On April 16-17, 2018, the Center for Italian Studies and the Italian Studies Section of the Romance Languages Department will host "Strategies of Authority in Medieval and Renaissance Europe." The conference aims to investigate, from trans-national and interdisciplinary perspectives, different uses and applications of the principle of authority in Europe, from Dante to Galileo. The principle of authority is usually considered by scholars as a stumbling block in intellectual history, the target against which trailblazing writers, scientists, artists and philosophers needed to address their efforts. In reality, as this conference aims to demonstrate, in the early modern period the principle of authority was often re-shaped in order to provide support precisely to those who opposed it; it could intertwine with another crucial issue, authorship. Finally, the principle of authority could also help to empower narratives both for cultural and political purposes, e.g. through forgeries or their denunciation. Over the centuries under consideration in our conference, the principle of authority was continously revised, also because the humanistic turn dramatically enlarged the number of authorities to make appeal to, extending a pantheon until then limited to very few names (namely Aristotle and Cicero).
Some of the key questions our conference asks are: Which forms could the principle of authority take in different time and contexts? How does the principle of authority serve to shape our understanding both of the past and of readings of the present? When does the appeal to the principle of authority became a mere rhetorical game? How does the principle of authority interact with the notion of authorship?