2021-2022 Folger Institute Scholarly Programs

This article lists the scholarly programming of the Folger Institute for the 2021-2022 academic year. For more past programming, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

Researching and Writing the Early Modern Dissertation

Joyce Chaplin, Julie Crawford, and Jenny C. Mann
Hybrid Yearlong Seminar
This program focused on the use of primary materials available for the study of the history, culture, society, and literature of early modern Britain, Europe, and the Atlantic World, broadly conceived. Participants visited rare materials collections in the spring to explore a variety of printed and manuscript sources relevant to Ph.D. candidates in history and literature, and they learned (with the assistance of staff at the host university libraries) essential research skills as well as strategies for working with digital resources and remediated rare materials. The goal throughout was to foster interdisciplinary scholarship while considering broad methodological and theoretical problems relevant to current work in early modern studies, especially when working in fields that contain deliberate elisions and silences in their historical archives.
Directors: Joyce E. Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. A former Fulbright Scholar and Guggenheim Fellow, she has published five monographs, one co-authored book, and two Norton Critical Editions. She did research for her second book, Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500–1676 (2001), at the Folger. Julie Crawford is the Mark van Doren Professor of Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is the author of Marvelous Protestantism (2004), Mediatrix (2014), and numerous essays on authors ranging from Shakespeare to Anne Clifford and on topics ranging from the history of reading to the history of sexuality. In 2016 she taught a Folger Seminar on Cavendish and Hutchinson, and she is currently completing a book manuscript entitled “Margaret Cavendish’s Political Career." Jenny C. Mann is an Associate Professor of English at New York University with a joint appointment with NYU Gallatin. She has followed her first book, Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare’s England (2012), with The Trials of Orpheus: Poetry, Science, and the Early Modern Sublime (2021). Her new research project explores problems of self-reference in utopian literature from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century.

Region and Enmity: A RaceB4Race Symposium

Patricia Akhimie, Ana Laguna, Mayte Green-Mercado, Sylvester Cruz, and Henry Turner
Virtual Fall Symposium
Co-sponsored by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; the Folger Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library; and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University
Enmity is a sustaining force for systemic racism, a fervent antipathy toward a category of people. Enmity exists at the nexus of individual and group identity and produces difference by desiring opposition and supremacy, imagining separation by force, and willing conflict. Enmity unfolds in different ways in different places, according to local logics of territory, population, language, or culture, even as these geographical divisions are subject to constant change. This interdisciplinary symposium at Rutgers University focused on how premodern racial discourses are tied to cartographical markers and ambitions. The notions of enmity and region provide a dual dynamic lens for tracing the premodern racial repertoires that developed in response to increasingly hostile contention between cultural and political forces. The symposium invited scholars to take up this intersection between region and enmity and to examine how belief in difference, or the emergence of polarizing structures and violent practices, configured race thinking and racial practices in ways that are both unique to different territories and that transcend them.
Organizers: Patricia Akhimie is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches Shakespeare, Renaissance drama, and early modern women’s travel writing. Sylvester Cruz is a doctoral student in the English department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the graduate student coordinator of the Race and the Early Modern World Research Seminar. Mayte Green-Mercado is Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark, where she teaches Islamic, Mediterranean, and Iberian history, and directs the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies minor. Ana Laguna teaches Cervantes as an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Rutgers University-Camden and is co-convenor of the “Race and the Early Modern World” Research Seminar. Henry S. Turner is Professor of English and Vice President for Academic Initiatives at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Invited Speakers: A keynote address by contemporary artist Shazia Sikander (author of recent New York Times article “What We Believe About Culture”) with interlocutor Kishwar Rizvi (Islamic Art and Architecture, Yale University). Other speakers include: Yonatan Binyam (Religion, UCLA); Allison Blakely (European and Comparative History, Boston University); Ireri Chávez-Bárcenas (Music, Bowdoin College); Kelly Nguyen (Classics, University of California Berkeley); Diego Luis (History, Davidson College); Ruen-chuan Ma (English & Literature, Utah Valley University); Bindu Malieckal (English, Saint Anselm College); Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Classics, Princeton University); Kristina Richardson (History, Queens College CUNY); Miguel Valerio (Spanish, Washington University in St. Louis); Cristi Whiskey (History, University of California, Los Angeles); and Shao-yun Yang (History and East Asian Studies, Denison University).

John Locke and England’s Empire

David Armitage
Virtual Fall Weekend Seminar
Sponsored by the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought
By the end of his life, John Locke (1632–1704) was one of the two or three best informed observers of England’s Atlantic empire. Early in his career, as a client of the Earl of Shaftesbury, he had been involved with the Bahamas, the Royal African Company, and the Carolina colony; towards its close, a member of the newly founded Board of Trade, he gained intimate knowledge of English labor and penal policy, the Irish economy, and the North American colonies from New York to Virginia. Throughout, he was engaged with slavery, property, Indigenous policy, agricultural improvement, gender and family relations, constitutionalism, expropriation, and migration, among other topics. This seminar examined the late seventeenth-century English empire through Locke’s eyes, using newly edited texts of his colonial writings alongside contemporary pamphlets, travel literature, and manuscript material. Participants worked together to determine what Locke knew and when; how this knowledge shaped his writings, especially the Two Treatises of Government; and what follows from scholars privileging him as their guide to understanding England’s empire.
Director: David Armitage is the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University. His books include The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (2000), Foundations of Modern International Thought (2013), and Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (2017). His edition of Locke’s colonial writings will appear in the Oxford University Press Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke. He is now working on a global history of treaty-making and treaty-breaking since the early modern period.
This symposium was conducted virtually in mid-November 2022. Those interested may access the recording of the opening session here.

Early Modern Intersections in the American South

Heather Miyano Kopelson, Jenny Shaw, and Cassander L. Smith
Virtual Spring Symposium
Co-sponsored with the University of Alabama
What is “early modern” about the region we now call the American South? Historically, we point to the rise of plantation cultures and then Indian Removal policies and the American Civil War as formative in the development of this region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This symposium, however, offered participants the opportunity to consider the early modern contours of the American South by re-thinking its temporal and geographical boundaries. Specifically, the symposium explored the multiple meanings of the American South through the prisms of race, slavery, and indigeneity in the centuries surrounding the arrival of Europeans and Africans in the Americas. Invited speakers asked how the interactions of people from four continents shaped culture and history in this region and beyond. Session topics included: geography, temporality, race, slavery, indigeneity, and migration/displacement.
Organizers: Heather Miyano Kopelson is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama and is also affiliated with the Gender and Race Studies Department. She is the author of Faithful Bodies: Performing Race and Religion in the Puritan Atlantic (2014) and is currently writing a book with the working title, “Speaking Objects: Indigenous Women and the Materials of Dance in the Americas, 1500–1700.” Jenny Shaw is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama. Her research focuses on race, enslavement, and colonization in the English Atlantic. The author of Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean: Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference, she is completing a serial biography of five women who bore children with the same Barbados planter. Cassander L. Smith is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Alabama. She is the author of Black Africans in the British Imagination: English Narratives of the Early Atlantic World (2016). Currently, she is completing a book about respectability politics and the early modern black Atlantic.
Invited Speakers: Nicole Aljoe (Northeastern University), Eric Gary Anderson (George Mason University), Herman Bennett (Graduate Center, CUNY), Allison Bigelow (University of Virginia), Alejandra Dubcovsky (University of California, Riverside), Elizabeth Ellis (New York University), Barbara Fuchs (UCLA), Miles Grier (Queens College CUNY), Nicholas Jones (University of California, Davis), Malinda Maynor Lowery (Emory University), Caroline Wigginton (University of Mississippi), and Ashley Williard (University of South Carolina).

