Sexualities, Textualities, Art and Music in Early Modern Italy

University College Cork, 18-19 May, 2007

Thanks to the work of scholars of civil and canon law, we now have a fairly nuanced understanding of the complexities of the legal codes governing sexual behaviour in early modern Italy. This international, interdisciplinary conference will explore the integration of sexualities with other aspects of early modern life and the role of writing, art and music in fashioning, circulating and even policing early modern Italian sexualities.

Female-male erotic relations are ubiquitous in early modern literature, arts and music—the delicious suffering of the Petrarchan lover is set to exquisite music throughout the period, and the more prosaic suffering of non-Petrarchan lovers is likewise a topic for song, comedy and poetry. Male-male erotic relations are alluded to in literature, song and art, and have had some scholarly attention, but, Pietro Aretino’s licentious works notwithstanding, female-female erotic practices and desires appear to be less commonly depicted. Some historians and literary scholars have discerned positive language for male-male activities and relationships in poetry and literature (for example, the erotic language of male friendship) or in art (e.g. the figure of Ganymede); in contrast, female-female practices and desire seem a particularly underexplored aspect of early modern Italy. The integration of eroticism with spirituality is likewise frequently alluded to yet poorly understood. Papers explore the circumstances surrounding the use of alternative images for diverse sexual practices, the relationship between eroticism, sexuality and social status, and the integration of sexualities and/or eroticism into facets of early modern Italian life.

Keynote Speaker: Suzanne Cusick (New York University)

Current confirmed participants include Catherine Baxter (Cambridge University), Bonnie Blackburn (Wolfson College, Oxford), Christophe Brouard, Donna Cardamone (University of Minnesota), Linda Carroll (Tulane University), Elizabeth Cohen (York University, Canada), Laura Giannetti (University of Miami), Julia Hairston (University of California, Rome Study Centre), Paula Higgins (Nottingham University), Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Catherine Lawless (University of Limerick), Covadonga López de Prado Nistal, Katherine McIver (University of Alabama, Birmingham), Laura Macy (Editor, Grove Dictionaries of Music), Melanie Marshall (University College Cork), Flavio Rurale, Guido Ruggiero (University of Miami), and Laurie Stras (University of Southampton). The soprano Deborah Roberts (Musica Secreta) will perform an evening concert with Siobhán Armstrong (early harp) and Ian Sexton (chamber organ).

For further information, please contact Melanie Marshall (

Last updated 18 April 2007. Page maintained by Melanie L. Marshall with help from Han-earl Park. The views expressed here are my own, and not those of University College Cork.