Self-Commentary in Early Modern European Literature (Conference 26th-27th February 2016; CFP 15th October)

self commentary_cfpA conference hosted by the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies will examine how Early Modern European writers annotated and commented on their own work. The conference will run at Durham University from 26th-27th February 2016. The deadline for the Call for Papers is 15th October 2015.

Writers the world over have often accompanied their texts with a variety of annotations, marginal glosses, rubrications, and explicatory or narrative prose in an effort to direct and control the reception of their own works. Such self-exegetical devices do not merely serve as an external apparatus but effectively interact with the primary text by introducing a distinctive meta-literary dimension which, in turn, reveals complex dynamics affecting the very notions of authorship and readership. In the Renaissance, self-commentaries enjoyed unprecedented diffusion and found expression in a multiplicity of forms, which appear to be closely linked to momentous processes such as the legitimation of vernacular languages across Europe, the construction of a literary canon, the making of the modern author as we know it, and the self-representation of modern individual identities.

The Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Durham University ( invites proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of self-commentary and self-exegesis in Early Modern European literature, broadly defined as ca. 1400 – ca. 1700. The conference will be aimed specifically at bringing together both established scholars and early career researchers working on diverse Renaissance literary traditions (including Neo-Latin and Slavonic languages), and promoting cross-cultural dialogue.

A number of fundamental questions will be addressed, including:

  • How do authorial commentaries mimic standard commentaries?
  • If commentaries ordinarily aim to facilitate textual comprehension and bridge the gap between a text and its readership, in what ways can this be true of self-commentaries as well?
  • What further motivations and strategies are at work?
  • How do writers of the Renaissance position themselves in respect of the classical tradition?
  • How do they progressively depart from the medieval scholastic practice of glossing texts?
  • How do self-commentaries interact with the primary text and contribute to its reception?

For consideration, please send a title and abstract of ~300 words as well as a one-page CV to no later than 15 October 2015.

Thanks to the sponsorship of the Society for Renaissance Studies (SRS), a limited number of bursaries (contribution towards travel/accommodation) will be available for postgraduate and early career researchers.

Confirmed speakers: Carlo Caruso (Durham), Hannah Crawforth (King’s College – London), Martin McLaughlin (Oxford), John O’Brien (Durham), and Federica Pich (Leeds).


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