Power and Image in Early Modern Europe: NYU Graduate Student Conference

Date: March 25 – 26, 2006
Venue: New York, NY, USA

Guy Debord has argued that, “the spectacle inherits all the weaknesses of the Western project which undertook to comprehend activity in terms of seeing.” In his 1967 study of the role of image and spectacle in modern societies, The Society of the Spectacle, Debord anticipated much of the cultural debate that has predominated in the late twentieth century. Does the growth of the power of image mirror the development of modern societies, as Debord maintains, or, alternatively, is the image capable of autonomy from social and economic influences? This conference reexamines the exchange between power and image in the context of Early Modern Europe.

How have patrons, artists, and consumers acted upon and reacted to the image? How do some images achieve a privileged and even sacred status, while others become figures of the negative and the ‘Other’? If awareness of the power of image in visual and literary culture is tied to self-consciousness and ‘modernity,’ how have artists explored the conflict between representation and essence? Seeing and seeming?

We encourage participants to address these questions through an interdisciplinary approach that considers social, cultural, political, and economic forces in Early Modern Europe. Possible paper topics include but are not limited to:

The relationship between political power and the advancement and censorship of the arts.

The sanctification and de-sanctification of power through ‘image awareness’ in Renaissance political thought: the case of Machiavelli and Castiglione.

Idealization of the image: utopia and dystopia.

The images of imitation and emulation: antiquity in Renaissance culture.

Imperial image in political programs.

The image of the “Other”: the minor, marginalized, transgressive and Orientalism.

Visual and literary portraiture: picturing genders.

The image of the Word: the rise of the vernacular poetry and literacy in secular societies, and visual culture and literature (ut pictura poesis).

Brave New Worlds: literary imagination of geography, mapping, and travels.

The spectacular in baroque music and theater.

The image of the Body: materiality and immateriality in the construction and presentation of bodies; dressing and fashioning the self.

The use of figurae in the instruction and communication of theology.

The use of image in the art of memory.

Rhetorical discourse and design of architecture and cityscape: public space, domestic architecture, and interior layout; the ‘ideal city.’

The use of optical devices and the technique of perspective in the paintings.

Astrological vision: Marsilio Ficino’s astrological magic and horoscope; astrological causality.

The conference will take place on March 24 and 25, 2006, at the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò.

Presentations are allotted 20 minutes with additional time for question and response. Please submit an anonymous abstract of no more than 250 words by January 15, 2006. Include a cover letter with the title, author’s name, university affiliation, telephone number, and e-mail address. All abstracts must be in English or Italian. Interdisciplinary approaches and fields outside Italian Studies are encouraged. Submissions are only accepted from graduate students.

Please send all abstracts to the conference organizers: Valerie McGuire, Gaoheng Zhang, and Jessica Goethals, at igsa.conference@nyu.edu.

This conference is cosponsored by: the Italian Graduate Student Association, the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Dean’s Office of Graduate School of Arts and Science, and the Medieval and Renaissance Center of New York University.