Self-commentary in Early Modern European Literature

Event Date: 
26 Feb 2016 to 27 Feb 2016


Writers the world over have often accompanied their texts with a variety of annotations, marginal glosses, rubrications, and explicatory or narrative prose in an effort to direct and control the reception of their own works. Such self-exegetical devices do not merely serve as an external apparatus but effectively interact with the primary text by introducing a distinctive meta-literary dimension which, in turn, reveals complex dynamics affecting the very notions of authorship and readership. In the Renaissance, self-commentaries enjoyed unprecedented diffusion and found expression in a multiplicity of forms, which appear to be closely linked to momentous processes such as the legitimation of vernacular languages across Europe, the construction of a literary canon, the making of the modern author as we know it, and the self-representation of modern individual identities.

The conference, hosted by the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Durham University ( is aimed specificallyat bringing together both established scholars and earlycareer researchers working on diverse Renaissance literary traditions (including Neo-Latin and Slavonic languages), and promoting cross-cultural dialogue.

A number of fundamental questions will be addressed, including:

  • How do authorial commentaries mimic standard commentaries?
  • If commentaries ordinarily aim to facilitate textual comprehension and bridge the gap between a text and its readership, in what ways can this be true of self-commentaries as well? What further motivations and strategies are at work?
  •  How do writers of the Renaissance position themselves in respect of the classical tradition?
  •  How do they progressively depart from the medieval scholastic practice of glossing texts?
  • How do self-commentaries interact with the primary text and contribute to its reception?

Thanks to the sponsorship of the Society for Renaissance Studies (SRS), a limited number of bursaries (contribution towards travel/accommodation) will be available for postgraduate and early career researchers.  A full programme is available by clicking the link below.

Submission date for papers: 
15 Oct 2015