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PCMRS Annual PG Workshop Report by Rocco Di Dio

Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Postgraduate Workshop and Roundtable at the Monash University Prato Centre


On the 8th December 2015, I participated in the annual meeting organised by Monash University at the Monash University Prato Centre, in the magnificent Palazzo Vaj. During the workshop, I had a chance to present on aspects of my research and to meet postgraduate students and young scholars from across the Prato Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The workshop displayed a range of fascinating case studies. Four of the papers focused on female sites of devotion in Medieval and Renaissance Umbria and Tuscany, exploring this topic from different perspectives and points of view. My Warwick colleague Ovanes Akopyan delivered a paper on controversies on astrology in Renaissance Italy, with special emphasis on Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. Finally, the last paper of the session focussed on sixteenth-century persecution of Jews in Italy.

My paper, which was entitled ʽMarsilio Ficino and his Symposium Commentary. New Manuscript Evidence’, focused on a set of hitherto unstudied texts that Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) collected in one of his extant zibaldoni (working notebooks) and presumably used as a textual basis for the composition of one of his major works, the Commentarium in Convivium De Amore (1469). Special emphasis was placed on a section containing Latin excerpts from Plotinus's Enneads. The analysis of these texts, which I transcribed, identified and reconstructed, offers further evidence of Ficino's long-time relationship with the Enneads and provides insight into Ficino's reuse of Plotinus's philosophy. By analysing these texts, I investigated specific facets of Ficino’s reading and excerpting practices, which shed light on his methodology as well as on his philosophical outlook. More specifically, the analysis of Ficino's manuscript provides further insight into the study of the genesis of his Symposium Commentary.

The paper was appreciated and I received useful and constructive feedback about my work from my peers and from established academics. A couple of days after the workshop, I also received an email from a fourth-year undergraduate student from Monash University, who wanted to ask a question that he did not get a chance to ask me at the workshop. The student, who is considering working on Giovanni Rucellai’s Zibaldone Quaresimale as a potential topic for his honours thesis, told me that he was intrigued by my paper, particularly my approach to Ficino's work through his working notebooks. I was glad to hear that my paper was appreciated and stimulated interest in a younger student and I was happy to provide him with the bibliographical information that he needed.

As part of the workshop programme, I also participated in a session entitled ʽChallenges for the early modern academic historian’. During the session, which was run by Jonathan Davies, we discussed problems and issues concerning academic research, with particular focus on archival research. Furthermore, after the workshop, I had a chance to spend the afternoon with the other speakers and to start to develop a network through the exchanging of contact details and the promise to meet in the near future at conferences and other academic events.

I am glad to have been given the opportunity to participate, for the second time in my doctoral studies, in this postgraduate workshop. As Peter Howard, Director of the Monash Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, remarked in his opening address, ‘it is in postgraduate research that interesting perspectives can truly come to the fore, thus developing new approaches and avenues of enquiry’. Finally, I truly believe that the ties that I have forged with the other Consortium members will be the starting point for future collaborations and productive intellectual exchanges.