Rogues, Gypsies, and Outsiders: Early Modern People on the Margins (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

Rogues, Gypsies, and Outsiders: Early Modern People on the Margins

Late-Spring 2014 Faculty Weekend Seminar
Focused on early modern England, but incorporating participant research interests that involve Ireland, the rest of Britain, and continental Europe, this seminar attends to people on the margins of settled society. Its subjects are mountebanks and wanderers, tale-tellers and tricksters, vagrants, Gypsies, prostitutes, discharged soldiers, and the roving poor, who appear from time to time in both literary and documentary sources. Pirates, outlaws, rogues, rebels, fortune tellers, cunning folk, sexual misfits, and “the canting crew” also inhabited this world of poverty and the picaresque, along with ethnic and religious outsiders. Studying these marginal people exposes strains and contradictions in culture and society and shows how the establishment dealt with anomalies. Marginality may need to be de-glamorized, and its fascination reconsidered. The seminar will reconnect older work on “cony catchers” and the Elizabethan underworld with recent scholarship on outsiders and transgression. It will consider the social, legal and economic circumstances of marginality, as well as literary and artistic representations from Thomas Harman’s A Caveat or Warening for Commen Cursetors Vulgarely Called Vagabones (1567) to Richard Head’s The English Rogue: Containing a brief Discovery of the most Eminent Cheats, Robberies, and other Extravagancies, by him Committed (1688).
Director: David Cressy is Humanities Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus and George III Professor of British History at The Ohio State University. His many publications include books on literacy, migration, commemoration, ritual, transgression, and seditious speech. He is currently working on the reign of Charles I and on Gypsies in early modern England.