Saying Goodbye in the Renaissance: Meditations on Leavetaking
Jane Tylus is Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Italian and Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University. She has also taught at NYU, where she was Founding Faculty Director of the Center for the Humanities, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Recent books include Siena, City of Secrets (2015), the co-edited Cultures of Early Modern Translation (with Karen Newman, 2015), a translation of the poetry of Gaspara Stampa (2010), and Reclaiming Catherine of Siena (2009), winner of the Howard Marraro Prize for Outstanding Work in Italian Studies from the MLA. She has been General Editor for I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance since 2013. She is a socio corrispondente (honorary member) of the Accademia degli Intronati, Siena.
How did people take leave of others in medieval and early modern Europe - as well as of their works, and of their lives? And how did they fashion friendships and communities that sought to extend the unfinished business of the dead into the future? This book project has its origins in late antiquity and moves through the formative period of the thirteenth century - the ‘invention’ of Purgatory and the creation of a new community linking the living and the dead - to the seventeenth century, with the Reformation’s dismantling of this community and the institution of new norms guiding the afterlife. In particular this project seeks to contextualize leavetaking within the explicitly literary and artistic contexts of late medieval and early modern Europe. Jerome, Dante, Michelangelo, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Milton, and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz emerge as figures who struggled with endings and memorializing the dead in various forms, and whose different faiths produced radically different kinds of finished - and unfinished - works. In exploring the transformative potential of the goodbye, it also considers earlier precedents in literary and religious texts for scenes of departure, along with more recent discussions from theologians, theorists, and therapists about grieving, transitions, and letting go.