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Playing to the Crowd: Street Singers and the Manipulation of Emotions in Early Modern Italy

bannerLuca Carlevarijs, Performers in piazza San Marco, retail, 1702. Bilbioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice.

Date: Monday 14 April, 2014
Time: 6.15pm
Venue: E Seminar Rm 205, Old Arts, The University of Melbourne
Speaker: Dr Massimo Rospocher (Leeds)

Street singers (cantastorie) were familiar figures on the piazzas of early
modern Italian cities, among the most important providers of information
and entertainment to urban publics. Experts in drawing in an audience and
leaving them begging for more, they exploited the powers of voice and
gesture, and of evocative music. From the late fifteenth century they
found a new source of earning in their relations with the nascent printing
industry, beginning to publish and sell cheap pamphlets of their
compositions. On the faultlines between orality and print, between
performance and text, singers of tales are key to understanding the fears,
anxieties, interests and desires of ordinary people in early modern Italy. This paper explores how these figures played on the emotions of their audiences to engage them with current events and ultimately to sell their pamphlets. I will analyse the emotive techniques of the cantastorie and consider how their performances were experienced from the point of view of the crowd.

Dr Massimo Rospocher is an Early Career International Research Fellow at
the Melbourne node of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence
for the History of Emotions.