The Cinquecento Plurale network is rooted in the collaborative efforts of scholars working on unorthodox aspects of Italian Renaissance culture. It started with an initial series of conferences, in 1999 and 2001, held at the University of Viterbo and dedicated to exploring with new methodologies and interpretative frames the richness of what used to be called the 'irregular' Cinquecento. The objective of these conferences was to perform a re-reading of sixteenth-century literary history which would deliberately avoid the 'canon': the select, if not literally closed, set of events, figures and works, traditionally receiving most scholarly attention. Such an operation was undertaken with the explicit goal not to eliminate or diminish canonical Renaissance culture - which in fact would be absurd considering the centrality of the 'canon' in sixteenth-century Italy -, but to contextualise and therefore better understand it in a confrontation with more marginal but certainly not less productive aspects of Cinquecento culture.

The initial project soon was enlarged when the parallel series of publications "Cinquecento", published by Vecchiarelli Editions, started to attract monographs and editions also from other fields, particularly art history and history of religions. Thus enlarging its scope, the research project carried out by the network focused on all kinds of 'middle' and 'lower' culture, and particularly aimed at re-defining the more comprehensive concept of auctoritas. This led to a seminar held in 2004 at the Warburg Institute of London, entirely dedicated to the relations between literature, the visual arts and religious reform in the first half of the century, and to a conference held in 2005 at the University of Lecce on the impact of pasquinade literature in early modern Europe. The concept of auctoritas itself and its significance within an orientation on models and counter-models was critically explored during a conference in 2006 at the university of Urbino.

Cinquecento plurale plans to continue its research agenda with projects dedicated to further investigate the pluralities of Italian Renaissance culture. In order to accomplish this, the network focuses on those instances where various, often distinct and sometimes even opposite layers of Cinquecento culture meet and/or clash. It thus concentrates on various kinds of artistic expression: poetry and the visual arts, and especially their intersections, considered a particularly productive breeding ground for cultural innovation. The most recent conference, hosted by the University of Utrecht in November 2007, has in fact addressed this theme. But it also fosters research on the dynamic interchange between 'canonical' and 'irregular' or 'heterodox' aspects of the Cinquecento, in order to contribute to the fine-tuning of our knowledge of Italian Renaissance culture. The next conference, to be held at Tours in September 2008, will thus focus on one of the most existential topics of irregularity in early modern Italian culture: love ("Stravaganze amorose. L'amore oltre la norma nel Rinascimento: scarto, superamento, trasgressione").

Cinquecento plurale welcomes scholars and research projects that actively contribute to its mission. While it is not the network's aim to produce all-comprehensive textbooks or manuals, in planning well focused research projects and publications, it hopes to stimulate and produce new knowledge that will underline our fundamental claim that the Italian sixteenth century presents a many-layered and highly vital cultural system, which in several ways still needs to be further explored in order to better understand its comprehensive richness.