The current incidence of natural disasters has stimulated, especially in recent decades, a lively debate among academics from different disciplines about the cultural and social connotations of catastrophes. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and fires are studied as social events, which provide a photographic negative relevant to the culture and imagination of a historical period.
In the Early Modern Age, the natural disasters that occurred in the territories of the Spanish monarchy determined the publication of different kinds of texts – treatises, reports, newssheets, chronicles and poems – that circulated immediately after the event, inside and outside the borders of the empire. These texts, although heterogeneous, contributed to the creation and diffusion of recurring topoi, and of shared stylistic and rhetorical elements. In contrast to other news about the exploits of the leaders in battle, the magnificent entrances into the city of princes and governors, or the mythical births and deaths of royals, the narratives about disasters seem to lack protagonists, who are replaced by the anthropomorphic fury of natural elements. However, sometimes in the narration of a natural disaster, in the indistinct mass of people and their dramatic anecdotes, individual characters appear, whose actions transform the state of emergency: on the one hand, saints, on the other, local institutions. The first are invoked to mediate with the heavens and to appease the divine anger with miraculous events; and the second appealed to manage the tragedy with extraordinary actions and measures.
The four day seminar organized by the DisComPoSE group on 14th, 15th, 21st and 22nd January aims to focus on these particular heroes of emergency and on the different interpretive scenarios that underlie the memory of their actions: from the common rhetorical structures used by the different editorial genres that report on these events to the relationship of these genres with the stylistic elements of epic and contemporary poetry, from the figurative representations of heroic action to the recycling and adaptation of these representations in other contexts of crisis, from the conflict between contradictory narratives to the political reasons for this conflict, from the characteristic image of the processions to the intersection of the competences and powers of different institutions that are manifested during these events.