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Street Singers and Emotions in Early Modern Italy

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

Date: Thursday 17 April 2014
Time: 1-3pm
Venue: Rogers Room, Woolley Building, The University of Sydney
Enquires: craig.lyons@sydney.edu.au

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Speakers:
Dr Massimo Rospocher, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Italian Studies, University of Leeds and CHE Early Career International Research Fellow

‘Murder Ballads and Songs of War: Street Singers and Emotions in Early Modern Italy’
Street singers were familiar figures on the piazzas of early modern Italian cities, among the most important providers of information and entertainment to urban publics. 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 Renaissance Italy. Focusing on two specific genres performed and sold by street singers – murder ballads and songs of war – this paper explores how these itinerant figures played on the emotions of their audiences to engage them with
current events and ultimately to sell their pamphlets.

Dr Rosa Salzberg, Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance History, Department of History, University of Warwick

‘Pity, Patience or Protest?: Singing About Poverty in Renaissance Italy’
Throughout the Renaissance, there was a long tradition of popular street performance concerning wealth and poverty. Sometimes the singer lamented his own poverty; sometimes he voiced the plight of the lower classes in general. In the sixteenth century, in the face of terrible dearth and economic decline, a number of such works were printed in cheap pamphlets, sometimes commissioned by the performer himself to sell after his show to the public assembled in the piazza or street. This paper examines how such ideas were expressed in oral and printed forms by looking at a number of popular works from this period that commented on or complained about the growing social inequality of Italian society, the careless prodigality of the rich and the suffering of the poor. It asks to what degree popular performers broadcast a direct critique of wealth and luxury and how this engaged with elite discourses on the subject.