Déborah Blocker (University of California, Berkeley)
Fellow in Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"
June – July 2021
Discussing Poetry and Aesthetics in Late Renaissance Florence: the Accademia degli Alterati at work in BMLF Ashburnham 560 and 561
This digital research project focuses on two volumes of manuscript materials produced within the Accademia degli Alterati (Florence, 1569 — circa 1625), both currently held at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence (BLMF Ashburnham, 560 and 561). These volumes preserve the traces of a set of academic activities designated as “censure”. These practices consisted in the production of anonymous poems by the academicians, which were then contradictorily evaluated by two “censors” appointed by the regent of the academy. Some of these poems were edited in haste, others were discussed in depth, in writing and orally, before being submitted to the judgment of the academy. The volumes therefore allow for the exploration not only of how their members drafted and corrected poems, but also of how they discussed the art of poetry and conceptualized a number of wider aesthetic notions and debates among themselves. They also make possible the detailed study of how these Florentine academicians interacted with one another, within their academic community, in the context of these censure.
The project aims to produce a digital scholarly edition of BLMF Ashburnham, 560 and 561. This digital edition will contextualize these materials so as to make them available for the study of early modern aesthetical discourses and practices. The site will provide a full digital transcription of the text of the volumes (currently being prepared by Dr. Veronica Vestri) and complete color reproductions of the manuscripts (which the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana has authorized). Additional contextual information will also be made available in hyperlinks to facilitate the analysis of the materials, including digital images and further transcriptions from other manuscript volumes produced within the Alterati. These materials will be accompanied by essays situating the Alterati’s practices of “censure” within history of early modern poetics and aesthetics. Indices of names, institutional practices and vocabulary, formulations and concepts mobilized will also be provided.
Déborah Blocker is Professor of French and affiliated faculty in Italian Studies at UC Berkeley. She was the Florence J. Gould Fellowship at the Villa I Tatti, in 2010-2011, a visiting professor at the EHESS in Paris in the spring of 2014, and a visiting senior research fellow at the Sonderforschungsbereichs 980 in Berlin in the spring of 2019.
Déborah Blocker’s research centers on the social and political history of aesthetic practices and discourses in early modern France and Italy. Her research relies heavily on the history of the book, as well as on manuscript studies. Her first book (Instituer un ‘art’: politiques du théâtre dans la France du premier XVIIe siècle, Paris, Champion, 2009) examined the social and political processes through which early modern French theater was instituted into an “art” (1630-1660). Her second book studies the social and political circumstances in which new conceptions of “art” emerged in the academic culture of late Renaissance Florence, through an in-depth archival study of the Accademia degli Alterati (1569-ca. 1625). It is due to appear with Les Belles Lettres in Paris as Le Principe de plaisir: savoirs, esthétique et politique dans la Florence des Médicis (XVIe-XVIIe siècles).
Déborah Blocker’s has recently begun to develop a comparative investigation into the uses and conceptualizations of the “arts” within two major aristocratic lineages of the Mediterranean, the Montmorency of France and the Strozzi of Florence and Rome (1550-1700). In the spring of 2022, she will pursue her research on this project at the École Française de Rome, as senior resident researcher.