Political Theologies in Early Modern Literature (seminar)

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Political Theologies in Early Modern Literature

Lorna Hutson and Victoria Kahn
Fall 2013 Faculty Weekend Seminar
For some scholars, political theology refers to the transcendental grounding of political authority; for others it names the problem of the relationship between politics and theology in the early modern state; and for still others it conjures up the range of early modern conceptions of political authority as a product of the literary imagination. This seminar will take up the problem of political theology in the early modern period, focusing on both literary and political texts, and on recent secondary work in the field of early modern studies. Drawing on the work of Carl Schmitt, Ernst Kantorowicz, and others, twelve to sixteen faculty participants will bring their own research questions to bear as they collaboratively explore the usefulness of these paradigms for thinking about early modern literature and political theory. The seminar will begin by considering the relationship between politics and theology as a question of legal authority, including debates over the jurisdiction of the soul, over royal prerogative, and over national sovereignty in early modern England and Scotland. Discussion will also focus on the relationship between political theology and what the Florentine Neoplatonists called poetic theology as derived from Boccaccio and Ficino, Machiavelli and Hobbes, Marlowe and Milton.
Directors: Lorna Hutson is the Berry Professor of English Literature at the University of St Andrews. Her books include The Usurer’s Daughter (1994) and The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance English Drama (2007). She is working with Bradin Cormack on The Oxford Handbook to English Law and Literature, 1500–1700.
Victoria Kahn is Katharine Bixby Hotchkis Chair of English and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Wayward Contracts: The Crisis of Political Obligation in England, 1640–1674 and of The Future of Illusion: Political Theology and Early Modern Texts (forthcoming).