Folger Institute current scholarly programs
This article serves as a repository for present scholarly programming at the Folger Institute. To apply to a Folger Institute scholarly program, read the application guidelines and submit your application here.
- 1 2014–2015 Folger Institute programs
- 1.1 Renaissance/Early Modern Translation
- 1.2 Researching the Archive
- 1.3 Narratives of Conversion in Reformation Europe, ca. 1550–1700
- 1.4 Performing Restoration Shakespeare
- 1.5 Science in Early Modern Atlantic World Cultures
- 1.6 Advanced Early Modern English Paleography
- 1.7 Shakespeare’s Language
- 1.8 The Scale of Catastrophe: Ecology and Transition, Medieval to Early Modern
- 1.9 Debating Capitalism: Early Modern Political Economies
- 1.10 A Folger Introduction to Research Methods and Agendas
- 1.11 Afterlife of the Reformation: Embodied Souls and their Rivals
- 1.12 Introduction to English Paleography
2014–2015 Folger Institute programs
Renaissance/Early Modern Translation
- A. E. B. Coldiron
- Year-Long Afternoon Colloquium
This colloquium is designed for faculty members and advanced graduate students working on projects about the theory and practice of early modern translation, and most sessions will center on developing the pre-circulated work of participants. Because translation was a pervasive mode of literary-cultural transformation in the Renaissance, and because translation now challenges major critical categories such as authorship and periodization, it animates historical and theoretical inquiries alike. Current database projects such as the Universal Short Title Catalogue and the Renaissance Cultural Crossroads Catalogue have expanded our factual basis for studying translations; after the cultural turn in translation studies, new scholarship has theorized and historicized translation. In light of this new work, the colloquium will rethink perennial Renaissance topics such as the appropriation of antiquity, emergent literary nationhoods, and vernacularity. Gender, empire, textuality, multilingualism, and the transculturation of ideologies, for example, may also inform our work. Other welcome topics include the so-called “untranslatables” (such as translated literary genres and forms, music, clothing, or architecture). Both early modern and contemporary translation theories will ground our reading of the translations treated in participants’ projects.
Director: A. E. B. Coldiron is Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty in French at Florida State University. She serves on the editorial board of the Tudor and Stuart Translations series for the Modern Humanities Research Association. Author of numerous articles and three books on early modern and late-medieval translation, her most recent title is Printers Without Borders: Englishing Texts in the Renaissance (forthcoming 2014).
Schedule: Fridays, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., 10 October, 7 November, 5 December 2014; 16 January, 20 February, 20 March, 24 April, and 22 May 2015.
Apply: 2 June 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid; 5 September 2014 for admission only.
Researching the Archive
Designed for doctoral candidates in History and English at work on their dissertations, this monthly seminar will address the scholarly issues raised by the projects of its participants and by the kinds of archival material under investigation. It will encourage participants to consider their projects in the context of broad methodological and theoretical problems in early modern studies, especially in collaborative and interdisciplinary scholarship. It will scrutinize the evidentiary use of primary sources, whether those at the Folger Shakespeare Library or available online. Applicants should consult with their dissertation directors before applying to ensure that their work is at a stage that would benefit from the seminar. Admission will depend in part on the dissertation director’s written certification of that fact, with preference given to candidates who have completed course work and preliminary exams or the equivalent. Applicants should be preparing a prospectus or beginning to write chapters. Those whose dissertations are substantially complete will not be competitive applicants. Preference will also be given to those who will make significant use of the Library’s collections as part of each monthly visit. The grant-in-aid allows for an average of two nights’ stay per session.
Co-Directors: Jean E. Howard is George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University where she teaches early modern literature and the history of theater. Her 2008 book, Theater of a City: The Places of London Comedy 1598-1642, won the Bernard Hewitt Award of the American Society for Theatre Research. She is completing work on the 3rd edition of The Norton Shakespeare and a new book on the history play from Shakespeare to Tony Kushner and Caryl Churchill.
Pamela H. Smith is the Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of books on alchemy, artisans, and the making of knowledge. Recent ones include The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (2004) and Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge (with Amy R. W. Meyers and Harold C. Cook, 2014). Her present research reconstructs the vernacular knowledge of early modern European miners and metalworkers.
