Religious Lives: Catholic Culture in the Early Modern World, Friday 18–Saturday 19 May 2012

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St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford
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Written, spoken, painted, or performed, the life stories of Catholic men and women – particularly members of religious orders – dominated the culture of early modern Catholicism. This conference will address the growing body of scholarship devoted to understanding biographies and auto-biographies as they appeared in various forms within religious communities and Catholic society at large. These include institutional chronicles, canonization documents, festive decorations,images and pictorial cycles, and musical pieces, in addition to auto/biographical texts and spiritual testimonies – to name only a few. Many such narratives remained amongst a small audience, whilst others crossed national boundaries and were introduced in new, altered or translated forms. The conference will explore how life narratives were presented, interpreted and used to express confessional viewpoints and the corporate identities of religious orders. We seek to bring scholars from the disciplines of literature, history,theology, art history and music into conversation about the forms and functions of religious life stories in Asian, African, European and new world contexts.

The conference will include a period performance of Giovanni Lorenzo Lulier's biographical oratorio 'S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi' by Oxford Baroque. The oratorio premiered at the Palazzo Pamphili, Rome in 1687. This piece will be placed in its historical context, opening discussion on the modes and purposes of articulating Catholic lives.

For further details of the conference and oratorio, and to reserve a place, please visit our website:

Call for papers:

We would particularly like to encourage papers from graduates in the areas of art history and music and/or focusing on Asia or the new world. Papers addressing British, Irish or Continental subjects or from the disciplines of history, literature, and theology are also most welcome. Graduate bursaries are available thanks to the Society of Renaissance Studies. Please email proposals of no more than 300 words to by 10 April 2012.

- What, if anything, was distinctive to the genres of biography and auto-biography in the post-Reformation period?

- How hagiographical were representations of religious lives?

-How collaborative was the process of constructing a life?

-To what extent were auto/biographical lives imitative of lives in the same medium or other media?

- In what ways were accounts of lives put to polemical uses?

- How were the identities of religious orders and their members
expressed in or influenced by accounts of exemplary lives?

- How were life stories transmitted across national lines and how were they read/consumed/witnessed within different contexts?

With the generous support of the Society for Renaissance Studies