2011–2012 Folger Institute Scholarly Programs
The Legal and Cultural Worlds of the Inns of Court
- Spring Faculty Weekend Seminar
- This seminar in the Folger series on English pedagogical institutions focuses on the so-called “third university of England,” the inns of court and inns of chancery in London. Unincorporated voluntary societies that housed practicing lawyers alongside young men training for the profession, the inns also contained “amateur” members drawn largely from the landed gentry. Some have argued that the literary vitality and rich culture of performing arts associated with the inns was only loosely connected with the (meager) pedagogic framework they provided. Yet, the inns remained the intellectual nerve-center of English law. There are, therefore, intriguing questions about the place of the inns as distinctive legal and educational societies within the wider cultural life of London. A dialogic consideration of legal education, such as this seminar invites, challenges us to re-think the relationship between institutions and the acquisition and transmission of knowledge and expertise across a range of media and intellectual communities. Applicants with fully developed research projects are welcome to frame their own inquiries in their applications. Others are invited to consider a contribution in connection with the themes discussed above.
- Director: Christopher Brooks is Professor of History at Durham University and is currently the holder of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, which he is using to write the volume covering the years 1625-1689 for the Oxford History of the Laws of England. His most recent major publication is Law, Politics and Society in Early Modern England (2008).
Writing Down Experience: How-To Books and Artisanal Epistemology
- Late-spring Faculty Weekend Seminar
- From about 1400, many European artisans and practitioners began to write down their working procedures. With the advent of the printing press, this trickle of technical writing became a flood: all sorts of practical knowledge—recipe collections, Kunstbücher, household management texts, writing manuals—began to appear. Who were the writers and readers of this literature? What did the authors and publishers wish to convey? What did the readers hope to acquire? What were the roles of illustration, paratexts, printed marginalia, or indices? Many scholars have assumed these books possessed a didactic function, but can this be sustained on close examination of the procedures contained in them? What kind of evidence do these texts offer to the historian who wishes to understand the intellectual and material world of the past? On the basis of both primary texts and recent historical and literary scholarship, this weekend seminar will consider such questions, focusing on the period 1400-1700. Faculty with advanced research projects that usefully illuminate these topics are encouraged to apply; they will have the opportunity to discuss their projects within the seminar’s intellectual framework.
- Director: Pamela H. Smith is Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of books on alchemy, artisans, and the making of knowledge; most recently, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (2004) and Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400-1800 (with Benjamin Schmidt, 2008). Her present research reconstructs the vernacular knowledge of early modern European metalworkers. In 2001, she co-directed an NEH Summer Institute on “Experience and Experiment in Early Modern Europe.”
Thinking the Revolution: American Political Thought, 1763-1789
- Late-spring Seminar
- This seminar will examine the development of American political thought from the beginning of the Atlantic imperial crisis in the 1760s until the ratification of the Federal Constitution. Famous works of the period, such as Paine’s Common Sense and The Federalist, will be placed in the wider context of American political writing from 1763 to 1789. Particular attention will be paid to the North American reception of various, competing traditions within early-modern republican thought (derived from Roman, Greek, and Hebraic sources), and to the manner in which shifting understandings of England’s great seventeenth-century constitutional crisis came to structure American political discourse during the Revolutionary period. The seminar is sponsored by the Center for the History of British Political Thought at the Folger Institute.
- Director: Eric Nelson is Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (2010) and The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought (2004), and editor of Hobbes’s translations of the Iliad and Odyssey for the Works of Thomas Hobbes (2008).
Mastering Research Methods
- Spring Semester Seminar for Master’s-level Students
- This seminar will illustrate and exemplify graduate-level work in the humanities, introducing first-year graduate students to 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 (theatrical, cultural, social, 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 sharpen 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: Natasha Korda is Professor of English and Chair (2009-11) of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University. She is the author of Shakespeare’s Domestic Economies: Gender and Property in Early Modern England (2002) and Labors Lost: Women’s Work and the Early Modern English Stage (2011), and several co-edited volumes of essays.