Schedule: Fridays, 1:00 – 4:30 pm., 3 October, 24 October, 21 November, 6 December 2014 (a Saturday); 23 January, 13 February, 13 March, and 10 April 2015.
Apply: 2 June 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid. Please note that eligibility is restricted to consortium affiliates only.
Narratives of Conversion in Reformation Europe, ca. 1550–1700
Can there be conversion without narrative? This seminar investigates the narrative sources and the source narratives of conversion produced in Europe and its colonies in an age that witnessed not only the Protestant and Catholic Reformations (as well as the so-called voyages of “discovery”) but also the apogee of Ottoman power in Europe and the Mediterranean. Twelve to sixteen faculty participants will collaboratively consider the place and effect of narrative structures in religious change, and the diversity of narratives (from court records to letters, and from painting to poetry) which articulate conversion as concept and practice. Issues include whether narratives are necessarily social, and what kinds of identity were called into being by the fragmented narratives of transformation and by the possibility of one individual existing under multiple names and within multiple narrative arcs. Are particular narratives specific to confessions? Is there a Catholic or Protestant conversion narrative, or do the two share tropes for conversion as the intensification of feeling? The seminar welcomes literary critics, historians, art historians, and scholars of religion and material culture with current research projects that challenge the concept that the conversion narrative exists as a coherent genre, and that investigate the narrative seepages, transformations, and turns that structured and effected individual and social conversions.
Co-Directors: Simon Ditchfield is Reader in History at the University of York. He recently published Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World (2013, with Katherine Van Liere and Howard Louthan). He is currently completing a volume for the Oxford History of the Christian Church series entitled, Papacy and Peoples: The Making of Roman Catholicism as a World Religion 1500-1700.
Helen Smith is Reader in Renaissance Literature at the University of York. Her publications include Grossly Material Things: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England (2012) and Renaissance Paratexts (co-edited with Louise Wilson, 2013). Together they directed the AHRC project Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe. Their edited collection on Gender and Conversion is forthcoming.
Schedule: All day Friday and Saturday, 12 and 13 September 2014.
Apply: 2 June 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid.
Performing Restoration Shakespeare
In most studies of Restoration Shakespeare, the overwhelming concentration on textual adaptation loses sight of the reality that it was multimedia theatre, featuring music, dance, and scenery. This workshop will redress the imbalance by asking some new questions: How can direct engagement with theatrical performance enrich an understanding of Restoration Shakespeare? How can theatre practice articulate meaningful research questions? Participants will tackle these questions through an innovative workshop that integrates hands-on practical work in the Folger Theatre—with actors, musicians, and singers—with scholarly readings and discussion. To focus this activity, participants and professionals will stage and analyze selected scenes from William Davenant’s operatic version of Macbeth (ca. 1663/4, with additional revivals in 1673, ca. 1695, and 1702) and Charles Gildon’s adaptation of Measure for Measure (1700). With the musical contributions of Folger Consort Co-Artistic Director Robert Eisenstein and other performing artists, the workshop promises to open up new areas for studying and teaching Restoration Shakespeare by combining primary sources from the Folger’s collections (including musical scores, promptbooks, and performance iconography), an interdisciplinary approach that unites musicology and theatre history, and a willingness to see performance theory and performance practice as mutually enriching.
Co-Directors: Amanda Eubanks Winkler is Associate Professor of Music History and Cultures at Syracuse University. She is author of O Let Us Howle Some Heavy Note: Music for Witches, the Melancholic, and the Mad on the Seventeenth-Century English Stage (2006) and Music for Macbeth (2004). Her current book project concerns music and dance in early modern English schools.
Richard Schoch is Professor of Drama at Queen’s University Belfast. He is the author of Shakespeare’s Victorian Stage (1998) and Not Shakespeare (2002) and the editor of Great Shakespeareans: Macready, Booth, Terry, Irving (2011) and Victorian Theatrical Burlesques (2003). He is currently writing a book on British theatre historiography from the Restoration to the Twentieth Century.
Schedule: All day Friday and Saturday, 14 and 15 November.
Apply: 5 September 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid.
