Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

TRRC Lecture: Mary Watt – “Shipwrecks, Islands, Magic and Marvel: Renaissance Responses to the New World Project”

February 2, 2015 at 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The Toronto Renaissance and Reformation Colloquium welcomes Mary Watt (Univ. of Florida) on 2 February 2015. She will be offering a talk entitled “Shipwrecks, Islands, Magic and Marvel: Renaissance Responses to the New World Project”.



Exploring the impact of contact with America on Renaissance writers, the talk explores how this newly discovered paradise, figured as a garden of earthly delights, provided an opportunity to imagine starting over and healing the wounds of Eden in order to create both a new life and a better world.



News of Columbus’s arrival in the West Indies engendered a substantial and almost immediate cultural response in Renaissance Europe. In terms of literature, the cataclysmic impact of contact with America is evident not only in the large number of “Columbus epics” produced in the 16th and 17th centuries, but also in the works of writers such as Rabelais, Shakespeare, Ariosto, Cervantes and Tasso.

Although the “New World” is not the explicit focus of The Tempest or Orlando Furioso, for example, it is nonetheless discernible in the figure of the island, an untouched paradise in which magic and marvels abound. At the same time, the journey to this garden of delights, fraught as it is with peril (most often shipwrecks), is evocative of the journey to what Columbus called an “other world” where the “old world” is given the opportunity to start over and heal the wounds of Eden.

The Renaissance response to the New World Project and the Age of Discovery is, therefore, both forward and backward looking. Informed by a cultural nostalgia for a prelapsarian past and by an intellectual fascination with antiquity, many Renaissance works suggest that this brave new world is intimately linked to an even older world. Concomitantly, this return to the past not only permits the “old man” to experience the cradle of mankind in its virgin state but also urges him forward to create both a new life and a better world.


Mary Watt is Associate Professor of Italian and Chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Florida. Her areas of specialization include medieval and Early Modern Italian literature. Her current book project, Prophecies of Paradise focuses on the literary and cultural influences that informed the Age of Discovery and literary responses to the New World project.


February 2, 2015
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category: