Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ut Pictura Poesis: Thinking about Representation in Late Medieval and Renaissance England

We are pleased to announce that the keynote speaker for the conference will be Dr. Steven Mullaney, renowned author of The Place of the Stage: License, Play and Power in Renaissance England. Additional featured scholars include Dr. Mary Silcox (McMaster University), Dr. Jamie Fumo (McGill University) and Dr. Katherine Acheson (University of Waterloo).

In his Apology for Poetry, Sir Philip Sidney defines poetry as “an art of imitation”, a form of “mimesis”; he describes it as not only a “representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth” but more importantly as a “speaking picture.” This attribution of aural and visual elements to the poet’s pen delineates poetry as a medium able to integrate seemingly disparate elements: a site of necessary hybridity. As a “speaking picture”, poetry mirrors the visual arts by imagistically portraying the verba (signifier) or form which conveys, transmutes, or mimics the res (signified) or Platonic Idea. The visual arts, which mirror or embody the spoken word, serve to access this elusive signified. It seems that Sidney finds it more difficult to imagine a verbal construct shadowing forth an “Idea” than he does a picture.

This graduate conference questions the representation of art in literature and art as literature. These correlations between art, poetry, and performance become increasingly prevalent throughout the later Medieval and early modern periods, and self-reflexive preoccupation with artistic representation permeates each medium. With the advent of print culture and with the movement of alphabets, spelling and language towards standardization, the relationship between the senses (between what is seen, heard, spoken and written) and written language becomes a site for exploration.

How does one re-negotiate the boundaries between the visual and the “read”? How does this translate to the different mediums of poetry, drama, the visual arts and print culture—what are the interstices between literature as drama and drama as literature, for instance, and how can this help us reconfigure a hermeneutics of the “visual”? What is lost in translation and what is gained in a cross-pollination of artistic genres and methods of production? What is the aesthetic, didactic, fiscal or commercial value of art in these periods and how does this affect the desire to frame poetry as picture and vice versa? In light of new artistic technologies, to what extent does the intimate relationship between episteme and techne influence and motivate art in this period? The crucial question we seek to explore is: how do poets, playwrights and artists in the late Medieval and early modern periods understand the separation or conflation of media in mimetic representation?

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• Mimesis
• Production vs. (re)production
• The self-reflexivity of the author: meta-drama, meta-poetry, meta-fiction
• The material book
• Language as art
• Illuminated lettering
• The relationship between letters and sound
• Symbol vs. image
• Staging language: rhetoric, sprezzatura, the dramatic interpretation of character, etc.
• Poetomachia: the artist as compromised/ satirized/parodied
• The gendering of production and reproduction
• Mimesis vs. diegesis
• Ekphrasis, blazon, emblem, allegory, etc.
• Form vs. content
• The value of art
• Aesthetics
• The mechanics of (re)production

The extended deadline for abstracts is now WEDNESDAY, JULY 7th. Abstracts should not exceed 350 words and should be sent to along with any A/V requirements. Presentations should be 15 to 20 minutes long. Please visit the conference website for more information: