Peace and War: Representations in European Art and Literature

A UWA Institute of Advanced Studies and Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies Lecture Series

The three lectures in this series, offered by UWA academics associated with the UWA Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, focus on representations of war and peace in European art and literature. Collectively, they will examine the contexts and reception of cultural and political practices of war and peace in the medieval and early modern era from the perspectives of emotions history, medievalism, and gender studies. In this way, the series stands to challenge conventional interpretations of European life in wartime from the sixteenth- to the nineteenth century.

Triumphant Entries during the Italian Wars 1494-1559: celebrating alliances and displaying cultural prowess in the face of unsteady peace

Elizabeth Reid, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UWA

5 June, 6pm | Woolnough Lecture Theatre, Geology Building UWA

Between 1494 and 1559 two major European powers, the French Valois and the Austro-Spanish Habsburg fought a series of wars in a competitive bid to expand their territory into the Italian Peninsula. This period was characterised by ever-shifting allegiances, conspiracies, battles, and peace treaties. Major military victories or new alliances forged, and sealed by marriage, often occasioned a kind of ‘victory-lap’ whereby the triumphant ruler or his bride-prize entered allied territory and were treated to carefully orchestrated festivities. Artists, composers, poets and performers utilised gendered allegories to honour the entering party and to communicate the rich cultural identity of the city itself. Entries were just one level at which the politics of peace played on culturally engrained ideas of masculine strength juxtaposed with feminine vulnerability. This talk will contextualise and discuss key entries in light of this gendered framework. It is supported by a new ARC research project that aims to reconsider the events and cultural output of the Italian Wars through the lens of gender.

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Previous lectures in this series 

Love in Times of War: war wives and widows in Shakespeare 

Bob White, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, UWA

The subject of war in Elizabethan literature, and Shakespeare’s plays in particular, has attracted sustained attention from a variety of perspectives. However, it is usually treated in the light of military manuals as a technical subject, which is ‘men’s work’, and the question is rarely raised--what happens to love relationships in times of war? In discussions of the comedies the existence of war is either ignored altogether or diminished to the level of ‘background noise’ even though there is a war in almost every comedy, if only a trade war in The Comedy of Errors and a diplomatic war in Love’s Labour’ Lost. In tragedies the loss of love is generally seen as part of the male protagonist’s lonely fate rather than a set of emotional tragedies in which conflict is internalised destructively within relationships, and there are female casualties not often considered in terms of their own loss—Desdemona, Cordelia, Ophelia, Lavinia, Lady Macduff, and others. In history plays, war is kept firmly in the foreground, and love is analysed only in terms of providing moments of apparently insignificant contrast. However, with the renewed critical interest in emotions, the nexus drawn in Shakespeare’s plays between war and love, and the consequences of war on love relationships emerges as a subject inviting closer attention. It is the subject of this talk.

This lecture was not recorded.

Youth in Wartime: medievalist fictions for Victorian children.

Andrew Lynch, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, UWA

The middle ages acquired a higher cultural prestige in nineteenth-century ideas of English national heritage. Literature exemplifying the spirit of medieval ‘chivalry’ was called on to offer behavioural models to Victorian children, yet there was also a widespread critique of medieval war as marred by mercenary motives, atrocities and civilian suffering. Consciousness of the perceived violence and religious ‘superstition’ of the medieval past in general helped shape writers’ narrative and ideological strategies. With the Middle Ages commonly seen as the childhood of the present, their works focussed a larger debate about war’s place in the course of national history and the development of the English character. The talk will be illustrated by contrasting examples of medievalist fictions about youth growing to maturity in wartime, including Charlotte M. Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood (1855), Charles Kingsley, Hereward the Wake (1866) and Robert Louis Stevenson, The Black Arrow (1888).

This lecture was not recorded.