Call for Papers -Authority and Materiality in the Italian Songbook

Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Binghamton University

Authority and Materiality in the Italian Songbook:
From the Medieval Lyric to the Early-Modern Madrigal
May 1 and 2, 2015

In recent decades, scholars of medieval and early-modern texts have increasingly rejected as object of study the coherent, corrected text of the modern critical edition in favor of the instability and singularity of individual manuscripts and prints. Academic interest has turned particularly to the construction of authorial identity in late medieval and early-modern lyric anthologies and music books through scribal and authorial choices about the visual disposition and ordering of individual poems and songs. Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374) stands as a key figure in the development of the single-author poetry book, exhibiting in his autobiographical Canzoniere an acute concern with the minutia of the material production of texts and a high degree of authorial self-consciousness in the arrangement of his poems into a coherent narrative, which set a precedent for centuries to come. Petrarchism became the dominant idiom of European poetry in subsequent centuries, as well as the primary thematic register of the sixteenth-century madrigal, a musical genre in which composers also increasingly asserted authorial control over the appearance of their songs in printed music books.

We invite paper or session proposals from musicologists and literary and book historians with an interest in the shared material sources of Italian poetry and music from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, focusing especially on Petrarch and his legacy. Martin Eisner (Duke University) and Giuseppe Gerbino (Columbia University) will be keynote speakers. Conference highlights will include a public concert of Petrarch’s poetry in musical settings by the early music ensemble Blue Heron; we also anticipate publishing a volume of selected conference proceedings.

Of particular interest are papers or sessions that address the following (and related) topics:

  • Constructions of authorship in early Italian and Occitan lyric collections
  • The 13th-century Italian “divorce” between poetry and music
  • Petrarchan reforms in scribal practices and methods of book production
  • Evoking song in Petrarch’s Canzoniere and other poetic works
  • Composers and poets in 14th-century poetic anthologies and music codices
  • 15th-century poesia per musica and “missing” musical sources
  • Pietro Bembo’s Petrarch: 16th-century sources
  • Autobiographical poetic practices and women as petrarchiste
  • Organizational strategies in madrigal books
  • Lyric poetry and the culture of print
  • The rhetoric of authorship in dedications and prefaces
  • The distribution and commodification of lyric anthologies
  • Oral vs. written transmission (reading, speaking, singing)

Papers should not exceed 20 minutes in length and may be delivered in English or Italian.

Send abstracts (maximum 500 words) and brief CVs by November 1, 2014, to Inquiries may be directed to Professors Olivia Holmes ( or Paul Schleuse (

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