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Early Modern Interdisciplinary Graduate Forum VII

March 15, 2018 at 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


Ariella Minden (Art History)

Bernice Mittertreiner Neal (English)


Ariella Minden (Art History): “(Im)materiality and the Boundaries of Representation in Botticelli’s Drawing of Paradiso XXX” This paper explores the representation of the immaterial and incomprehensible in Dante’s Paradiso XXX and Sandro Botticelli’s illustration of the chapter. Through a close reading, I will consider why Botticelli made a conscious choice to break the geometrical perfection he uses to render the heavens in order to represent Dante-pilgrim’s encounter with pure light. Botticelli depicts precisely that which Dante describes: “a light in the form of a river shining with splendor, between two banks painted (dipinte) with wonderful spring.” (XXX.61-64) I will suggest that Botticelli draws upon memory devices used in spiritual meditations in order to represent a moment of transcendence and divine vision. This discussion will be framed by Aristotle’s assessment of sense-reception in Book II of De Amima where memory is an impression on the mind analogous to the impression made upon wax by a gold-signet ring. In using Aristotle’s writings and Thomas Aquinas’s subsequent commentary, I intend to show how Dante-poet and Botticelli both use images already encountered in the Terrestrial Paradise, embedded in the memory, to show how Dante-pilgrim processes that which he sees when his corporeal sight is no longer sufficient. Through this examination of Paradiso XXX, I hope to demonstrate how Botticelli solves a representational problem by drawing upon both visual and spiritual conventions, and how these conventions were used as a narrative device to make vivid the culmination of Dante-pilgrim’s journey for the late Quattrocento viewer.

Bernice Mittertreiner Neal (English): “Stage Props Take Their Places: Testing a Methodology.” This paper argues that any play features a unique property strategy, one that intervenes critically into the authority of the characters/actors who employ them. It examines such strategies in three early modern plays: The Tragedie of Dido, Queen of Carthage, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Arden of Faversham, by creating a series of property charts to trace when, where, and with whom the props appear onstage in each play. Studies by Frances Teague, Andrew Sofer, and Douglas Bruster have examined how individual early modern props may “speak” in a particular play or across plays. With these studies in mind, my paper will offer a distant reading of how props signify collectively in a play, testing an innovative critical approach to the early modern props’ ability to perform and exercise authority in Elizabethan and Jacobean playhouses.


The Early Modern Interdisciplinary Graduate Forum (EMIGF) is a monthly event hosted by the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) at the University of Toronto. EMIGF is a platform for PhD candidates, post-docs, fellows, and recent graduates to deliver papers in an informal setting. Our mandate is to provide junior and emerging scholars with the opportunity to present work in progress, and to facilitate dialogue on current topics in early modern research across the disciplines.

EMIGF hosts seven annual meetings. Each meeting features two speakers who each deliver a paper, and commentary and discussion guided by a moderator to elaborate the points of contact or departure between the two approaches presented. The EMIGF is an interdisciplinary forum. Each meeting brings two speakers from different departments working on similar topics, or on topics that may seem at first dissimilar. The emphasis of discussion is on connections between different fields, topics and research methods and how one perspective may inform or be informed by another.

EMIGF held its inaugural season in 2011-2012, initiated by former CRRS graduate fellow Tim Harrison. Now in its fifth consecutive year, EMIGF meetings are well attended by graduate students, faculty, and fellows from the early modern community at the University of Toronto and beyond. Please consider joining us at the next meeting!

Our monthly meetings are held Thursday afternoons (4:00-5:30 pm), and are located in the Victoria University Common Room of Burwash Hall (89 Charles St. West). To demonstrate its dedication to early modern graduate research in Toronto, the CRRS supplies coffee and snacks for each meeting. Contact organizer, Leslie Wexler with any questions at:


March 15, 2018
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Victoria University Common Room (Rear Entrance Burwash Hall)
89 Charles Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5S1K7 Canada
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