A symposium is defined as a conference to discuss a particular topic, but the secondary definition is “a collection of essays or papers on a particular subject by a number of contributors.” On Saturday June 29, our eight presenters shared their knowledge with us via papers, slideshows, and explanation. I posted the abstracts a few weeks ago, so here are just a few highlights and images from that day.
After I welcomed everyone to our beautiful venue at the Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli, I also shared a few images from last year’s Casanova-inspired exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Our moderator Professor Bruno Capaci opened with his remarks in Italian, with translations from his colleague Tatiana Korneeva. He attended the last Casanovist gathering in 1998 in Venice and pointed out that this one is the first return of C to Venice, as well as a coming together of both the old and new scholars, plus the scholars from the US and Europe. In the 1960s, he pointed out, Casanova was not yet a prestigious subject to study, though this changed once the archives at Dux were made available.
Jean-Christophe Igalens started the presentations with a topic that hit at the heart of our theme of Casanova in Place. In French, he explored the complicated relationship Casanova had with his birthplace, of both wanting to return to his home city but also feeling that nostalgia brought him no solace. His presentation was followed by Mladen Kozul speaking in English about the importance of the casin to C’s affair with the nun MM; this meeting space furthered the love affair and expanded it to include MM’s and C’s other lovers.
Following a coffee break, where we enjoyed Venetian pastries, we returned to hear from Stefano Feroci who shared in Italian his thoughts about Casanova’s time in Tuscany, where the difficult life of an adventurer and the onset of aging led C into some difficulties both physical and emotional. Cyril Francès, also in French, spoke as well about C’s difficulties in returning to Venice, in wanting to return after exile but also feeling that Venice was somehow unappreciative of his presence.
We passed through a sort of secret passage way to the restaurant next door where we were served large portions of lasagna, pasta with pesto, chicken, and salad. This break also gave us the opportunity to discuss and digest the papers we had heard that morning. Coffee sped us on our way back for more presentations, all in English, first from Tom Vitelli, who spoke about “dark matter” in C’s writings–what Casanova doesn’t tell us, and what that reveals about him. In counterpoint, Nicola Vinovrški revealed the ways that Casanova fit the modern definition of celebrity or well-knowness, before this concept had really been established. They each took some questions at this point, with conversations continuing outside in the cloister during our break.
Finally we came to the final two papers. Malina Stefanovska used an innovative voice, presenting her paper as a letter to Giacomo, where she asked him questions about his emotions upon leaving people and places during his life. Our closer was Gregory Dowling, with slides that accompanied his presentation on fictional representations of C’s life, including authors Michelle Lovric and Barbara Lynn-Davis who were in the audience. This was the perfect segue to the following day, where our authors would discuss writing about Casanova.
You might think that listening to eight papers would be enough for all of us that day, but no, we happily wandered off to find dinner, splitting into groups this night based on which language people wanted to speak. I was with an English speaking group that dined on the Zattere facing the water, at Terrazza dei Nobili. Gregory Dowling was with us and introduced us to the restaurant’s owner, a fellow professor at Ca’ Foscari. As cruise ships trundled by, the piano player played songs from Titanic. Dinner lasted nearly four hours–clearly was couldn’t get enough of conversation and each other’s company.
(All photos by RJ Wofford except for dinner photos by waiters.)
Since first posting this, I’ve also learned that it was reposted, in French, at Le Petit Casanoviste. Merci!