RSA 2016 Panel: Of Mongrels and Masterpieces: Hybridity in the Renaissance Due 06/01/15

full name / name of organization: 
Claire Sommers/the Graduate Center, CUNY
contact email: 

We are seeking papers that explore the various aspects of hybridity that characterized Renaissance culture. Theorists have been engaging with the concept of "hybridity" from antiquity to the present and the connotation of the term continues to evolve. In antiquity, mythological creatures such as centaurs and satyrs symbolized bestiality, improper unions, and false perceptions; in Ars Poetica, Horace cautions the poet against the creation of hybrids. Conversely, modern scholarship has begun to appreciate the value and unique innovation inherent to hybridity; Mikhail Bakhtin uses the word hybrid to denote an intersection of genres and languages that breeds original literary forms, while more recently, postcolonial theory terms as hybrid the literature that emerges when a native civilization interacts with an imperialist nation. Poised between these two poles, the Renaissance is uniquely positioned to engage with both perceptions of hybridity; hybridity's ability to engender new possibilities comes with the potential to enrich or contaminate the cultural tradition. In his "Defense of Poetry," Phillip Sidney warns against "mongrel" genres that mix the tragic and the comic, while later in the same essay, he lauds the creation of hybrids such as the chimera, claiming it as the special privilege of the poet. Renaissance literature distinguishes itself by displaying a greater awareness of its own place with respect to its ancient predecessors and within its contemporary global context. We will demonstrate that the often contradictory attitudes that Renaissance literature held toward its own hybridity were reflections of the broader cultural, historical, and political negotiations that were occurring during this time period. Possible approaches include:

• Cross-cultural and Cross-temporal exchanges
• Mythological Creatures
• Utilization of Classical literatures
• Interplay of genres
• Linguistic exchanges
• Religious conflicts

Ultimately, we will consider how the hybridity of Renaissance literature simultaneously shows an awareness of its own multi-faceted nature and an uncertainty as to its implications.

Please send 150 word abstract and 300 word CV by June 1st.