jean Appellius, sister to John Dury, that can be found in letters written by Dorothy Moore, her sister-in-law. Though no letters written by Jean are extant, Moore’s letters to members of the circle show that Jean was a problematic figure in the Dury circle: she was considered to be less than pious, and described in very strong terms in correspondence. Bourke’s contention was that the letters evidence a project of ‘othering’ within a close network, containing very great detail about Jean but also a very strong dismissal of her.

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Evan Bourke

After tea we were treated to a plenary lecture by Dr Ruth Ahnert. Ruth, a senior lecturer in Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary University of London and a co-director (with Prof Joad Raymond) of the Centre for Early Modern Mapping News and Networks, is currently conducting research on Tudor Networks of Power, in which she combines digital methods from the field of Complex Networks to study Tudor letters from the State Papers. Ruth’s fascinating lecture, entitled “Conspiracy and Surveillance in Tudor England”, demonstrated how Complex Network analysis can be incredibly revealing for Tudor letters, exploiting and studying similar aspects such as nodes, hubs and edges to reveal similar underlying patters and real-world networks. Ruth showed us in great detail how this kind of collaboration (undertaken with her husband Sebastian Ahnert) can uncover all sorts of activity and connections between suspected spies, conspirators and double-agents that would not ordinarily be discernible in traditional approaches to this sort of archive. One of the case-studies used here were the letters of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon and the great-grandson of Edward VI, who was a prisoner in London and was exiled to Venice in the 1550s. Ruth’s evidence uncovered an anomaly (an unusual burst of activity) around him. All but one of his letters preserved in the State Papers was sent from exile, and a high proportion of them were intercepted. Courtenay knew he was under surveillance, but he persists in writing to dubious individuals.

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Dr Ruth Ahnert

After a day of wonderful papers we adjourned to the nearby Castletroy Park Hotel for an early dinner and a very jolly time. We heartily recommend the fish and chips!

This meeting of the Irish Renaissance Seminar was sponsored by the faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, UL; The School of Culture and Communication, UL; and the Society for Renaissance Studies. A sincere thanks to delegates who travelled to be with us on the day, and in particular huge gratitude to our four splendid speakers. We look forward to reconvening in the springtime at UCD for the first Irish Renaissance Seminar meeting of 2017!

Guest post by Dr Carrie Griffin, Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature in the School of Culture & Communication at University Limerick.

CFP: Borderlines XXI in UCC

University College Cork will host Borderlines XXI in April 2017. The theme of this year’s conference is “Authority in the Medieval and Early Modern World”.

Postgraduates and early career scholars are most welcome to submit an abstract and attend this annual Medieval-Renaissance conference. The Call For Papers has been launched (see below) and the deadline for submission of abstracts is 3rd February 2017.

For updates and further details, see the Borderlines XXI blog here.

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Review: RSC live King Lear

Review: RSC live King Lear – 14th October 2016

Guest post by Emer Murphy

As the centenary year marking William Shakespeare’s death nears its close, audiences around the world continue to delight in the wonders of his work. Despite the evolution of both time, and culture, his plots and characters demonstrate true resilience as they poignantly reflect the most basic of human instincts and injustices. But while the twenty first century moves into unchartered territory, there remains an almost striking familiarity. With millions of people displaced as a result of violent conflict and western politics catapulted into a state of chaos, history appears to be repeating. It is against such a backdrop that the RSC production of King Lear, directed by Gregory Doran, becomes all the more resonant for its audience, as the story of the great King’s fall offers lessons to even the most sophisticated of cultures.

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Lear and his daughters  (Image credit: RSC website)

With the stage awash with golds and browns, Lear’s downfall is instantly foreshadowed by the overt use of autumnal colours as he makes his magnificent entrance, wrapped in huge furs and hoisted aloof. He is instantly set apart from everyone else, elevated to a god-like position and encased in a glass box to highlight his utter detachment from his subjects (much like the political elite of today). Anthony Sher’s Lear speaks with controlled authority, almost complacency, as it becomes clear that he is significantly removed from reality. He has become too comfortable atop his throne, something Sher captures so perfectly with his body language, sinking into it with such effortless ease as it appears to be an extension of his being. Lear clearly occupies a realm of his own and is seemingly untouchable, until the moment he makes his most fatal mistake – the banishment of his beloved Cordelia – the catalyst for his fall.

