Early Modern Exchanges


Ovid's Heroides & Early Modern Literary Tradition / Division of Linguistic Labour in Communal Italy

20 February 2019, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm

Ovid's Heroides and the Early Modern Literary Tradition / The Division of Linguistic Labour in Communal Italy

Join us for two fascinating talks by Ambra Anelotti (Royal Holloway) and Marco Spreafico (The Warburg Institute) which will be focusing on literature and language in Medieval and Early Modern Italy. Full details are below and will be followed by a short Q&A and some nibbles and drinks. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Early Modern Exchanges


IAS Forum
G17 South Wing, Wilkins Building
UCL, Gower St
United Kingdom

Ovid’s Heroides and the Early Modern Italian Literary Tradition
Ambra Anelotti, Royal Holloway

If the Metamorphoses’ influence on Renaissance culture can hardly be underestimated, the Heroides’ presence is no less pervasive. In fact, more editions of Ovid’s Heroides were printed in the sixteenth century than of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This paper will give an overview of the multifarious and sometimes covert presence of Ovid’s epistolary collection in the Italian literary culture, particularly in the sixteenth century. As a popular work characterised by an epistolary form, that is, dialogical, and by female characters voicing their individual perspective, the Heroides crucially influenced the development of a vast array of literary genres, and especially the fashioning of female characters and perspectives. This paper will discuss the way various authors and works have engaged with the Heroides: it will consider the interpretation of Ovid’s work by readers, commentators and (re)writers, which resulted in the establishment of a traditional reading of the classical text. The aim is to show how Ovid’s classic provided a unique way to engage with the Italian literary tradition as well as how the appropriation of the Ovidian model implied an act of revision.

The Division of Linguistic Labour in Communal Italy
Marco Spreafico, The Warburg Institute

In my PhD dissertation, I have attempted to provide an account of how historical actors identified, interpreted and rationalised linguistic variation in Italy, between roughly 1200 and 1450. In particular, I analysed the contemporary perception of the shifting relationship between Latin and the vernaculars in light of two significant events in the social history of language: on the one hand, the collapse of the medieval system of functional compartmentalisation of Latin and vernaculars, which is usually referred to as diglossia; on the other hand, the process of formation of national languages known as standardisation. In this presentation, I will discuss the practical and methodological difficulties I encountered, the strategies I devised to overcome them and the lessons for future research which I believe can be drawn from my experiences. I shall focus, as an illustration, on the language situation of late thirteenth century Florence.