Science in Early Modern Atlantic World Cultures
- María M. Portuondo
- Fall Semester Seminar
Between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries, the lens through which early modern Europeans understood the natural world changed dramatically. The framework of natural philosophy that had long served Europeans collapsed in the face of contact with the Americas, an increasing skepticism about ancient philosophies, and the development of a new experimental science that in the words of Francis Bacon promised to “try the whole thing anew.” This seminar will explore how these and other changes in natural philosophy were reflected in a wide range of cultural products created or consumed in the early modern Atlantic world. Participants will study natural philosophical ideas as they appeared in literary genres such as poetry, utopias, and travel narratives. They will also examine the visual culture of this Atlantic space for clues about changing conceptions of the natural world. The expedition will encompass Anglophone, French, Portuguese and Hispanic regions and will pay careful attention to hybrid cultural products that reflect the interaction between indigenous cultures and the (changing) European understanding of the natural world.
Director: María M. Portuondo is Associate Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University. Her book, Secret Science: Spanish Cosmography and the New World (2009), studied how Spanish cosmographers sought to integrate the New World into the conceptual framework of Renaissance science. Her current focus is on the natural philosopher and biblical scholar, Benito Arias Montano (1527-1598).
Schedule: Fridays, 1 – 4:30 p.m., 3 October through 12 December 2014, excluding 10 October, 7 November, and 28 November. The first and last sessions will convene from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Apply: 2 June 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid; 5 September 2014 for admission only for consortium members, and grants-in-aid for non-consortium members. Support from The Kislak Family Foundation extends grant-in-aid eligibility to graduate students and faculty nationwide.
Advanced Early Modern English Paleography
- Heather Wolfe
- December Weeklong Workshop
This workshop provides intermediate and advanced paleographers with the opportunity to tackle some of the Folger's many challenging manuscripts in a collaborative environment. It is part of the Folger Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project, which is funded by a major grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Twelve to sixteen participants will select manuscripts from the Folger collections to transcribe while beta-testing a newly developed transcription software platform. They will work with the EMMO project team to refine their transcriptions before contributing them to the EMMO corpus. Some sessions will be devoted to participants' describing the research questions that currently engage them, evaluating each others' transcriptions, and discussing digital mark-up and quality control issues. (No previous mark-up experience is necessary). In their application materials, applicants should describe the means by which they acquired their paleographic skill. Applicants are also welcome to indicate which previously unedited Folger manuscript or manuscripts they would be interested in transcribing.
Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has written various essays on early modern manuscript culture, and has most recently edited The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613–1680 (2007) and The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608: A Facsimile Edition of Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.b.232 (2007).
Schedule: All day Monday through Friday, 8 – 12 December 2014.
Apply: 5 September 2014. IMLS funding and funding from other sources extends travel and lodging award eligibility to all admitted participants.
- Lynne Magnusson
- Spring Symposium
If the Muses themselves spoke English, they would speak with “Shakespeare’s fine-filed phrase,” Francis Meres commented in 1598, suggesting that Shakespeare’s linguistic art tapped the emerging potential of the English language and extended its resources. Sponsored by the Folger Institute Center for Shakespeare Studies as part of its triennial anniversary programming, this symposium will gather several dozen scholars with relevant research and teaching interests to explore Shakespeare’s still resonant language. With the help of invited session leaders, participants will consider reinvigorated contexts and new tools for its illumination and assessment. Four hundred years on, linguistic change is itself an important context, and the symposium will address not only variation in early modern English but also the effects of subsequent language change, changing perceptions of English, and translation on Shakespeare’s verbal art and its reception. Revisiting Renaissance education in the arts of language, symposium participants will ask how new perspectives on the everyday theatricality of the Latin schoolroom or its grammatical and rhetorical culture might inflect understanding of Shakespeare’s language. Turning to current-day tools, the symposium will look at how discourse analysis has developed beyond speech-act theory, whether reading Shakespeare’s performative utterance as passionate action, cognitive processing, or dialogic negotiation. With computer-assisted analysis of texts and large corpora rapidly transforming language study, the symposium will also create opportunities to try out some relevant tools for digital text-analysis.