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Sher as Lear  (Image credit: RSC website)

As Lear succumbs to his baser instincts, letting jealousy and egotism rule him, winter colours of grey and black come to prominence on stage and the set becomes more barren and bare. The leaves have withered and gone, just as Lear’s reign has rotted from its roots, leaving him to the mercy of those he scorned. While Sher’s performance displays an understanding of the wayward king, it lacks a little chaos and, to echo Susannah Clapp, it remains contained. He never loses control. He never truly gives into the flames of passion, despair and madness, and because of that the performance lacks a certain spark. Even at his lowest points – his isolation in the forest, his suffering through the storm, and the death of Cordelia – he remains somewhat detached from his emotions, bottling up his inner turmoil instead of releasing it. In short, the explosion never came. But for all that Sher was not, he nonetheless remains an intriguing Lear, spitting venom at his daughters, sitting in despairing silence with his Fool and muttering lovingly to Cordelia’s limp corpse. He captures the quiet, contemplative Lear with the ease of a skilled and experienced actor, and instils in the audience powerful human emotions that can only be triggered by the demise of a great character.

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Edgar as Poor Tom  (Image credit: RSC website)

The stand-out performance, however, goes to Paapa Essiedu for his stunning portrayal of the calculating Edmund. Essiedu brings a refreshing burst of villainy to the role with his mocking irony and humorous disdain, transforming Edmund instead into a most likeable villain. His tantrum-like foot stamping and immature jealousy make him a character the audience can relate to as he manipulates his way into his father’s favour. Strangely, but most satisfyingly, it is he who prompts the most laughter. Likewise, Oliver Johnstone excels as Edgar/Poor Tom. His agile, nimble movements allow him to move energetically around the stage in the image of a wild animal as Edgar slowly transitions to Poor Tom. His startled facial expressions and fleeting looks capture the peril of his situation as he appears more mad than Lear ever does. Covered in a layer of dirt and dust, wearing only a filth-stained loincloth, Poor Tom makes Lear, in his white undergarments, appear as though he is merely on a hike through the wilderness.

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Lear and Goneril  (Image credit: RSC website)

In a similar vein, Goneril’s progression from decent daughter to murderous villain is fluid and measured. She the product of Lear’s contempt, moulded from his cruel, hateful words as she refuses to be governed by his dictations. She does little to warrant or provoke such anger in her father and yet he rejects her so thoroughly, cursing her with infidelity in a scene that would make even the harshest of critics flinch. Her distress is palpable and resounds throughout the theatre as Lear’s treatment of her forces her to become cold and unforgiving in nature. Regan’s progression, by comparison, is not near as convincing. In the most vicious and violent of all Shakespearean scenes, Cornwall and Regan tear out Gloucester’s eyes, but here their actions seem too rushed and instead take from the horror of the scene. Regan maintains her distance from the action and is more of a spectator than an active participant in the violence. The glass box in which Gloucester is bound has echoes of Lear’s opening entrance, but this time the sentiment was very different. It comes to symbolise the utter destruction of his reign as, ultimately, it comes to be stained and spattered in the blood of his closest acquaintance.

Overall, the production captivates from the moment of Lear’s entrance to the moment he breathes his last, but somehow it fails to fully ignite.

Guest post by Emer Murphy. Emer has recently completed her studies on the MA Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance at University College Cork.

Talk: The Renaissance of Not Doing Things, Prof. Stephen Guy-Bray

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School of English, Drama and Film, UCD present

Prof. Stephen Guy-Bray (University of British Columbia, Canada)

“The Renaissance of Not Doing Things”

 

We typically describe the English Renaissance as a time of frantic activity, both in England and, increasingly, on a global scale. The other side of all this activity is a fascination with inactivity. Many writers of this period express a desire not to do anything.This desire often finds expression as the wish to become a plant or a work of art. I’m interested in how our sense of the Renaissance changes if we see Narcissus as the paradigmatic figure

Prof. Stephen Guy-Bray is Professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He specializes in Renaissance poetry and queer theory, and is the author of three monographs and numerous essays and journal articles.

