A two-day international conference to be held at the Accademia Nazionale Virgiliana di Scienze Lettere e Arti, Mantua, Italy, 15-16 October 2012
Organisers: Luke Houghton (University of Glasgow), Marco Sgarbi (University of Verona)
Confirmed keynote speakers: Craig Kallendorf (Texas A&M University) and Peter Mack (The Warburg Institute)
Et quis, io, iuvenes, tanti miracula lustrans
eloquii, non se immensos terraeque marisque
prospectare putet tractus?
Angelo Poliziano, Manto 351-3
For scholars and intellectuals of the Renaissance, the poetry of Virgil was not merely a pervasive presence in
their world; it was in many respects an embodiment of that world. In addition to the traditional status enjoyed
by the Aeneid as a ‘mirror for princes’, a guide to virtuous and reprehensible conduct, and a repository of
spiritual and allegorical wisdom, poets and rhetoricians, artists and composers, philosophers and theologians,
political theorists and educators all sought and found in Virgil’s works models of good practice and expert
instruction in their respective fields. The poet’s sway over Renaissance thought and imagination was by no
means confined to the library: throughout the courts, the palaces and the public buildings of Europe, the rich
mythological apparatus of the Aeneid was harnessed to convey imperial and dynastic claims, to assert proud
traditions of civic liberty, and to associate rulers and their subjects with particular social, moral and ethical
values, as well as to advertise the learning, taste and culture of individual patrons.
In literate society, Virgil was everywhere; but the extent of his influence reached far beyond the wide circle of
his readers, through the appearance of scenes and motifs from his poems - and sometimes also the figure of
the poet himself - in frescoes, sculpture and woodcuts, and even on objects for domestic use and display.
Contact with Virgil and his texts took many forms and was shaped by a variety of external factors, in addition
to being filtered through countless previous literary and artistic adaptations, a long tradition of critical and
pedagogical engagements, and strident expressions of both devotion and censure from different quarters
during the centuries between the poet’s own day and the age of the humanists. Among these successive
interventions, a place of particular honour is occupied by Dante, whose choice of ‘the sea of all knowledge’ as
his guide and master through the caverns of the Inferno and along the slopes of Purgatory was to have a
lasting impact on perceptions of Virgil, not only as a literary character and aesthetic model but also as a poet
and historical figure.
Proposals are invited for papers in English or Italian, of no more than 30 minutes’ duration, on any aspect of
the place of Virgil in Renaissance culture, in any medium. Abstracts should not be longer than 500 words, and
should include the author’s name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), and current e-mail address.
Proposals should be sent to one of the conference organisers, Marco Sgarbi (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Luke
Houghton (email@example.com), before 31 December 2011. It is hoped that papers from this event
will in due course form a substantial publication.