Organizer: Lynne Magnusson is Professor of English at the University of Toronto. She is currently working on a book on The Transformation of the English Letter, 1500–1620, a second book on ways to rethink Shakespeare’s language historically, and an edition of William Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Schedule: The symposium opens Thursday evening, 16 April, when Professor Magnusson will deliver Shakespeare's Birthday Lecture on “Shakespeare and the Language of Possibility,” and will continue all day Friday and Saturday, 17 – 18 April 2015. Invited session leaders will pose framing questions that invite general discussion.
Apply: 12 January 2015 for admission and grants-in-aid.
The Scale of Catastrophe: Ecology and Transition, Medieval to Early Modern
- Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
- Spring Semester Seminar
Medieval and early modern texts share a vocabulary for catastrophe that intermixes deluge (the Flood that only Noah and his family survived) and incineration (the advent of apocalypse and the purging of the mortal world). Although one was in the distant past and never supposed to arrive again, the other to blaze forth at some uncertain future, both fire and flood tended to be invoked to mark historical breaks and anxious moments of transition. This seminar will pair medieval texts fascinated by survival in the face of cataclysm with early modern ones that carry the stories they offer into new realms. Participants will investigate the scale of catastrophe stories, where scale is both size (local versus cosmic) and structure, a ladder (scala) that arranges nature into a hierarchy. They will also consider the gender of catastrophe, and map whether women tell different stories against and within catastrophe from men. Readings frequently pair medieval texts with early modern ones that reinterpreted them. Medieval primary texts may include Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History, Des Grantz Geanz, the Chester play of Noah’s Flood, and Chaucer’s “Franklin’s Tale” and “Miller’s Tale.” Early modern readings may include Hooke’s Micrographia, Raleigh’s Discovery of Guyana, Holinshed’s Chronicles, and several plays by Shakespeare before considering Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.
Director: Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at The George Washington University. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory Beyond Green (2013), Medieval Identity Machines (2003), and Monster Theory: Reading Culture (1996). His book Stories of Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman is forthcoming.
Schedule: Thursdays, 1 – 4:30 p.m., 29 January through 23 April 2015, excluding 12 March, 2 April, and 9 April.
Apply: 5 September 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid; 12 January 2015 for admission only.
Debating Capitalism: Early Modern Political Economies
Emerging discourses of political economy offered a series of powerful analytical frameworks for understanding and shaping the profound changes underway in early modern Europe and its empires. Sponsored by the Center for the History of British Political Thought, this seminar will trace a number of different traditions of political economy, primarily from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and explore some of the vibrant debates that took place over the nature of improvement and prosperity. Participants will explore the interplay between self-interest and moral sentiments, the ethics of pleasure and luxury, the changing definitions of credit and reputation, and the growing problems of poverty, inequality, and criminality. Careful attention will be paid to the ways in which political economy was embedded in discourses about natural history and religion, moral philosophy and political theory, gender and law. The seminar will mix readings in sources and recent scholarship with discussion of seminar members’ projects on these and related themes. Canonical (Locke, Mandeville, Hume, Rousseau, and Smith) and quasi-canonical writings on political economy will be studied alongside related literary and legal texts. While the majority of the readings will come from England, Scotland, and France, others, to be read in translation, were produced in the Dutch Republic, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.
Co-Directors: Julia Rudolph is Associate Professor of History at North Carolina State University. Her most recent publication is Common Law and Enlightenment in England 1689-1750 (2013), and she is currently at work on two new projects: one about the history of English mortgage law and one about the history of judicial power in early modern Ireland. Carl Wennerlind is Associate Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University. After publishing Casualties of Credit: The English Financial Revolution, 1620–1720 (2011), he is currently working on two books, one about the history of the idea of scarcity and one about science, spirituality, and political economy during Sweden’s “Age of Greatness.”
Schedule: Thursdays, 1 – 4:30 p.m., 29 January through 23 April 2015, excluding 19 February, 12 March, and 9 April.
Apply: 5 September 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid; 12 January 2015 for admission only.
