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Lecture by Professor Margaret McGowan

Festival Books: their status, purpose, and value

Introduction and text: Margaret M. McGowan
A talk originally given at the British Library


The following talk, which will be read by Dr Margaret Shewring, was given by Professor Margaret M McGowan CBE FBA on the occasion of the formal launch of the British Library Renaissance Festivals website.

This audio version of Professor McGowan’s talk is introduced by me, Professor Ronnie Mulryne, co-director of the research project which resulted in the creation of the site.

Professor McGowan, Research Professor of French in the University of Sussex, is a distinguished Renaissance and Early Modern scholar whose numerous publications include Montaigne’s Deceits (1974), Ideal Forms in the Age of Ronsard (1985) and The Vision of Rome in Late Renaissance France (2000).  Her close interest and pioneering scholarship in Dance Research has led to books such as L’Art du Ballet de Cour en France (1963), The Court Ballet of Louis XIII (1989) and most recently Dance in the Renaissance: European Fashion, French Obsession (2008).

Professor Mc Gowan’s talk uses the British Library’s digitised resource to explore the contribution Festivals made to the development of the arts in Early Modern Europe.  She shows how setting them in their social and political contexts offers the possibility of studying the festivals’ chief performers, patrons and audience.  She also shows how the festivals’ use of a common language of symbolism reveals their creators’ hopes and intentions, demonstrates the evolution of their taste and modes of thought, and exposes the texts’ limitations as authentic accounts of what actually happened.  Professor McGowan foocuses on examples from France to illustrate the major trends.

The talk is accompanied by thirty eight illustrations.  Clicking on the thumbnails in the text of the talk will allow you to view enlarged images.  Alternatively, the enlarged images can be seen by accessing the Gallery page relevant to the talk and clicking on the appropriate image.  During Dr Shewring’s reading of this audio version I shall briefly refer to the content of each image as the talk reaches the relevant point.  You may like to pause the recording while you look in detail at each of the images.  A full listing of the images and their sources at the British Library will be found in the written version of this talk.

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(with on-screen transcript and images)

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(with notes)

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