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Hiding behind Antiquity: Self-Censorship in Renaissance Prose and Poetry, Public Lecture by Farkas Gabor Kiss (ELTE, BTK)

The CEU Campus
Wednesday, March 6, 2019, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Authors as editors might intervene in the fate of their own works at several levels. They might readdress them to a new public, rewrite the text of their works, or paraphrase the contents to another readership. In this talk, however, I will discuss one of the most drastic interventions that authors may implement to their own work – self-censoring. I call it drastic, because - unlike many other forms of authorial and/or editorial revisions – it calls into question the integrity and truthfulness of the original message that the work was supposed to transmit. It might take several forms: after the first publication, it might appear in the form of later revisions, thus obliterating the compromising facts, or revolutionary ideas that were contained in the earlier editions of the work. Also, authors might rescind what was once their direct objective in the form of retractations or palinodes, which show a change in the author’s views, be it literary, political, social or theological. I will argue that perhaps the most important tool of self-censorship in the Renaissance was hiding behind the imitation of ancients. This authorial strategy was most often expressed through literary hints and double-entendres. By the early sixteenth century, hiding one’s true opinion became a self-confessed ideological program and behavioral pattern of many humanists. For them, it was exactly the ancient roots of this strategy that made it acceptable and worthy of imitation not only as a tool of self-preservation and survival, but also as an deliberately chosen intellectual way of life

Farkas Gábor Kiss (PhD Budapest, 2006) is a specialist on Latin and Hungarian literature in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance in East and Central Europe. He has taught at Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies at the University of Innsbruck, and is currently the head of the Department of Medieval and Renaissance Hungarian literature at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the imitation of Classical and Renaissance epic poetry in 17th c. Hungary, and the subject of his ’habilitation’ was the rhetorical culture in the Latin literature of Hungary around 1500. His interests include Central European humanism (Johannes Sambucus), the history of reading, the relationship between the vernaculars and Latin, and late medieval art of memory. Currently, he is the head of the ’Humanism in East Central Europe’ research group, a 5-year research project funded by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His main project at present is the 'Companion to Humanism in Hungary', an in-depth study of texts and transmissions of humanist authors from Hungary in the period 1420-1620, resulting in a ’Verfasserlexikon’ for this region, to be published by De Gruyter in 2020.