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Text and Authority in the Early Modern Era

The Society for Early Modern Classical Reception (SEMCR) invites proposals for papers to be delivered at the 2023 meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in New Orleans, LA. For its eighth annual panel, SEMCR invites abstracts on the theme of text and authority in the early modern era.

While we often associate the Renaissance with the “rebirth of classical learning,” there are larger issues involved with the complete reconfiguration of textuality and authority during the period, particularly involving print technology and its impact on readerships, textual editing and commentary, translation, the legal regime of authorship, and new modalities of patronage. For this year’s panel, we are seeking contributions that shed light on the transformations of text and authority from a variety of points of view. A menu of questions to consider would include:

  • How are classical authors repurposed, reconfigured, and repackaged in the early modern era? What constellations of texts are seen to be “authoritative” in ways that would surprise us today? What claims to authority are made for ancient texts that appear to read them against the grain (cf. Kallendorf 2015, 2018, 2020; Wilson-Okamura 2010; Kraye 1995)?

  • How do early modern editions of classical texts seek to establish and assert greater textual authority? What are the consequences of the modern critical text taking precedence over the medieval manuscripts it is based upon? How well do we understand today the “modernity of our antiquity,” in the sense of the ancient archive visualized as a collection of printed editions? How might the digital age undo the textual regime created by early modernity (cf. Cerquiglini 1999, Dué and Ebbott 2019)?

  • By what means do the agents behind classical texts and editions—editors, commentators, critics, translators, members of accademie—buttress the classical author’s authority and/or their own? What is the relationship between claims to authority and the material interests of the marketplace?

  • For translators, how does the native authority of the vernacular literary and cultural tradition intersect with classical cultural and literary authority? Is translation always seen as “downshifting” Greek or Latin into the vernacular, or does the translator reveal the value and authority of the vernacular by “capturing” and domesticating the classical text (cf. Javitch 1981 and 1991; Cotugno 2007; Sgarbi 2016)?

  • How is textual authority shifted, expanded, or subverted in terms of gender in the early modern era? How does translation increase female readership, and thereby female agency, in the reception of classical works and the production of literature? How are text and authority transformed by the emergence of women as readers, writers, sponsors, and recipients of texts in dialogue with antiquity (cf. Vicente and Corteguera 2017; Behr 2022)?

  • How are texts “authorized” in a material sense, in terms of their privileges (copyright), editions and re-editions, particular formats, and/or the patronage inscribed in their dedications? What is the role of the “unauthorized” text by contrast (cf. Clegg 2014, Armstrong 2022)?

  • How do classical texts get caught up with the “powers that be,” in terms of royal, communal/civic, or papal power? How do classical texts reveal a conflict of authority with the Inquisition and censorship? How does deference to contemporary authority show up in translations of the classics, for example, in the presentation of Homer’s kings and queens (cf. Kahn 2014)?

  • How do paratexts frame, celebrate, enhance or even undermine the authority of the texts in question (cf. Paoli 2009)?

We are committed to creating a congenial and collaborative forum for the infusion of new ideas into classics, and hence welcome abstracts that are exploratory in nature as well as abstracts of latter-stage research. Above all, we aim to show how the field of early modern classical reception can bear on a wide range of literary and cultural study, and to dispel the notion of an intimidating barrier to entry.

Abstracts of no more than 400 words (excluding bibliography) and suitable for a 15-20 minute presentation should be sent as an email attachment to All persons who submit abstracts must be SCS members in good standing. The abstracts will be judged anonymously: please do not identify yourself in any way on the abstract page. Proposals must be received by the extended deadline of March 13, 2022.

Works Cited

Armstrong, Richard. (2022). “Assi de doctos como de indoctos: A Poet-Translator Discovers His Audience in the Spain of Philip II.” In Audience and Reception in the Early Modern Period, edited by John R. Decker and Mitzi Kirkland-Ives. Routledge. Pp. 223-251.

Behr, Francesca. (2022). “Female Audiences and Translations of the Classics in Early Modern Italy.” In Audience and Reception in the Early Modern Period, edited by John R. Decker and Mitzi Kirkland-Ives. Routledge. Pp. 252-275.

Cerquiglini, Bernard. (1999). In Praise of the Variant: A Critical History of Philology. Translated by B. Wing. John Hopkins UP.

Clegg, Cyndia Susan. (2014). “The Authority and Subversiveness of Print in Early-Modern Europe.” In The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book, edited by Leslie Howsam. Cambridge UP. Pp. 125-142.

Cotugno, Alessio. (2007). “Le Metamorfosi di Ovidio ‘ridotte’ in ottava rima da Giovanni Andrea dell’Anguillara: tradizione e fortuna editoriale di un best-seller cinquecentesco.” Atti dell’Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere, ed Arti. 165 (2006-2007): 461-542.

Dué, Casey and Mary Ebbott. (2019). “The Homer Multitext within the history of access to Homeric epic.” In Monica Berti (ed.), Digital Classical Philology: Ancient Greek and Latin in the Digital Revolution. Berlin. Pp. 239–256.

Javitch, Daniel. (1991). Proclaiming a Classic: The Canonization of Orlando Furioso. Princeton, Princeton UP.

Javitch, Daniel. (1981). “The Influence of the Orlando Furioso on Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Italian.” The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 11 (1981): 1-21.

Kahn, Victoria. (2014). The Future of an Illusion: Political Theology and Early Modern Texts. U Chicago P.

Kallendorf, Craig. (2020). Printing Virgil: The Transformation of the Classics in the Renaissance. Brill.

Kallendorf, Craig. (2018.) “Canon, Print, and the Virgilian Corpus.” Classical Receptions Journal 10.2: 149-169

Kallendorf, Craig. (2015.) The Protean Virgil: Material Form and the Reception of the Classics. Oxford UP.

Kraye, Jill. (1995). “The Printing History of Aristotle in the Fifteenth Century: A Bibliographical Approach to Renaissance Philosophy.” Renaissance Studies 9.2: 189-211.

Paoli, Marco. (2009.) La dedica: storia di una strategia editoriale (Italia secoli XVI-XIX). Fazzi.

Sgarbi, Marco. (2016.) “Aristotle and the People: Vernacular Philosophy in Renaissance Italy.” Renaissance and Reformation 39.3:59-109.

Vicente, Marta and Luis Corteguera. (2017). Women, Texts, and Authority in the Early Modern Spanish World. Taylor & Francis.

Wilson-Okamura, David Scott. (2010.) Virgil in the Renaissance. Cambridge UP.