The State and Literary Production in Early Modern Europe (seminar)

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This was a spring 2006 semester seminar.

This seminar undertook a comparative study of the relationship between different polities (including nation states and other kinds of polity, be they secular or ecclesial, monarchical or republican, imperial or not) in early modern Europe and the kinds of literature produced within them between 1500 and 1700. How did the nature of different polities shape what was written? Does any vernacular literature have a special claim to make at a time when some vernaculars were gaining authority either in parts of Europe or in other parts of the world? What capacities were retained exclusively by Latin literature? Participants examined the consequences of the migrations of both authors and texts from one part of the Continent to another, or to another continent, by force or design, in and through the wars of early modern Europe. Each week, a particular case study of a text and context was studied from western European vernacular sources (e.g., Dutch political verse; German drama; French libertine literature; Italian religious polemic; Portuguese colonial epic). A dynamic range of interests was sought in the research fields of applicants, and the syllabus was shaped, in part, to reflect those interests. English translations of any non-English text on the syllabus were supplied.

Director: Nigel Smith is Professor of English and Chair of the Renaissance Studies Committee at Princeton University. He is the author of Literature and Revolution in England, 1640-1660 (1994) and editor of the Longman Annotated Poets edition of Marvell’s Poems (2003), among other works.