A Folger Introduction to Research Methods and Agendas
- Alan B. Farmer
- Spring Semester Seminar
This seminar will illustrate and exemplify graduate-level work in the humanities, surveying the tools of research in early modern studies through a semester-long immersion in one of the world’s major Renaissance collections. Representative fields and approaches addressed will include various forms of historiography (e.g., theatrical, cultural, social, scientific, and political), the book as a material object, the visual analysis of images, manuscript studies, and editorial practice. Participants will develop their research skills through a series of exercises linked to the strengths and ranges of the collection and current trends and debates in scholarship. They will develop potential research projects; identify and discuss theses and hypotheses; and engage with the varieties of expertise found in the scholarly community at the Folger Shakespeare Library, including those of fellows and professional staff. Each student will assemble a portfolio of exercises throughout the term, with copies of all to be shared so that students are prepared for further graduate work with a broad-based sourcebook for early modern studies.
Director: Alan B. Farmer is Associate Professor of English at The Ohio State University. He is the co-creator (with Zachary Lesser) of DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks and the co-editor (with Adam Zucker) of Localizing Caroline Drama (2006). The author of essays on Jonson, Shakespeare, and the early modern book trade, he is currently completing book projects on print and popularity in Shakespeare’s England and on playbooks, newsbooks, and the politics of the Thirty Years’ War in England.
Schedule: Fridays, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., 6 February through 24 April 2015, excluding 3 April and 10 April.
Apply: 2 December 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid. The course is designed for students in the first two years of graduate study. Applicants should briefly describe their ambitions for graduate study and indicate their understanding of the role of research in those studies. Examples may be drawn from their undergraduate courses as well as from their graduate courses.
Afterlife of the Reformation: Embodied Souls and their Rivals
- Brad Gregory
- Spring Semester Seminar
Since the sixteenth century, the embodied souls of medieval Latin Christianity have both persisted and been reinterpreted in myriad ways. Conceptions of human corporeality have converged in the modern era with the advance of modern biology and medicine, whereas conceptions of human souls have diverged in an open-ended range of religious and secular views about what human beings are. The early modern period lies at the heart of these processes, as Catholic and Protestant controversialists squared off with conflicting theological anthropologies, learned scholars revived and transformed ancient philosophical ideas, extra-European peoples presented different views of human beings, and foundationalist philosophers sought to answer on the basis of reason alone what human beings are and what they should be. This multidisciplinary seminar seeks advanced graduate students as well as faculty working on projects that address conceptions of human nature from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. It welcomes historians of ideas, religion, culture, the body, and medicine, as well as scholars from departments of literature, religious studies, political science, theology, and philosophy with projects anchored in early modern Europe, including its colonial and global commercial contexts. Participants will have opportunities to share their work-in-progress, whether dissertation chapters, book chapters, or articles.
Director: Brad Gregory is Professor of History and Dorothy G. Griffin Collegiate Chair at the University of Notre Dame. His most recent book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (2012), examined the continuing impact of the Reformation era’s conflicts on the contemporary Western world. He is currently working on a history of rival views of human nature from the Middle Ages to the present.
Schedule: Fridays, 1 – 4:30 p.m., 6 February through 24 April 2015, excluding 6 March and 3 April.
Apply: 5 September 2014 for admission and grants-in-aid; 12 January 2015 for admission only.
Introduction to English Paleography
- A Late-Spring Intensive Skills Course Supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
This weeklong course provides 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 manuscripts in the Folger collection, up to fifteen participants will be trained in the accurate reading and transcription of secretary, italic, and mixed hands. They will also experiment with contemporary writing materials (quills, iron gall ink, and paper), learn the terminology for describing and comparing letterforms, and become skillful decipherers of abbreviations, numbers, and dates. All transcriptions made by participants will become part of the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) database.
Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She has written widely on manuscripts in early modern England and is currently thinking about hybrid books, early modern writing paper, and filing systems. She 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), and Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2001), along with two exibition catalogs: The Pen’s Excellencie: Treasures from the Manuscript Collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library (2002), and, with Alan Stewart, Letterwriting in Renaissance England (2004).
Schedule: Monday through Friday, 10 – 4:30 p.m., 18 – 22 May 2015.
Apply: 2 March 2015 for admission. Grants-in-aid are available by request for affiliates of the Institute’s Consortium. Mellon funding provides modest stipends to all admitted participants and extends eligibility for grants-in-aid to advanced PhD students and junior faculty at U.S. colleges and universities, to advanced PhD students and junior faculty at Canadian institutions, to professional staff of U.S. and Canadian libraries and museums, and to qualified independent scholars.