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The literary appropriation of Dante over the last century has been enormous. His influence has been front and center in all major modern literary traditions—from T. S. Eliot to William Butler Yeats, from Albert Camus to Jean-Paul Sartre, from Jorge Luis Borges to Derek Walcott, from Giorgio Bassani to Giuseppe Ungaretti. Why such fascination? What are the textual characteristics of Dante’s Commedia that make it an ideal vehicle for literary appropriation, thereby allowing it to enjoy a sustained cultural afterlife? What, moreover, are the more accidental factors (e.g., taste, world view, political agenda, religious, and mystical convictions) which account for the popularity of Dante—after 300 years of neglect during which the Florentine poet was relegated to the shadows of Petrarch and his works—among artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, and cinematographers? This international conference, organized by Professor Massimo Ciavolella (Italian, UCLA) and funded by a grant from The Ahmanson Foundation, will consider these questions concentrating on Dante’s influence in North America and especially in Latin America.
This conference opens with a screening on Thursday evening of the animated film Dante’s Inferno set in contemporary Los Angeles and voiced by Dermot Mulroney and James Cromwell. The trailer and more information about the movie can be found at http://www.dantefilm.com/index.html.
“Medieval Conceptions of Truth”
Saturday, April 9th
Sunday, April 10th
Stephen Murray is the Lisa and Bernard Selz Professor of Medieval Art History at Columbia University and is currently engaged in projecting his cathedral studies through the electronic media using a combination of three-dimensional simulation and digital imaging. He presents the twelfth annual Hammer Foundation Lecture. In traditional accounts we encounter buildings that have been flattened on the page and fixed within a linear sequence of "development." Providing three portals of access, Time, Space and Narrative, the website Mapping Gothic France at www.mappinggothicfrance.org, allows the user to explore the spatial complexity of individual buildings embedded in the map of France, and to consider the larger geo-political and cultural dimensions of the Gothic phenomenon. Professor Murray’s work has appeared on PBS’s NOVA series in a documentary called “Building the Great Cathedrals” which can be streamed at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/building-gothic-cathedrals.html .
Régine Le Jan is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne, and President of the Society of French Medievalists. Her expertise includes history of the early Middle Ages, social and political anthropology, and gender and kinship relations.
The study of the emotions is a new approach to understanding medieval society. In this talk, Professor Le Jan argues that love and hate are both aspects of the same emotional response, determining all relationships both Christian and secular. Whereas hate seems to be the primary emotion of confrontive, secular society, love—related to God and Peace—becomes a Christian ideal and, at least from the Carolingian period on, is a major factor in directing the flow of wealth towards the Church.
Professor Calvin Normore (Philosophy, UCLA): Descartes thought it obvious that God was too good to be a deceiver. Marin Mersenne knew better. Mersenne points to a number of scholastic thinkers who taught that God could deceive. Yet even Mersenne did not know the whole story; at least one medieval theologian of consequence, Robert Holkot, taught that God should, and likely did, deceive. Holkot was writing against a background of worry about how divine omniscience could be reconciled with freedom of the will and in a context in which scepticism was very much alive. This talk explores some of those issues.
In the 14th-century Tale of Vǫlsi, a family of pagan holdouts in Northern Norway finds a remarkable use for the most sensitive part of a newly-slaughtered farm horse. Elsewhere in the Old Icelandic canon, Óðinn upcycles the severed head of Mímir, creating a prophet-in-a-box for his personal use. Some believe the Tale of Vǫlsi preserves reliable information about Norse paganism. Others doubt that the author knew anything of pre-Conversion practices and have dismissed the story as a late Christian fantasy designed for maximum gross-out effect. However, its parallels to Óðinn’s use of the head of Mímir have not been much explored, and its links to later Icelandic folklore have not been satisfactorily analyzed. This lecture by Professor Merrill Kaplan (English, Ohio State University) attempts to make sense of it all. Co-sponsored by the UCLA Scandinavian Section and the UCLA Department of English.
This is the first presentation of the EMEL Sinai Palimpsests Project to the public-at-large. St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai holds 125 known palimpsests, the layers of which preserve erased ancient and medieval texts in nine languages of the Christian Orient. The palimpsests of Sinai are a unique and largely unexplored source for ancient texts from the many Mediterranean peoples who visited the site beginning in the 4th century. Through spectral imaging technologies, it is possible to recover these erased texts. Claudia Rapp (UCLA) and Michael Phelps (Early Manuscript Electronic Library, EMEL), on behalf of the Monastery, are about to begin a five-year project to capture digital images and to prepare them for online publication, accompanied by an electronic catalog. Co-sponsored with the UCLA Department of History.
CANCELED The Black Legend of Spanish history was made famous by Bartolomé de las Casas’s Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552). Less well known are the achievements of writings devoted to the study of nature, such as Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo’s De la natural hystoria de las Indias (1526). Applauded and translated in Europe at the time, the works of Oviedo and others take us beyond Spain’s Black Legend but, like the interpretations of the Spanish conquest, generated their own body of polemics, as CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholar Rolena Adorno (Rueben Post Halleck Professor of Spanish, and Chair of Spanish & Portuguese, Yale University) discusses in this lecture.
This assembly of 75 stories, for a long time thought of as a collection of novelle by Giovan Francesco Straparola, might better be described as a Renaissance miscellany of popular stories faithfully transcribed by agent Straparola. This is a controversial view. What is clear is that most of these stories, often recorded in the Piacevoli notti “Pleasant Nights” for the first time, became or remained well known folk tales down to the end of the nineteenth century. Who wrote them? How were they collected? Is Straparola the founder of the modern fairy tale? Is he the father of literary ethnography? Is Straparola even an author? These are some of the issues that arise in attempting to account for the origin and nature of this unique Renaissance story book, of interest to us, not only because it is a test case of humanist authorship in a new key, but because this is the most diversified, entertaining, and downright cheeky collection of tales from the era. It enjoyed 26 editions in the first 60 years, despite the Counter Reformation censor-ship that excised ten of his most offensive (best?) stories by 1608 and toned down many others. In this lecture, CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholar Donald Beecher (Carleton University, Ottawa) will discuss this unusual collection of tales.
Starting with an analysis of Nicolas Poussin’s “Landscape with Diogenes,” Professor Efraín Kristal (Comparative Literature, and Spanish & Portuguese, UCLA) will examine the French painter’s visual engagements with philosophical ideas.
Spinoza is a transitional figure in the history of ethics. He was one of the first thinkers to grapple seriously with the picture of man emerging from the scientific revolution; yet his ethics contained important traditional elements that are now, for the most part, quite alien to us. This mix of modern and medieval can give his Ethics a disappointingly eclectic feel. This talk by Professor John Carriero (Philosophy, UCLA) will try to sift the new from the old. By taking note of a broad intellectual framework that was current in Spinoza’s time, we can appreciate the extent to which he continued to operate in it and locate precisely where and why he departed from it. In this way, we can arrive at a more exact understanding of Spinoza’s originality.
The full schedule for the entire lecture series is available as a PDF for download (724 kb).