May 25th: Ellen MacKay, “Cicero Redux: Renaissance Theatres, Digital Memory, and the Senses of the Past”


Ellen MacKay

Cicero Redux: Renaissance Theatres, Digital Memory, and the Senses of the Past


Wednesday, May 25th, 4:10 – 6:00 PM in 126 Voorhies Hall

MacKay - Cicero Redux

This talk reads the proto-computational memory theatre of Giulio Camillo (ca. 1550) as the instigation to consider how artificial memory and its theatrical curation have shaped the sense of the past. Particularly in the present age of experiential museology, in which the past is remediated to become the museum patron’s digitally-augmented reality, history has been reformed to fulfill Camillo’s vision. The trouble critics commonly have with this reformation is its theatricality–specifically, its smooth and glib ‘Disneyfication’ of history’s rough facts. But via a discussion of Renaissance stage practice, this talk demonstrates that the glitchiness of the digital simulation, like the contingency of the theatrical event, makes helpfully visible an inevitable variance in the sense of the past. Recent examples of digital curation offer compelling examples of the lossiness or auratic excesses of memory, and the inability of securing a past untouched by the style of its recollection.
Ellen MacKay is associate professor of English and Director of Indiana University’s Institute for the Digital Arts and Humanities. She is author of Persecution, Plague and Fire: Fugitive Histories of the Stage in Early Modern England (Chicago, 2011), and editor and general director of the Folger-Luminary iPad app of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She is working on 3 book projects: one on crypto-ecological figures of the early modern English theatre audience and the reimagining of sovereignty, one titled On Sea Spectacles from Nero to Google Glass, which is a critical history of vicariousness, and one on Shakespearean realia and the invention of the sense of heritage. She is a member of the inaugural iteration of Early Modern Digital Agendas and and head scholar of the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare NEH Institute, which will convene again in June and July of 2016.