Making Short Verse Collections
Strasbourg (France), 18-19 November 2022
Organised by Université de Strasbourg and University College London
Confirmed keynote speakers:
Michelle O’Callaghan (University of Reading)
Michael Bath (University of Strathclyde / University of Glasgow)
Recent studies have described early modern England as an age of miscellanies. Miscellaneity applies to all sorts of textual collections, but short verse in particular seems to invite gathering for reasons of size and possibly because of the need not to waste paper. It therefore tends to accrete and constitute longer units both in manuscript and print. It is on this process of accretion, its limits, its contexts, its reasons and its effects, that this conference will focus, considering whether the notion of short verse does indeed make sense in that context, and if the collected short poem must be seen as the very embodiment of what could be called a miscellaneous Renaissance.
The renewal of interest in lyric miscellanies, in particular, has allowed new hypotheses to emerge about the distinctly historical and social processes of obtaining, choosing and gathering together short poems. They have stressed the need not only to understand the networks and social environments (the coteries, the court, the Inns of Court, the household or the business networks) in which such operations were conducted, but also to identify the respective roles of a wide array of agents including authors, translators, printers, booksellers, readers, and patrons in compiling, building, and framing collections, and their purposes in doing so. The interactions between different genres or forms of poem have also been pointed out (e.g. lyrics and verse libels).
More form-oriented studies have insisted on the textual, peritextual and paratextual devices used to organise the poems and suggest connections or continuities between them. Unity is an effect of reading that can only be achieved when those devices have the potential to shape the reading process. This applies to overall framing devices as well as to patterns that produce groupings or binding effects, connecting the poems (or some of them) within collections: such phenomena as coronas, rhyme-links from one poem to the next, the repetition of topoi, linking motifs as well as intertextual references etc. Such structuring devices sometimes tend to be transferred from microstructures (structuring effects at the level of the poem) to macrostructures (the structuring of the collection), and vice versa.
This conference will further pursue these investigations of short verse collections written in the British Isles in the early modern period by considering not just lyrics, but also other short-verse genres and forms such as epigrams, emblems and verse libels etc.