Call for Papers

Images and words in exile. Avignon and Italy in the first half of the 14th century (1310-1352)

International Conference – Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

Florence and Avignon, 7 – 11 April 2011

Scientific Coordination: Elisa Brilli, Laura Fenelli, Gerhard Wolf (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut)

At the start of the fourteenth century, far-reaching political events rapidly changed the set-up of the Mediterranean basin and together distorted the ‘Ordo universalis’ through which the material and symbolic space of ‘Christianitas’ had, for centuries, been understood.

While the ‘topos’ of the Avignon papacy, or “Babylonian Captivity”, progressively took hold and Rome was increasingly portrayed as the new abandoned Jerusalem, the court of Avignon offered the opportunity for a political, cultural and artistic experimentation. The increasing use of the political tool of banishment, the proliferation of accusations of heresy, the bitterly contested ‘quaestio de paupertate’ and, from a mystic-theological perspective, the ‘quaestio de visione beatifica’, are ones of the ways in which the new Christianity attempted, on different scales, to redefine its identity though exclusion practices.

On a different level, self-exclusion, pursued or accepted, is a rediscovered path for self-affirmation. We need only think about, to give two examples, the new forms of eremitism and Dante’s ‘Commedia’, according to some the first modern work of the ‘Exilliteratur’ for the role accorded to the state of exile in constructing the figure of its author.

Exile, a mental image that has always been linked to the period of Avignon papacy, is the lens through which this interdisciplinary Conference aims to interpret the first half of the 14th century, from Henry VII’s imperial expedition which came to an unexpected end with his death at the gate of Siena, the moment when the irreversible nature of the Papal Curia’s transfer to France (1309-1313) became clear, up until the end of the papacy of Clement VI (1352).

Among the desired research axes are:

• An analysis of the literary and artistic representations and practices of judicial-political exile; the “ban” and relative rituals; defamatory painting, etc; literary and artistic representations and practices and exile understood as expulsion from Christian society (excommunication, censorship, inquisition, changes in the treatment of magical objects).

• An analysis of the ways and of the artistic representation of forms of self-exile and self-exclusion from society: ‘quaestio de paupertate’, mysticism, monasticism and new forms of hermetism, semi-heretical trends.

• An analysis of changes in the representation of exile as a worldly “pilgrimage” and the relationship between the worldly life as a place of exile and the hereafter: funerary art and liturgy, representation of the hereafter, ‘quaestio de visione beatifica’.

• The semantic history of the term exile in Latin and in the Romance languages between the 13th and 14th centuries.

• Mythography of the Avignon exile and, likewise, Roman mythography in fourteenth-century texts and images.

• An analysis of changes in the cultural customs and representations of mobility, both of objects, artistic products and streams of thought as well as individuals and social and ethnic groups.

• Theoretical reflections on the paradox of representations of the state of exile as a place/non-place.

Preference will be given to proposals that, for each problematic axis mentioned or others that are put forward, examine the specificity of the historical phase taken into consideration. We shall also welcome papers enlivened by a two-fold examination, both inside and out, of the Avignon context.

The conference will take place in two distinct locations, in Florence and in Avignon. The organization will take care of the transfer from one location to another. When presenting their applications, candidates are kindly asked to state their availability to participate in both parts of the conference.

Proposals (max 2500 characters) together with a CV (max 3 pages), should be sent by the 10th of November 2010 to the following email addresses: and