 

This talk takes place at 4.30pm, Thursday 24th November in J208, Newman building, UCD

All Welcome!

Book launch: Angelica’s Book and the World of Reading in Late Renaissance Italy

Nov. 18, 4.30pm
Marsh’s Library, Dublin
9781474270335
Through the lens of a history of material culture mediated by an object, Angelica’s Book and the World of Reading in Late Renaissance Italy investigates aspects of women’s lives, culture, ideas and the history of the book in early modern Italy.
Inside a badly damaged copy of Straparola’s 16th-century work, Piacevoli Notti, acquired in a Florentine antique shop in 2010, an inscription is found, attributing ownership to a certain Angelica Baldachini. The discovery sets in motion a series of inquiries, deploying knowledge about calligraphy, orthography, linguistics, dialectology and the socio-psychology of writing, to reveal the person behind the name. Focusing as much on the possible owner as upon the thing owned, Angelica’s Book examines the genesis of the Piacevoli Notti and its many editions, including the one in question. The intertwined stories of the book and its owner are set against the backdrop of a Renaissance world, still imperfectly understood, in which literature and reading were subject to regimes of control; and the new information throws aspects of this world into further relief, especially in regard to women’s involvement with reading, books and knowledge. The inquiry yields unexpected insights concerning the logic of accidental discovery, the nature of evidence, and the mission of the humanities in a time of global crisis.
Angelica’s Book and the World of Reading in Late Renaissance Italy is a thought-provoking read for any scholar of early modern Europe and its culture. – See more at: http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/angelicas-book-and-the-world-of-reading-in-late-renaissance-italy-9781474270335/#sthash.VM91HA7S.dpuf
Presenting:  Mark Sweetnam (School of English, TCD); Catherine Lawless (Women’s Studies, TCD); the author, and others.

Theatre: Reason in Madness – A Devised Reworking of King Lear

Run of the Mill Theatre in collaboration with Arts Participation & Pathways Day Programme / St John of God’s Community Service

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TUE 29 – WED 30 NOV 2016 8PM
Draíocht theatre, Blanchardstown
€14 / €12 conc

O matter and impertinency mixed! Reason in madness!
Lear is not having a good week. A storm is brewing and he’s running with the wolves. He’s old, he’s cold and his daughters aren’t talking to him. You can’t rule the world, if you can’t remember where your shoes are. It seems in this kingdom when you’re old and grey, suddenly, you’re in the way.
Run of the Mill Theatre collaborate with the participants of Pathways Programme, St. John of Gods Liffey Region to present a unique exploration and reworking of Shakespeare’s King Lear, created and performed by an ensemble of theatre makers with intellectual disabilities. Exploring themes of aging, vulnerability, mental health, power and responsibility, Reason in Madness is a colourful, evocative and unique take on one of Shakespeare’s most challenging pieces.

Supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Suitable for ages 10+

Info & booking: www.draiocht.ie

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Talk: Can Shakespeare Make You Fall in Love?

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SHAKESPEARE LIVES IN SCIENCE:

CAN SHAKESPEARE MAKE YOU FALL IN LOVE?

In Shakespeare’s world, lovers look forward to marriage as a matter of course, and they neither anticipate its rights nor turn their affections elsewhere. They commonly love at first sight and once for all. Can we love this truly 400 years on? Love in Shakespeare’s characters and in the animal kingdom – how does it happen? What forms does it take?

To celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, join Dr. Niamh Shaw presenter and scientist for this unique look at the science of passion. A special Science week with Hannah Mankeltow, Shakespearean performance scholar, scientist and poetry slam artist Dr. Sam Illingworth and musician/science communicator, Emer Maguire.

Discover more about Shakespeare’s insights into human nature that still ring true 400 years on, investigate where modern science matches up with the ideas of Elizabethan “natural philosophy”, hear Shakespeare’s text in dramatic readings and get involved in live food/drink experiments and science demonstrations.

The Dean Hotel, Dublin, Friday 18 November @ 7pm. Cost €5

Market House, Monaghan, Saturday 19 November @ 7pm. Free Entry

(Free refreshments served)

More info: www.britishcouncil.ie/events