Out of the Archives: Digital Projects as Early Modern Research Objects

Margaret Simon, Christopher Warren, and Christopher Crosbie
Virtual Spring Weekend Seminar
Co-sponsored with North Carolina State University
How do the digital humanities reconfigure our sense of “the archive?” As instantiations of humanistic inquiry during a period of rapid technological change, digital artifacts become research objects in their own right. Digital projects continually reshape our modes of accessing traditional archival objects and the very questions we ask of them. Supported by North Carolina State’s extensive digital technologies infrastructure, this seminar combined discussion of shared readings with workshop experimentation on digital projects to consider a range of questions. What do digital models reveal about scholarly definitions of historical research? How might digital praxis, the exploration of multimodal research objects, and new forms of scholarly communication change researchers’ thinking about early modern communicative practices? How can digital methodologies accommodate diverse communities and improve the politics of access? What might we learn about the scope of the archive as we consider early modern research in distributed, digital, and often data-driven contexts?
Organizers: Margaret Simon is Associate Professor of English at North Carolina State University. Her current book project, “Open Books: Multi-Materiality and the English Renaissance Codex,” considers how early modern printed texts rendered objects in language and graphic technologies. She co-created the multi-media project “Intimate Fields,” in the University of Victoria’s MLab’s Kits for Culture series. Her chapter on the haptics of digital paleography will appear in Debates in the Digital Humanities. Christopher Warren is Associate Professor of English and, by courtesy, History, at Carnegie Mellon University. His research spans digital humanities, early modern literature, print culture, and the history of political thought. He is the author of the award-winning Literature and the Law of Nations, 1580-1680 (2015) and co-founder of the Six Degrees of Francis Bacon project. He is currently developing computer-assisted methods to identify clandestine early modern printers. Christopher Crosbie, Associate Professor of English at North Carolina State University, is the author of Revenge Tragedy and Classical Philosophy on the Early Modern Stage. His work on Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and classical philosophy has appeared in journals such as Shakespeare Quarterly, English Literary Renaissance, Renascence, Renaissance Papers, Arthuriana, and in multiple edited collections. His current book project examines ethics and intentionality in Shakespearean drama.

Reading Scotland before 1707

Margaret Connolly, Rhiannon Purdie, Jane Pettegree, and Harriet Archer
Spring Symposium
Co-sponsored with the University of St Andrews
The early modern period in Scotland was a time of extraordinary cultural ferment, creativity, and transformation. This symposium considered vital questions of Scotland’s history and culture from the late fifteenth century through the unions of the crowns (1603) and parliaments (1707), regarding both Scotland’s relationship with England and its place in relation to Europe and the European Renaissance. How did Scotland negotiate its own complex heritage – its distinctive history, languages, and political institutions – in an era when it was assuming greater prominence on the European stage? The symposium explored how far issues and themes that have dominated the wider field of early modern studies in recent years are applicable to Scotland. These included: the nature and extent of political power; constructions of nation, identity, race, and gender in early modern society; the social performance of these identities through the spoken word, drama, and music; the transition from manuscript to print; the presence and force of the classics and classical literature; the status of the vernacular as a literary language; and notions of periodization.
Organizers: Dr Margaret Connolly is Senior Lecturer in English and History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the St Andrews Institute of Medieval Studies. Professor Rhiannon Purdie is Professor of English and Older Scots at the University of St Andrews. She is the Editorial Secretary for the Scottish Text Society and a trustee of the Scottish Medievalists. Dr Jane Pettegree is Honorary Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews School of English, and Associate Lecturer at the University of St Andrews Music Centre. Dr Harriet Archer is Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature at the University of St Andrews.
Invited Speakers: Jamie Reid Baxter (University of Glasgow), Sarah Carpenter (University of Edinburgh), Elizabeth Ewan (University of Guelph), Lorna Hutson (University of Oxford), Roger Mason (University of St Andrews), John McGavin (University of Southampton), Elaine Moohan (Open University in Scotland), David J. Parkinson (University of Saskatchewan), Alessandra Petrina (Università degli Studi di Padova), Andrew Pettegree (University of St Andrews), Beth Quitslund (Ohio University), Nicola Roya (University of Nottingham), Helen Vincent (NLS Edinburgh), Emily Wingfield (University of Birmingham), and Georgianna Ziegler (Folger Shakespeare Library, Emerita)
This hybrid symposium was convened in early May 2022. Those interested may access the recording of the opening plenary session here.

Introduction to English Paleography

Heather Wolfe
Spring Weeklong Intensive Skills Course
Co-sponsored with the Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst
This weeklong course provided an intensive introduction to handwriting in early modern England, with a particular emphasis on the English secretary hand of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Working from digitized and physical manuscripts, participants were trained in the accurate reading and transcription of secretary, italic, and mixed hands. In conjunction with the Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies’ Renaissance of the Earth research program, the workshop included estate accounts, annotated almanacs, and household inventories that showcase how early moderns were practically and imaginatively transforming the earth. Recipe books, personal correspondence, and poetry miscellanies will also be drawn from the Folger collection. Participants experimented with contemporary writing materials (quills, iron gall ink, and paper); learned the terminology for describing and comparing letterforms; and became skillful decipherers of abbreviations, numbers, and dates. All transcriptions made by participants became part of the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) corpus.
Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts and Associate Librarian of Audience Development at the Folger Shakespeare Library, co-director of the multi-year research project Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, and principal investigator of Early Modern Manuscripts Online. Author of numerous articles on early modern manuscripts, Dr. Wolfe has edited The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613–1680 (2007), The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608: A Facsimile Edition of Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.b.232 (2007), Letterwriting in Renaissance England (2004) (with Alan Stewart), and Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2001). Her current research explores the social circulation of writing paper and blank books and Shakespeare’s coat of arms.

An Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas

Marcy North, Claire M. L. Bourne, and Whitney Trettien
Spring Weeklong Skills Course
Co-sponsored with Pennsylvania State University
The best research is based on inquiry and allows for serendipity. A scholar needs to sharpen research questions and search skills simultaneously and with sensitivity to the ways questions and sources affect each other. The available evidence may invite a new thesis, require a revised approach, or even suggest a new field of exploration. This intensive week was not designed to advance participants’ individual research projects. Rather, it aimed to cultivate the participants’ curiosity about primary resources by using exercises that engage their research interests. It was offered to help early-stage graduate students develop a set of research-oriented literacies as they explore Penn State’s special collections in ways that will be useful for navigating other collections. With the guidance of visiting faculty and curatorial staff from the Folger and Penn State Libraries, two dozen participants examined bibliographical tools and their logics, honed their early modern book description skills, learned best practices for organizing and working with digital images, and improved their understanding of the cultural and technological histories of texts. Participants were able to ask reflexive questions about the nature of primary sources, the collections that house them, and the tools whereby one can access them.
Organizers: Marcy North is Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Anonymous Renaissance and numerous articles on early print, manuscript, and women’s writings. She has directed a previous Folger seminar and participated in the Folger's Teaching Paleography and Advanced Paleography workshops. She is finishing a book on the intersection of labor and taste in the production of post-print manuscripts. Claire M. L. Bourne is Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of Typographies of Performance in Early Modern England, which was supported by a long-term Folger fellowship, and is currently editing 1 Henry the Sixth for the Arden Shakespeare (4th series). Whitney Trettien teaches digital humanities and book history at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is Assistant Professor of English. She is the author of Cut/Copy/Paste, a hybrid monograph on digital book history currently being staged on Manifold Scholarship through University of Minnesota Press.

Historicizing Heritage

Carolyn Dinshaw and Christine Hoffmann
Spring Weekend Workshop
Co-sponsored with West Virginia University
How are familial, ethnic, and regional heritages constructed, and what affects and politics are mobilized in the processes? What do historical narratives and reenactments – be they factual, counterfactual, utopian, or all three – allow individuals and communities to reveal, desire, perpetuate, or protest? Participants in this weekend workshop considered some effects of historicism by exploring public, performative, and literary examples of heritage-making from both modern and premodern sources. Those traveling to Morgantown, West Virginia were well situated to consider the ardor for, and pursue alternatives to, heritages conceived as purity, insularity, or sanctification of an antiquity that never existed. Reductive or fanciful characterizations of Appalachia often equate it with an antiquated, even premodern, past. The state of West Virginia, like the Appalachian region it centers, is a frequent site of discourses of heritage that promote both solidarity and isolationism, both innovation and obsolescence. While gathered in this contact zone of contradictory legacies, workshop participants contributed to an open-access, multidisciplinary “How to do things with heritage” syllabus, and session leaders shared and encouraged research on the ways primary source material can be enfolded into heritage-making.
Organizers: Carolyn Dinshaw, previously the Julius Silver Professor of English and Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University, has just accepted the role of Senior Program Officer for Higher Learning with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Her research and teaching have always engaged the issue of relationships between past and present. In How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (2012), she touches on humans’ affective bonds with land and landscapes; her current research further pursues imaginary places and mirages. Christine Hoffmann is an Associate Professor of English at West Virginia University, where she writes and teaches about shared epistemologies between twenty-first-century social media and early modern humanist philosophy. She is the author of Stupid Humanism: Folly as Competence in Early Modern and Twenty-first-Century Culture (2017) as well as several essays on the uses and abuses of humanist practice for the fashioning of selves and societies.
Invited Speakers: Jane Anderson (New York University), Kimberly C. Borchard (Randolph-Macon College), Matthieu Chapman (State University of New York at New Paltz), Jason Cohen (Hanover Research), Lowell Duckert (University of Delaware), Mary Louise Pratt (New York University), and Kathleen Stewart (The University of Texas at Austin).