Departmental Research Seminar 2016-2017

Lauren Surovi

A Sublime Virtù: Translating History, Power, and the Human in Machiavelli’s Principe 

The concept of princely virtù is fundamental to Niccolò Machiavelli’s thought and plays a crucial role in understanding his seminal political work, Il Principe (1513). Yet Machiavelli uses the term in a variety of ways throughout the text, establishing many shades of meaning; I argue that this semantic ambiguity is intentional and as such, expands the borders around what it meant to be human, and more specifically, to be a prince, in Renaissance Italy. I will discuss Machiavelli’s multifaceted use of virtù and explore its connection to human limitations as a way to reveal the historical factors and socio-political power structures that governed the Italian peninsula in the early 16th century. 

Eric Wistrom

“Border States of Luminary Allegory and (Counter-)Exemplarity in Théophile de Viau’s Theophilus in carcere”.

Théophile de Viau’s 1624 apologetic text is an exception to the poet’s other prison writings from 1623 to 1625, with the text’s network of multi-voiced protreptic discourses seeking to influence the readership’s understanding of the (in)compatibility of early 17th-century libertine ideology with the post-1563 Catholic dogmatic tradition.  I will begin with an analysis of Théophile’s initial luminary allegory orienting the text’s underlying discursive structure, before continuing with Aristotle’s Protrepticus as a lens by which I hope to elucidate de Viau’s manipulation of (counter-)exemplary analogy across multiple modalities of personality.


Ullrich Langer

Meanings of the Ephemeral (Petrarch, Noir Désir, Ronsard)

The ephemeral is a common notion in lyric and elegiac poetry, deriving from biblical and classical sources.  I will show how it is given an entirely new meaning in Petrarch’s first mourning sonnet, in Noir Désir’s “Le vent nous portera,” and in Ronsard’s ultra-famous “Mignonne, allons voir…”



This year we will introduce one slight change: papers will be limited to 15 minutes, to leave us a little more time for discussion.

We would like invite you to present your work – especially advanced graduate students (e.g., dissertators, or students presenting a paper at a conference during the year) and academic staff and faculty.  English, French and Italian are all acceptable as languages for the talks.  Please contact us as soon as possible, so that we can reserve you a spot, even if you do not have an exact title yet.  Ideally we would like to have a mix Italian-French and graduate student-faculty presenters for each session.

This year, the graduate student organizers will be Lauren Surovi and Caitlin Schaer (, and I will continue to oversee the faculty side of things.  Please contact any one of us.