The opportunity to be a Visiting Research Fellow, at the University of Warwick from April 22 to June 15, 2013, came at an ideal time in my career. Having just submitted my PhD dissertation to my committee for review, I arrived in the UK with the hope of working on Cristoforo Landino’s Commento sopra la commedia, a project I had begun for the 2012 Read Publics seminar held at Warwick the previous year. And I was able to do so. These eight weeks provided critical time and resources. I was able not only to use the library at the University of Warwick, but also the Bodleian Library of Oxford University. I was also able to consult with Simon Gilson, Maude Vanhaelen, David Lines, Ingrid de Smet, Lorenzo Pericolo, and Paul Botley. But what came as a surprise, is not that I was able to have some time and space to work on a different project from that which had been occupying my attention for the previous two years, but how my time at Warwick, that is, my time in an environment at once welcoming, friendly, innovative, rigorous, and prospective, enabled me to step away from my work to see how my two projects were related.
While at Warwick, I was able to attend a number of seminars and workshops: Dario Brancato gave a public lecture on 'Ideologizing History and Reading Publics in Benedetto Varchi's Storia Fiorentina'. Ingrid De Smet generously sponsored an Early Careers Lunch. The department of Classics and Ancient History sponsors a Visual and Material Culture Reading Group, which focuses on different methodologies for the interpretation of visual and material culture. I was able to attend one of these meetings, where we discussed John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and how Berger’s quirky book could serve as a model for our own research. Eugenio Refini and Maude Vanhaelen organized “The Struggle of Creation: Rethinking Michelangelo’s Poetry.” And Italian Studies invited Anna Pegoretti to speak on 'Franciscan Textual Culture in Dante's Florence: some preliminary thoughts', that is, on a portion of the on-going collaborative project between the Universities of Leeds and Warwick on Dante and Late Medieval Florence: Theology in Poetry, Practice and Society.
Of course, one could profit from the attendance of any one of these, or the many other, seminars, workshops, and lectures constantly being sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Renaissance. But what I found was that such an inventive and creative environment was the ideal environment for stepping back from my work and considering its significance in a larger context.
Thanks to my time at Warwick, I have begun to think about Dante and the Sacred, Encyclopedic Poem, as tracing the development of a neglected, Platonic literary and critical tradition, and showing that Dante knew and engaged with this tradition. The project can be thought of as turning on four hinges: Macrobius, Bernard Silvestris, Dante, and Landino. The completed project will follow the arc of the development of an idea of the sacred, encyclopedic poem from antiquity to the Renaissance and show how, with Landino, the Commedia becomes what the Aeneid was for the Latin Middle Ages, and Homer had been for the Greek Neoplatonists.
My time at Warwick was crucial for helping me think about my project in this larger context, as well as how the peculiar perspective of Renaissance Studies opens up new angles for considering the significance of my work.
Christ Church Meadow, Oxford
Bodleian Library, Oxford