Dr Una Mc Ilvenna

BA London, MA London, PhD London
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotion

Telephone +61 2 9036 9961

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Biographical details

Dr Una McIlvenna's research interests lie in the fields of early modern cultural and literary history. Her current project investigates emotional responses to public execution in the early modern period, looking in particular at the use of songs and verse in accounts of crime and execution across Europe. Crime reports were often printed in huge numbers on cheap pamphlets and set to the tune of well-known songs, enabling the reader to sing along to the account of the (often violent) crime and the public execution of the condemned. Her research examines how the emotional resonances of a familiar tune could be transferred or subverted in the new version of the song.

Dr McIlvenna's PhD thesis (Queen Mary, University of London, 2010) looked at scandal and reputation at the sixteenth-century French court of Catherine de Medici. It investigated the use of obscene, misogynist verse by the French judicial elite to shame the ladies-in-waiting to the queen mother, known ever since by the sobriquet 'the flying squadron'.

Research interests

  • Early modern public execution
  • Cheap print and media culture in the early modern period
  • Scandal, gossip and rumour
  • History of emotions
  • Early music performance

Research Groups

Current projects

  • Scandal and Reputation at the Court of Catherine de Medici (Under contract, Ashgate series, Women and Gender in the Early Modern World)
  • Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1550-1900 (This is a book-in-progress based on my current research into songs about public executions across early modern Europe)
  • 'The Power of Music: the Significance of Contrafactum in Execution Ballads', revised and resubmitted, Past & Present
  • ‘Poison, Pregnancy and Protestants: Gossip and Rumour at the Early Modern French Court’ in Fama and her Sisters: Gossip and Rumour in Early Modern Europe, eds. Claire Walker and Heather Kerr (in press, Brepols, 2014)
  • ‘Ballads of Death and Disaster: The Role of Song in Early Modern News Transmission’ in Disaster, Death and the Emotions in the Shadow of the Apocalypse, eds. Charles Zika and Jenny Spinks (under contract, Palgrave)
  • ‘Singing Songs of Execution in Early Modern Italy’ in Voice and Writing in Early Modern Italian Politics, Religion, and Society (under contract, Ashgate)

Awards and honours

  • 2014 Newberry Library Short-Term Fellowship for Individual Research

Recent Conference Papers

April 2014
Chair, Living English Broadside Ballads Conference, 1550-1750: Song, Art, Dance, Culture, The Huntington Library, USA

March 2014
Songs, Memory and the Performance of News in Early Modern Europe, Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, New York, USA

Oct 2013
Execution Ballads in Early Modern France, CHE Symposium: Violence and Emotions in Early Modern Europe, 1400-1800, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Sept 2013
Singing Songs of Execution in Early Modern Italy, Oral and Written Cultures in Early Modern Italy conference, University of Leeds, UK

Aug 2013
‘Singing the Death of Criminals’, ‘Singing Death’ Symposium and Concert with folk music group Troveresse, University of Melbourne, Australia

June 2013
The Highs and Lows of Performing Early Modern Ballads, CHE ‘Sourcing Emotions’ Conference, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

February 2013
Shame in Early Modern Public Execution, ANZAMEMS conference, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

November 2012
Capons, Cuckolds and Concupiscence: Scandalous Desire at the Early Modern French Court, CHE event: Pleasure, Desire and Greed in the Renaissance, University of Melbourne, Australia

September 2012
Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Early Modern Europe, Study Day - Danse Macabre: Emotional Responses to Death and Dying from Medieval to Contemporary Times, The Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia

September 2012
Ballads of Death and Disaster: The Role of Song in Early Modern News Transmission, Symposium: Disaster, Death and the Emotions in the Shadow of the Apocalypse, University of Melbourne, Australia

July 2012
‘A heart of stone would melt to hear’: Playing on Emotions in Early Modern Public Executions, Society for Renaissance Studies conference, University of Manchester, UK

In the media

March 2013

'Singing about Public Executions', presentation for Death(cha) Kucha, part of the 'Matters of Life and Death' series, Carriageworks, Sydney, Australia

December 2012

'A Woeful Sinner's Fall: Ballads of Execution', Hour-long documentary-style program on ABC Radio National's 'Into the Music' program featuring interviews and performances of ballads

September 2012

'Bodies in Distress', collaborative research project with artists around theme of 'moralized bodies', Critical Animals Creative Research Symposium, Newcastle, NSW. Featured performance of execution ballads and panel discussion.

Selected grants

2012

  • Putting Periodisation to Use: Exploring the Limits of Early Modernity; Gagne J, Gal O, Gaukroger S, Griffiths H, Maddox A, McIlvenna U, Parsons N, Semler L; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences/FASS Collaborative Research Scheme.

Selected publications & creative works

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Book Chapters

  • McIlvenna, U. (2014). 'A Stable of Whores'?: The 'Flying Squadron' of Catherine de Medici. In Nadine Akkerman, Brigid Houben (Eds.), The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-In-Waiting across Early Modern Europe, (pp. 181-208). Leiden: Brill.

Journals

  • McIlvenna, U. (2012). Word versus Honor: The Case of Fran├žoise de Rohan vs. Jacques de Savoie. Journal of Early Modern History: contacts, comparisons, contrasts, 16(2012), 315-334. [More Information]

Textual Creative Works

  • McIlvenna, U. (2012). Singing of Executions: Ballads as News Media in Early Modern Europe. Singing Emotions: Voices from History, (pp. 13 - 16). Perth, Australia: ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Live Performance - Interarts

  • McIlvenna, U., Turner, G., Kelly, M. (2012). Bodies in Distress. This is Not Art (TiNA) festival. Lock-Up Cultural Centre, Newcastle, Australia: This is Not Art (TiNA).

Recorded / Rendered Performance

  • McIlvenna, U. (2012). A Woeful Sinner's Fall: ballads of execution, Radio broadcast, Sydney, Australia: ABC Radio National.

2014

  • McIlvenna, U. (2014). 'A Stable of Whores'?: The 'Flying Squadron' of Catherine de Medici. In Nadine Akkerman, Brigid Houben (Eds.), The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-In-Waiting across Early Modern Europe, (pp. 181-208). Leiden: Brill.

2012

  • McIlvenna, U. (2012). A Woeful Sinner's Fall: ballads of execution, Radio broadcast, Sydney, Australia: ABC Radio National.
  • McIlvenna, U., Turner, G., Kelly, M. (2012). Bodies in Distress. This is Not Art (TiNA) festival. Lock-Up Cultural Centre, Newcastle, Australia: This is Not Art (TiNA).
  • McIlvenna, U. (2012). Singing of Executions: Ballads as News Media in Early Modern Europe. Singing Emotions: Voices from History, (pp. 13 - 16). Perth, Australia: ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.
  • McIlvenna, U. (2012). Word versus Honor: The Case of Fran├žoise de Rohan vs. Jacques de Savoie. Journal of Early Modern History: contacts, comparisons, contrasts, 16(2012), 315-334. [More Information]

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