UT Symposium Explores Medieval, Renaissance Culture

KNOXVILLE — A two-day symposium focusing on medieval and Renaissance culture will feature free performances and lectures open to the public.

The University of Tennessee’s third annual MARCO (Medieval and Renaissance Curriculum and Outreach Project) Symposium will be held on February 26 and 27. This year’s theme is “Spectacle and Public Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.”

The University of Tennessee’s third annual MARCO Symposium February 26 and 27.

“It’s a theme that allows us to explore a broad cross-section of topics,” said Dr. Robert Bast, associate professor of history and director of the MARCO project. “Popular culture, public culture and elite culture all come together around these rituals of performance. In the pre-Internet, pre-printing press age, public spectacle played a key role in shaping public opinion.”

A symposium highlight will be the performances of a Toronto acting troupe specializing in medieval and Renaissance drama. Poculi Ludique Societas (“the cup and game society”) has toured Canada, the United States and Europe for the past 30 years with their repertoire of carefully researched productions.

The troupe will present “Antichrist,” a play from the medieval Chester Cycle, and “Old Wive’s Tale,” an Elizabethan folk drama. Bast said both pieces will appeal to modern audiences.

“They resonate with popular culture,” he said. “These plays are such visual pieces. They are flashy and full of vibrancy and life.”

“Antichrist” will be presented at 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 26, and “Old Wive’s Tale” at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 27. Both performances will take place in the James R. Cox Auditorium of the newly renovated Alumni Memorial building.

A roster of six distinguished professors from universities across the U.S. and Canada will make presentations on a variety of topics, including “Performing the Middle Ages: What Do We Think We’re Doing?” and “Mapping King Lear’s Britain.” A complete schedule of symposium events can be found at http://web.utk.edu/~marco/.

MARCO, created in 2001, draws together scholars from a wide range of university departments including history, English, art history, modern foreign languages, classics, music, religious studies and political science. The project creates and implements a variety of collaborative interdisciplinary programs and projects for students, faculty members, local schools and the international scholarly community.

A recent $3 million challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will build on MARCO’s success to create a permanent interdisciplinary MARCO Institute for Medieval and Renaissance studies at the University of Tennessee.

“It will be the largest and most ambitious such institute in the Southeast,” Bast said. “The combined resources of 30 faculty members in eight different departments and a superb library collection will allow us to strengthen our graduate program and undergraduate course offerings, to provide continuing education for local high school and middle school teachers, and to continue to bring high profile scholars and performance groups to the UT campus.”