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About the Talk: 

This talk will explore the development of the athletic arts in Renaissance Italy as they responded to intellectual, courtly, and civic revivals of antiquity as well as to an unprecedented expansion of artisanal and professional work related to leisure. In the sixteenth century exercises which emphasized agility over brute strength increasingly gained prominence as venues for the maintenance of physique and the performance of aristocratic masculine virtue during social and political conduct. A rhetorical slippage between sport and war frequently ascribed the virtues of virility to aristocratic athletes. The rising need for a professional class of athletes paid to perform on the street and as salaried members of courts—experts who also wrote about and taught their athletic arts—alongside the rising need for craftsmen to produce and manage equipment and spaces, proved a complication to the maintenance and perception of social hierarchies. Sports were a central tool in literally and imaginatively shaping the bodies of early modern men and women within intersecting systems of bodily signification, political performance, and social decorum. 


About the Speaker: 

Kelli Wood, Dale G. Cleaver Asst. Professor in the School of Art, is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer, and curator whose work combines methods from fields such as art history, game studies, sports science, and museology. Dr. Wood’s research on the visual and material culture of games and sports spanning from Renaissance board games to contemporary video games has been published in journals such as Art History, Renaissance Studies, ArLis, and in edited volumes and art magazines. Her first book based on her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, The Art of Play in Early Modern Italy, is under contract with Amsterdam University Press. In 2021-2022 Wood undertook an NEH-Mellon Fellowship in Digital Publication for her project on digitizing board games from the Renaissance as playable video games. Her new scholarly projects also turn toward sixteenth and seventeenth-century Goa, India as a port city including recently as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar to India in 2022-2023. Wood’s research has also been generously supported by the Fulbright Italy, a Kress fellowship at the National Gallery of Art, the Michigan Society of Fellows, and the Renaissance Society of America. Wood curated a permanent wing of the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, A Global History of Sport, which opened in 2022 in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup.  


About the Series: 

Conversations & Cocktails is a free public lecture series hosted by the UT Humanities Center, showcasing the original research of our distinguished University of Tennessee arts and humanities faculty. Our monthly online talks give you the opportunity to hear about fascinating and groundbreaking work in the arts and in fields such as philosophy, history, and literary studies. Presentations are 30-40 minutes long and are designed for the general public. A spirited question-and-answer discussion follows each presentation. 



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Event Details

  • Figueroa, Gabriel
  • Day, Hannah Lillian

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