Early Modern Exchanges


CfP: Understanding and approaching scriptural poetry: exploring Protestant Latin verse c. 1550-1620

13 April 2023

This two-day symposium, 27th- 28th June at UCL, will be dedicated to exploring the wealth of influential Protestant Latin verse, focusing particularly on the early period of c.1550-1620. Proposals for short papers and presentations on this topic are welcome.

Theodorus Beza [Théodore de Bèze], Psalmorum Davidis et aliorum prophetarum

Barbara Lewalski’s work on Protestant poetics and the English lyric shaped a field of study in English literature, and set out the particular significance of scripture to Protestant vernacular poetry. In common with most subsequent studies in this field, however, Lewalski’s book does not consider the wealth of Latin poetry of the period. More generally, despite the acknowledged importance of scripture to poetry of this period, the relationship between scripture, religious practice more generally (including liturgy and knowledge of scriptural languages) and poetry remains a relatively neglected and “unfashionable” aspect of early modern poetics. This aspect of early modern literature is often perceived as particularly alien, obscure or “difficult” to teach or to expound accessibly in criticism.

This event will bring together scholars with a particular interest in Protestant Latin poetry to discuss this neglected literature. In addition, the event will explore relevant parallels which may help us to understand this poetry, including vernacular scriptural poetry of any period (including today) and any faith tradition; religious or scriptural poetry written in conversation with a scriptural language; and religious or scriptural poetry produced in any ‘international’ language. The event will include a panel discussion with poets writing scriptural verse in English today, and the reading of some newly-commissioned poems.

We invite proposals for papers of around 30 minutes. Possible topics might include:

  • the work of an individual early Latin Protestant poet, or the study of a collection of such poetry, whether in print or manuscript
  • the role of scriptural paraphrase
  • the role of translation and the study of scriptural languages
  • the relationship between Latin and vernacular poetry of this type
  • papers exploring parallels in other languages and periods, and/or relating to other faith traditions and scriptural or liturgical language, including modern and contemporary examples

If you are interested in presenting at this symposium, please send a title, 500 word abstract and a summary of your wider research, teaching or literary interests (as relevant) to Dr Victoria Moul (v.moul@ucl.ac.uk) by the 15 May 2023.

The event will be informal in tone and collaborative in nature, with relatively few presentations and plenty of time for discussion. Those participating will be expected to pre-circulate their paper to facilitate discussion, and (whether speaking themselves or not) to be ready to engage with a variety of approaches and perspectives.

Travel and overnight accommodation costs (within limits) will be reimbursed for confirmed speakers who do not have access to institutional funds for these expenses. In addition, three modest travel bursaries are available for early career scholars (graduate students or recent graduate students) who wish to participate in the symposium, even if they do not apply to present. If you are an early career scholar who does not wish to present, but you are interested in attending the symposium and would like to be considered for a travel bursary, please email Dr Moul giving an outline of your research and how attendance would contribute to it.

Developed versions of some or all of the presentations may be published in due course in an edited volume, combining scholarly and creative responses to the topic.

This event is supported by the British Academy, as part of a Mid-Career Fellowship.

Image credit: Theodorus Beza [Théodore de Bèze], Psalmorum Davidis et aliorum prophetarum, libri quinque (London: Thomae Vautroullerij & impensis Herculis Francisci, 1580), pp.4-5 (Psalm 2). By permission of the Masters and Fellows of St John’s College Cambridge.