Ray Smith Symposium continues ‘Sex and Power’ theme with visits by Baroque musicologist, Medieval historian
The Ray Smith Symposium in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences continues its yearlong examination of “Sex and Power from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment” with mini-residencies by two eminent scholars.
Wendy Heller, professor of music and director of Italian studies at Princeton University, will present a keynote lecture titled “Maenads, Mayhem and the Mystique of the Feminine in Italian Baroque Opera” on Thursday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Heroy Geology Laboratory. The following day, she will participate in a Ray Smith-HC Mini-Seminar from 9:30-11:30 a.m. (with breakfast served at 9 a.m.) in the SU Humanities Center Seminar Room (304) of the Tolley Humanities Building.
The conversation continues with John Kitchen, associate professor of history and classics at the University of Alberta, who will present a keynote lecture titled “Saints and Their Secrets” on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Kilian Room (500) of the Hall of Languages. Like Heller, he will participate the following day in a HC Mini-Seminar from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the SU Humanities Center Seminar Room.
All four events are free and open to the public; however, the seminars require registration. For more information about the keynote lectures, contact Cassidy Perrault in the college’s Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Programs at 315-443-1414. For more information about the HC Mini-Seminars, contact Karen Ortega in the SU Humanities Center at (315) 443-5708.
“We are pleased to bring Wendy Heller and John Kitchen to campus,” says Dympna Callaghan, symposium co-organizer and SU’s William Safire Professor of Modern Letters. “Professor Heller has made substantial contributions to the study of Venetian opera, particularly as it pertains to issues of gender. In turn, Professor Kitchen has attracted wide attention for his study of the gender approach to hagiographic literature of the early middle ages.”
A specialist in 17th- and 18th-century music, Heller is fluent in the works of Monteverdi, Handel and Cavalli, as well as in various interpretations of Venetian opera. Her research is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on issues of gender and sexuality, art history and the classical tradition. She is the recipient of numerous honors, awards and fellowships, and has guest-taught at the Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Heller’s publications include “Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice” (University of California Press, 2004), which earned a book prize from the Society for Early Modern Women and was a finalist for the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society. She is also a professional singer whose interests include women and music, Jewish music, performance studies and opera.
Kitchen’s research interests span hagiography, the cult of the saints and medieval intellectual history, along with methods and theories involving the study of medieval Christianity. His book “Saints’ Lives and the Rhetoric of Gender: Male and Female in Merovingian Hagiography” (Oxford University Press, 1998) examines the lives of male and female saints—by authors of both sexes—from sixth-century France. By questioning the assumption that male authors were ignorant of or hostile toward certain female concerns, Kitchen forces the reader to reconsider roles that gender played in hagiographic literature of that period.
This year’s Ray Smith Symposium is organized and presented by the Renaissance and Medieval Studies Working Group, composed of interdisciplinary scholars from across campus. Callaghan has taken a leadership role in the planning.
“We are calling into question modern conceptions of gender by historicizing sexual roles and practices in Europe from the fifth to 18th centuries,” she says. “Already, the effects of ‘Sex and Power’ have reverberated throughout the academy, giving rise to interdisciplinary conversations about queer-related curriculum, pedagogy and research.”
“Sex and Power” is enabled by a bequest from the estate of Ray W. Smith ’21. Additional support for this year’s programming comes from the Office of the Chancellor; the departments of art and music histories; English; history; languages, literatures and linguistics; women’s and gender studies; the LGBT Studies Program; and the SU Humanities Center, which sponsors the mini- seminars.
This winter, “Sex and Power” partners with Syracuse University Library for an exhibition titled “The Power and the Piety: The World of Medieval and Renaissance Europe.” The exhibition showcases a variety of rare books and manuscripts, including illuminated prayer books decorated in gold leaf, a page from the Gutenberg Bible and an antiphonal Elephant Folio, from the Special Collections Research Center. For more information, contact Sean Quimby, librarian and director of the SCRC, at 315-443-9759.
The Ray Smith Symposium is named for the Auburn, N.Y., native who, after graduating from SU in 1921, was a highly respected teacher and administrator.