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Faculty Lecture Series: Chivalry and Alterity at the Renaissance Tournament

Thu, February 22nd, 2024
4:15 pm
- 5:30 pm

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In sixteenth-century Europe, princes and nobles donned costumes and masks to impersonate warriors and kings from foreign lands. During this age of European expansion, equestrian tournaments became an activity for imagining and experiencing human difference, both cultural and embodied. If early masked tournaments focused especially on the rivalry between Christians and Muslims, later ones also represented participants from the Americas, Africa, and South Asia, seeking eventually to evoke the entire world. At this moment of intensified global interaction, the tournament—a festivity of medieval origin at which the old military elite celebrated its martial values—proved a remarkably flexible medium for interpreting the newly expanded world. It also, inevitably, served to assert European superiority. By expressing their understanding of human difference through equestrian exercises and masquerades, princes and nobles not only asserted their claim to rule but also shaped early European ideas about the people of the world.

Alexander Bevilacqua is an Associate Professor of History. He received his Ph.D in History from Princeton in 2014, and spent three years at the Harvard Society of Fellows before joining Williams in 2017. His book The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment appeared in 2018. His research studies the cultural and intellectual consequences of European expansion in the first global era, ca. 1500-1800.

This talk is presented as part of the spring 2024 Faculty Lecture Series. The series was founded in 1911 by Catherine Mariotti Pratt, the spouse of a faculty member who wanted to “relieve the tedium of long New England winters with an opportunity to hear Williams professors talk about issues that really mattered to them.” From these humble and lighthearted beginnings, the Faculty Lecture Series has grown to become an important forum for tenured professors to share their latest research with the larger intellectual community of the college.

The Faculty Lecture Series is organized by the faculty members of the Lecture Committee. The aim of the series is to present big ideas beyond disciplinary boundaries.  All lectures will begin at 4:15 p.m. and will take place in the (new) Lawrence Hall Auditorium. Enter via the main WCMA entrance or through the Art Department corridor. All talks are free and open to the public and will be recorded for posting on Williams YouTube.

Upcoming in the Faculty Lecture Series 

  • Feb 29 – Sarah Olsen: “The Virgin’s Promise: Euripides’ Helen and the Tragedies of Women”
  • Mar 7 – Jose Constantine: “A Journey Through the Historical Impacts and Modern Challenges that Face Tropical River Ecosystems”
  • Mar 14 – Christophe Kone: “The House of Lagerfeld: Fashioning Homes for an Alternative German Homeland”
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