Urban Readers Series: Niall Atkinson - "The Noisy Renaissance" - Sarah Geis

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm

The third event in the Urban Readers Series will feature the Department of Art History's Niall Atkinson, who will discuss The Noisy Renaissance: Sound, Architecture, and Florentine Urban Life on Tuesday, November 22. He will be joined in conversation by Sarah Geis.

The Urban Readers Series invites the curious public to meet the university's faculty, staff, and alumni who think and write about cities. The series is sponsored by UChicago Urban, the university's commitment to enhancing urban life and bringing our work into conversation with the public.

At the Co-op


About the book: From the strictly regimented church bells to the freewheeling chatter of civic life, Renaissance Florence was a city built not just of stone but of sound as well. An evocative alternative to the dominant visual understanding of urban spaces, The Noisy Renaissance examines the premodern city as an acoustic phenomenon in which citizens used sound to navigate space and society.

Analyzing a range of documentary and literary evidence, art and architectural historian Niall Atkinson creates an “acoustic topography” of Florence. The dissemination of official messages, the rhythm of prayer, and the murmur of rumor and gossip combined to form a soundscape that became a foundation in the creation and maintenance of the urban community just as much as the city’s physical buildings. Sound in this space triggered a wide variety of social behaviors and spatial relations: hierarchical, personal, communal, political, domestic, sexual, spiritual, and religious.

By exploring these rarely studied soundscapes, Atkinson shows Florence to be both an exceptional and an exemplary case study of urban conditions in the early modern period.

About the author: Niall Atkinson is Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago, where he teaches the architecture and urbanism of late Medieval and Renaissance Italy. His research has focused on the relationship between sound, space, and architecture and their role in the construction of pre-modern urban societies. In his current research, he is exploring ways of visualizing his work on early modern urban soundscapes. He is also embarking on a project focused on spatial disorientation in the accounts of Italian travelers and its relationship to the experience and symbolic meaning of urban environments in pre-modern Europe.

About the interlocutor: Sarah Geis is Third Coast's Artistic Director.

Before arriving at the Third Coast nest, she was the founding manager of StoryCorps' Bay Area recording and community outreach program, and spent several years prior with the organization as an interviewer and producer. Sarah has led workshops at community organizations throughout the United States, and presented at audio gatherings around the globe. Sometimes, when the moon and stars align just right, she finds time to make a radio story, too.



Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago , IL 60637