CfP: Nymphs in Renaissance Literature and Art - RSA 2015
Call for Papers: “Nymphs in Renaissance Literature and Art”
Renaissance Society of America, Berlin, 26-28 March 2015
Anita Traninger (Freie Universität Berlin)
Nymphs abound in Renaissance literature and art, but surprisingly, they have not been awarded a lot of critical attention. True, as inhabitants of Arcadia they regularly figure in interpretations of lyrical poetry as well as of texts and images pertaining to the bucolic tradition in general, but both the significance and the semiotics of nymphs in Renaissance thought have hardly ever been conceived as a research topic in its own right. The panel will thus enquire what precisely the concept of a nymph entails in the Renaissance, and participants will be invited to explore what the concept of a nymph denotes and connotes in various discourses. Taking into account the specific genderedness of the concept, we will also discuss how the mediality of image and text affects the representation of nymphs.
Students of Renaissance literature and art have turned to Antiquity and classical mythology in order to grasp the meaning of these elusive creatures that move so swiftly between the orders of nature and culture. Their origin, however, does not account for the manifold forms and functions they take on in the Renaissance: How can the aristocratic, sumptuously dressed virgins of the pastoral and the nude huntresses of the pictorial world be reconciled? Are there differences to be observed between certain genres? How does the vision of a nymph, freely roaming the forests and meadows, correspond to the early modern anthropology that so decidedly underwrites women’s public invisibility?
It is in particular Aby Warburg’s reflections on the ‘nympha’ as a (pagan) ‘goddess in exile’ that have informed later reflections on this figure. Yet as Ernst Gombrich shows most succinctly in his intellectual biography of Warburg, the fascination with the nympha was rooted just as much in an enthusiasm for the Renaissance (which Warburg later rejected) as in contemporary debates about female (reform) dress. Yet does the ‘pathetic’ function assigned to the nymph by Warburg and others around 1900 even figure in Renaissance thought? How can concepts as diverse and even contradictory such as sexuality, fertility, chastity, urbanity, but also cruelty and coldness be anchored in the notion of the nymph? And were they in the Renaissance? Is there one notion of the nymph that unifies them all? Or should we rather aim at mapping out the specific functions the empty signifier of a ‘nymph’ fulfills in various contexts and, above all, media?
Please send proposals including paper title; abstract (150-word maximum); keywords; and a brief curriculum vitae (300-word maximum) to firstname.lastname@example.org before May 31, 2014.
PD Dr Anita Traninger
Fellow of the Einstein Foundation
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Freie Universitaet Berlin
Habelschwerdter Allee 45
phone. +49 30 838-55006