Panel report – ‘The Economics of Encomia’ @ RSA 2015, Berlin

From 25-28th March 2015, Berlin was the scene of the biggest annual meeting the Renaissance Society of America has witnessed in its entire history. The considerable increase in neo-Latin sessions once again proved the attractiveness of this young and rising discipline.

On Friday 27th, our panel ‘The Economics of Encomia‘ took place. We are happy that the panel, which attracted the attention of approximately 20 scholars, was very successful in introducing an international audience to the approach of ‘Economics of Poetry’. In addition, several scholars have shown great interest to contribute from their field of studies to the section ‘Economists of Poetry’, where you should find additional articles in the following weeks.

The session was chaired by Keith Sidwell (University of Calgary), who did a wonderful job in guiding through the papers and the following discussion.

keith-bernhard(Keith Sidwell, introducing Bernhard Schirg)

In the panel’s first paper, Bernhard Schirg (Freie Universität, Berlin) introduced to Pietro Lazzaroni’s ‘Economics of Poetry’. In a case study of the Carmen ad Alexandrum VI dedicated to pope Alexander VI in 1497, he demonstrated several of the techniques this author applied to finish a copy of dedication of more than 2100 verses in a few weeks; fast enough to serve as a present in Sforza diplomacy.

Due to an accident on his way to Wednesday’s reception in the Bode-Museum, Paul Gwynne (The American University of Rome) unfortunately had to leave this year’s meeting earlier. We are very happy that Paul is on the way to recovery. Despite his condition, he had agreed to record his paper on video before he left Berlin, which allowed us to keep the announced sequence of papers (you can watch parts of this video here).

paul(Keith Sidwell (left), tackling the imprevisto of Paul Gwynne)

In the panel’s second paper, Paul presented how the works of the neo-Latin poet Giovanni Michele Nagonio reflect the rapidly changing interests of Borgia diplomacy. Illustrating the ‘economics of poetry’ this author applied when serving the Pope, Paul demonstrated that this poet relied on a highly adaptive epic plot that with little a metric juggling could quickly accommodate any dedicatee.

After two papers comparing the works of single authors, in the session’s third paper Florian Schaffenrath (now the director of The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies) introduced to the highly prolific genre of neo-Latin epic poetry around 1500. Presenting dedications from the works of Giovanni Battista Spagnoli, Paolo Pompilio, Giovanni Battista Cantalicio and others, he pointed to strategies these poets applied when approaching their dedicatees.

florian(Florian Schaffenrath introducing to the ‘Sitz im Leben’ of neo-Latin epic poetry)

As the session’s correspondent, Nikolaus Thurn (Freie Universität, Berlin) drew an alternative picture by exploring the ‘Economics of Poetry’ of Florentine humanist Ugolino Verino. He illustrated how Ugolino made passages from previous works part of his monumental Carlias, and how he also drew upon this slow-growing project to come up with ready-made passages for works dedicated on different occasions. He made an important point by distinguishing this author’s working conditions from the cases of professional encomiasts such as Lazzaroni and Nagonio: Also an ongoing project of an epic poem, which in Ugolino’s case was neither finished in time for a suitable occasion nor commissioned by a patron, could play an important role in both the humanist’s self-fashioning and his gain in prestige; factors which could already pay off before the epic was dedicated by being assigned tutor of students from illustrous families like the Medici.

The panel’s organisers would like to thank all those who attended the panel and participated in a vivid and inspiring discussion, and all the scholars who contributed to making this panel a success!

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