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Dates: Friday 17th - Saturday 18th May 2013

Venue: Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, Cannaregio, Venice

Keynote speakers: Adriana Chemello (Padua) and Fabio Finotti (Penn)


Please address any enquiries about the conference to Katrin Wehling-Giorgi k dot wehling-giorgi at warwick dot ac dot uk.

This two-day international conference in Venice will focus on the development, beginning in the late eighteenth-century, of what may be considered a modern Italian audience: readers and spectators who, as an albeit diverse group, collectively reflected the modernizing effects of the social, historical, economic, and technological transformations taking place in Italy during this period.

The late eighteenth and the nineteenth century in Italy marked a period of great advancement not only in the production but also consumption of culture. This advancement was anything but uniform and universal, with patterns of production, circulation, and readership of texts showing particular features related to gender, social class, reading practices, and specific local characteristics. Nonetheless, with educational reforms, nascent urbanization, and a relatively wider social mobility, more Italians gained access to both the idea and the inchoate reality of a national cultural life, resulting in the rise of the professional writer as well as in the development of new literary genres or forms of entertainment, and of a more stratified public of readers and spectators. Journalists, publishers, and more generally, writers began paying special attention to their audiences, who could determine the success or failure of their cultural enterprises. Such attention assumed particular relevance in the late nineteenth century with the construction of a national culture, aspiring to reach an audience distributed throughout the entire country and even abroad.

Conference speakers from Italy, the UK, and other European countries, and from the USA and Canada, Australia, and Russia will adopt perspectives from a wide range of disciplines (history, sociology, theatre and performance studies, literary and cultural studies) upon issues which include:

  • The relationship between production and consumption of culture; in what ways did genre develop in relation to readership/spectatorship?
  • The creation of a national, diversified public of readers and spectators through journalism, theatre and fiction.
  • The circulation of texts: were they bought or borrowed; read aloud or silently; read in private or socially?
  • The relationship between specialized and general readerships.Factors determining the rise of the figures of the professional writer, critic, and publisher.
  • The popularization of science through reading, and the growth of self-help books.
  • The visibility of differences of gender, age, class, and region in the identification of real or imagined readerships and audiences.
  • National debates on what constituted a modern public: how was a sense of a national society constructed, adapted, or challenged through readership/spectatorship?
  • Relationships between publishers and readers as revealed through letters to the editor/publisher (in periodicals), book prefaces by publishers, etc.
  • The overlap between classical and popular theatre: how did writers and spectators construct notions of differentiated audiences, or not?
  • The development of a particular audience for opera in this period, in relation to other audiences and readerships.
  • Male and female actors and singers, and the mode of reproduction of their fame.
  • The role of emotions in the production, circulation, and response to literary and theatrical texts in this period.
This conference is generously supported by the HRC (Humanities Research Centre, Warwick), the Charles and Joan Alberto Italian Studies Institute (Seton Hall University), the 'Connecting Cultures' GRP, Warwick, the Department of Italian, Warwick, and the Society for Italian Studies.


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