Levantine Sociabilities in Europe in Giacomo Casanova’s time: Spies, Impostors, Courtesans and Men of Culture

International conference organized within the framework of the EU project DIGITENS and in partnership with the GIS SOCIABILITÉS/SOCIABILITY

“G.d’Annunzio” University (Chieti-Pescara, Italy)

22 & 23 September, 2022

In the eighteenth century, intrigue, libertinage and criminality changed the social norms of politeness and education thereby creating nonconformist social behaviours. An explicit, but certainly not unique, manifestation of these new trends is represented by the city of Venice and its adventurer par excellence, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798). Ecclesiastic, writer, soldier, spy, alchemist, gambler and diplomat, he was engaged in a network of social relationships which are documented in his Histoire de ma vie (History of My Life), one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the eighteenth century. Like London, Paris and Vienna, Venice became a centre of social mobility, geographically located as the threshold of the Levant. At the crossroads of Eastern and Western empires, Venice promoted social interactions with Levantine representatives who wisely exploited these social connections to their own advantage. They behaved like shrewd men of business, even like fraudsters, whose “Levantine” attitudes may define a sociability of intrigue. A number of impostors, spies, merchants, sometimes also men of culture, thus contributed to redesigning the sociability of the eighteenth century. By transgressing social norms, they aimed to express their own political activism and socio-cultural views, and to display their eccentric manners.

Such dissident behaviours deeply affected British sociability whose gentleman ideal often remained difficult to reach. Liberty, individualism and eccentricity as embodied by Casanova became new social values subverting the function of some eighteenth-century taverns, coffeehouses and clubs. By mastering the arts of discourse, seduction, and disguise in Italian coffeehouses and elsewhere in Europe, we may wonder how Casanova and other Levantine agents influenced traditional spaces, forms and models of sociability. Wealthy young aristocrats, inspired by Italian fashion and style, were instrumental in making these subversive and deviant behaviours socially acceptable. Their conduct at times compromised official relationships and may have jeopardized social and political stability. The “Levantine” sociabilities eventually fostered encounters between the private and public spheres, the East and the West, and between different social classes.

This conference will encourage discussions and exchanges between international scholars on how national models of sociability and traditional Enlightenment values may have been affected and reconfigured by the Levantine practices of intrigue, libertinage and criminality. Through the multiple facets of Casanova (trickster, libertine, social climber, gambler, political agent …) and his European travels and networks, this conference will also address the circulation of knowledge and fashions between Europe and the East and the evolution of sociability thanks to various media: commerce, diplomacy, travel, letter-writing, translation, leisure and other sociable practices.

This interdisciplinary conference is organized by the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, "G. d’Annunzio” University (Chieti-Pescara, Italy), in collaboration with the GIS Sociabilités and as part of the scientific events of the EU project DIGITENS.


Thursday 22 September
9:00-9:45 Welcome adresses

9:45-10:20: Keynote lecture by Antonio Trapus (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice), 'Venezia: centrale di avventurieri e creatrice del mito' - Chair: Persida LAZAREVIC

10:20-11:45: Panel A - Chair: Nicoletta CABASSI
- Robert Bacalja (University of Zadar), 'Croatian Literary History of the Zanović Brothers'
- Elvira Diana (UdA), 'Alcune note sul rapporto tra al- Bunduqiyya-Venezia e i paesi musulmani d’Oriente'
- Massimo Galtarossa (University of Verona), 'La crisi della diplomazia veneziana e la socialità delle corti'
- Pino Cossuto (‘La Sapienza’ University), 'L'ultimo Khan e la Zarina: la modernizzazione del Khanato di Crimea passando per Venezia e le stanze della sovrana'

12:15-13:35: Panel B - Chair: Ferenc TÓTH
- Branko Aleksic (University of Belgrad), 'L’académicien Villoison, rencontré par Casanova en 1779'
Ferenc Toth (Institut d'Histoire du Centre de recherches en Sciences Humaines), 'Un miroir de la sociabilité levantine : les Mémoires du baron de Tott'
- Consuelo Ricci (Université Bordeaux Montaigne), 'De l’art de la dissimulation à la franchise dans le roman épistolaire des Lumières'
- Luisa Messina (Chercheuse indépendante), 'Les théâtres parisiens au XVIIIe siècle'

14:45-15:20: Keynote lecture by Malina Stefanovska (UCL): Crossings, Connections, Transgressions: Casanova’s Sociabilities - Chair: Eleonora SASSO

15:20-16:25: Panel Chair C: Miriam SETTE
- Zuzana Wrana (Masaryk University in Brno), A Wasted Life is an Untimely Death: the Werther Phenomenon'
- Valentina Rossi (e-Campus University of Novedrate (Italy), “To save that idol, reputation”: Restoration Sociability as Represented by William Congreve'
- Alessandro Scarsella '(Ca’ Foscari University, Venice), 'Stefan Zweig e il mito di Casanova nel canone della letteratura europea'

16:25-17:30: Panel D - Chair: Massimo GALTAROSSA
- Aleksandra Sekulic (University of Belgrad), 'Il Conte Stefano De Zannowich: l’identità falsa e la volontà di sapere'
- Alberto Brambilla (ELCI), 'Fra emulazione e scrittura. Il Casanova di Piero Chiara'
- Stanislao LIberatore (Giornalista e Scrittore), 'A tavola con Giacomo Casanova: il piacere dal calice al piatto'

18:30 - Concert

Friday 23 September
9:00-9:35: Keynote lecture by Lisetta LOVETT (Keele University),' Relationships Between Patients and their ‘doctors’ in the Mid 18th Century: Insights from Casanova’s Memoirs' - Chair: Miriam Sette

9:35-10:40: Panel E - Chair: Eleonoa Sasso
- Andrea Lombardinilo (UdA), 'A Misleading Communicator: Federico Fellini’s Casanova'
- Elena Grazioli (Università di Pisa), 'Casanova fra violenza, libertinaggio e criminalità. Aspetti noir dell’Histoire de ma vie'
- Aleksandra Pavlovic (University Library “Svetozar Markovic” of Belgrade), 'War, Love & Gambling: Famous Serbian Casanova, General Simeon Zoric'

11:10-12:30: Panel F - Chair: Pino Cossuto
- Nicoletta Cabassi (University of Parma), 'Entertainment in Russia’s Enlightenment'
- Maria Cristina Bragone (Università di Pavia), Frol Skobeev, un seduttore parvenu nella Russia del XVIII secolo
- Giulia Baselica (Università degli Studi di Torino), L’avventura russa del conte di Cagliostro. Riflessi letterari di un mito controverso
- Persida Lazaveric (UdA), Le spie e l’impostore (1767-1773): modelli di sociabilità levantina

12:30-13:00: Closing remarks



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