Proposing an original and important re-conceptualization of Italian Renaissance drama, Kristin Phillips-Court here explores how the intertextuality of major works of Italian dramatic literature is not only poetic but also figurative. She argues that not only did the painterly gaze, so prevalent in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century devotional art, portraiture, and visual allegory, inform humanistic theories, practices and themes, it also led prominent Italian intellectuals to write visually evocative works of dramatic literature whose topical plots and structures provide only a fraction of their cultural significance.
Through a combination of interpretive literary criticism, art historical analysis and cultural and intellectual historiography, Phillips-Court offers detailed readings of individual plays juxtaposed with specific developments and achievements in the realm of painting. Revealing more than historical connections between artists and poets such as Tasso and Giorgione, Mantegna and Trissino, Michelangelo and Caro, or Bruno and Caravaggio, the author locates the history of Renaissance art and drama securely within the history of ideas. She provides us with a story about the emergence and eventual disintegration of Italian Renaissance drama as a rigorously philosophical and empirical form.
Considering rhetorical, philosophical, ethical, religious, political-ideological, and aesthetic dimensions of each of the plays she treats, Kristin Phillips-Court draws our attention to the intermedial conversation between the theater and painting in a culture famously dominated by art. Her integrated analysis of visual and dramatic works brings to light how the lines and verses of the text reveal an ongoing dialogue with visual art that was far richer and more intellectually engaged than we might reconstruct from stage diagrams and painted backdrops.
Reviews: Prize: Winner of the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies, 2009, sponsored by the Modern Language Association
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'In her ambitious interdisciplinary study, The Perfect Genre, Kristin Phillips-Court explores the nexus between humanist literary practice and Renaissance visual culture in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries - the interlaced “intermedial” development of an anthropocentric ideology in conjunction with the emergence of perspectival visual representation. In so doing she offers a strikingly new and compelling perspective on Italian Renaissance theater, one which foregrounds the work of wide cultural synthesis and difficult experimentation which produced and is reflected in the five plays she analyzes.'
Albert Russell Ascoli, University of California, Berkeley, USA
'Kristin Phillips-Court has brought together five very different sixteenth-century Italian dramas, and she reveals an unexpected link among them. Placing them in dialogue with the visual arts, particularly Cinquecento painting, she shows that her five authors were attuned to visual art, but not simply at the level of imagery. At stake here are the shared premises and structures of the two arts. This is innovative interdisciplinary work, and it offers a new lens on this material.'
Anne Dunlop, Tulane University, USA
'Considering rhetorical, philosophical, religious, political, and aesthetic dimensions of each play it treats, The Perfect Genre. Drama and Painting in Renaissance Italy draws our attention to the intermedial conversation between theater and painting in a culture famously dominated by art. Phillips-Court’s range of pictorial and literary reference is confident and inspired. Original, elegant, and often gripping in its arguments, this book exposes the "circle of knowledge" in which Renaissance theater and painting were reordering human experience, and shows how together these two forms of cultural production were defining certain aspects of the modern condition.'
Deanna Shemek, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
'… as the author maintains, this book is about ideas, but the discussion throughout is always anchored in the materiality of the written page and the painted canvas... likely to be an important fixture in iconographic theater studies, for which the University of Florence has distinguished itself over the years.' www.drammaturgia.it
'This conversazione between art and poetry is beautifully printed and illustrated… Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.' Choice
'… a sophisticated, productive handling of the intertwining worlds of drama and painting.' Times Literary Supplement
‘Phillips-Court’s book is an original interdisciplinary study which offers a new perspective on Renaissance culture. Reading is facilitated by English translations of all the original quotations, as well as by pertinent illustrations and copious notes. Complete with a rich bibliography, both in English and in Italian, this volume is a worthy addition to Renaissance scholarship.’ Modern Language Review
'Phillips-Court’s intertextual excavation into the nexus between drama and painting of Renaissance Italy is, however, a major contribution towards explaining the development of the genre of drama and its multiple cultural ramifications in early modern Italy.' Renaissance Quarterly
'The Perfect Genre is an ambitious contribution to the fields of interdisciplinary studies, Italian humanism, and the Renaissance… accomplishes the delicate task of shifting the focus to the link of art and theatre without discarding the mediating role of literature and philosophy. In this sense, it represents an homage to the exquisitely Renaissance concept of genio universale that imbued the discourse among the arts.' Sixteenth Century Journal