Over the last one hundred years, many of the events and personalities of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have been brought, via a variety of visual mediums, before home, cinema, exhibition, festival and theatrical audiences. These representations are not only important because reproduced in large numbers but because they are the main sources of information about how the early modern period is interpreted and re-interpreted in the popular consciousness. Concentrating on all types of filmic and performative examples, and posing questions about the constructedness of images of the Renaissance and the circulation of dominant visual signatures, this network will build upon existing research to investigate the corpus of hybrid realizations of the years between 1500 and 1660.
Crucial to the network is a dialogic series of interdisciplinary and cross-cultural encounters. Firstly, the events will place in productive relation to each other a series of disciplinary encounters, for example, between film and theatrical performance; between work on heritage cinema and television and studies of Renaissance literature and society. Secondly, the network will integrate a trajectory of British representations with their non-British equivalents. Directing attention to foreign language filmic and theatrical work means that local national concerns (for example, French and English theatre traditions of staging the St Bartholomew Day Massacre and the Civil War respectively) can be assessed via a pan-European sense of cultural and historical interchange. The involvement of practice-based teams and individuals is a third vital dimension. By including practitioners – producers, writers and performers – the network will facilitate reflections upon concepts and execution, commissioning realities and aesthetic aspirations, making material paradigms available and allowing for points of connection that cannot readily be assumed. Integral here is a consideration of documentary and popular formats: the aim is to create an opportunity for rethinking the divide currently obtaining between television history and creative film and performance. This perspective will be fully integrated within one of our major threads, that is, how the Renaissance is inflected and transformed according to the needs of different constituencies. The question is of particular relevance to the fourth interdisciplinary component, which, involving curators, heritage officers and museum studies specialists, focuses upon the means whereby the Renaissance is communicated in museum installations, in exhibition practice and in re-enactment ‘experiences’. The ways in which such practices are indebted to, and influence, television and film interpretation will be explored, while the issue of what is distinctive in national terms opens up the issue of more local manifestations (such as the work of the ‘Ulster’ museum consortium).
Accessing the Renaissance in this fashion generates a genuine sense of the modalities of historical representation, of what the Renaissance ‘means’ and of how its meanings have been negotiated in modernity. In this regard, a final interdisciplinary strand involving historians tests current theorisations about the discipline’s rhetorical and figurative expressions.