A New World of Secrets: The Hermeneutics of Discovery in the Early Americas
- Spring Semester Seminar
- In the early modern period, the word “to discover” and its cognates in all Western European vernaculars could have several meanings, including to uncover, to reveal, or to make manifest something already known to be true as well as to find something new or not previously known. In this seminar, participants will explore how the early modern category of the “secret’” negotiates between these various—and, from the point of view of a modern hermeneutics, contradictory—meanings in the literature of discovery, encounter, and conquest of the New World from the late fifteenth to the end of the seventeenth century. Particular attention will be paid to the rhetorical role played by prophecy (both European and Amerindian) in the literature of the early modern encounters; by esoteric (Hermetic, alchemical, astrological) textual traditions (i.e., “books of secrets”) in early modern natural histories about the New World; by translation (mainly from Spanish into English) of the literature of reconnaissance and intelligence; and by the discourse of demonology in early modern ethnographic writings. Along with primary readings in the literature of discovery, the seminar will engage with a number of theoretical, critical, and historiographic reflections on philosophical hermeneutics, on the history of the early modern New World encounters, and on the history of science.
- Director: Ralph Bauer is an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland. His previous publications include The Cultural Geography of Early American Literatures: Empire, Travel, Modernity (2003) and An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru (2005).
Shakespeare and Sacraments
- Spring Semester Seminar
- An unprecedented, astonishing revolution in the forms and conventions of speaking, hence of modes of human relating, took place in the sixteenth century in England. Confessing, forgiving, absolving, initiating, swearing, blessing, baptizing, ordaining: these are a mere few of the speech acts so transformed in the English Reformation. These changes are fundamentally linked with a transformation of sacramental theology and practice and a reduction of the seven medieval sacraments to two: baptism and eucharist. Who has the authority to bless, to forgive and absolve, to ordain? And what happens to the sacramental rites that both initiate and end human life? Shakespeare’s theater charts, from first to last, and with extraordinary clarity and remorselessness, the transformed work of language in human relating that follows from this revolution in language. When authority is no longer assumed in the speech acts of a sacramental priesthood, it must be found, and refound, in the claims, calls, and judgments of every person who must single him or herself and others out in these particular instances of authority. This seminar will explore Shakespeare’s plays for transformations of ceremonial practice, the changing theology of the sacraments, questions of authority, liturgy, in sum, the ordinary language philosophy of speech acts—especially promising, confessing, and forgiving.
- Director: Sarah Beckwith, Professor of English at Duke University, has written Christ’s Body: Identity, Religion and Society in Medieval English Writing (1993), Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in York’s Play of Corpus Christi (2001), and Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness (2011).
An Anglo-American History of the KJV
- Fall Conference
- This conference marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV). It will raise issues that speak directly to the influences of this most famous of all English-language translations of the scriptures, exploring them in the context of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s collections, shaping them to the converging interests of the Institute’s many constituencies, and taking direction from the symbolic location of the Library in the capital of the United States. The conference is scheduled in conjunction with an exhibition jointly organized by the Folger and the Bodleian Library. With plenary lectures, panels, and round tables, discussion will explore the Bible’s role in provoking, defining, and then, in a sense, outlasting the English Reformation as an essential template for life, letters, art, politics, and culture. Speakers will trace the paths the KJV took through the Enlightenment and across democratic movements. Rich case studies will examine how the KJV has shaped denominational as well as secular experiences in Britain and America, touching on the larger worlds both nations encountered in their own imperial moments.
- Organizers: Lori Anne Ferrell (Claremont Graduate University) and Kathleen Lynch (Folger Institute).
- Plenary speakers: Brian Cummings (University of Sussex), Ena Heller (Museum of Biblical Art), Peter Lake (Vanderbilt University), and Jill Lepore (Harvard University).
Periodization and its Discontents: Medieval and Early Modern Pathways in Literature
- Fall Semester Seminar
- In recent years, the study of English literary and cultural texts has embraced the impulse to examine the borders between medieval and Renaissance. Scholars have scrutinized the terms as designating both historical periods and conceptual categories; they have examined the assumptions and analytical frameworks that these terms have invoked and sustained. Their work bears fruit in new accounts of relationships between literary texts and cultural practices that move beyond notions of difference and dependence, rupture and continuity, to underscore a more complex historiography, one that pursues diachronic notions of repetition, reinvention, appropriation, renewal, revival, survival, and reciprocity. Assuming neither the foundational status of the medieval nor the cultural superiority of the early modern, this new literary historiography investigates how pre- and early modern texts mutually animate each other. This seminar invites participants engaged with any aspect of these relationships as they pertain to English textual cultures. Early readings will focus on theories of periodization. Participants will then examine topics, genres, and reading strategies that chart pathways between medieval and early modern. The syllabus for the seminar will be informed by participants’ projects and interests as described in the application materials.
- Director: Theresa Coletti is Professor of English at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Naming the Rose: Eco, Medieval Signs and Modern Theory (1989) and Mary Magdalene and the Drama of Saints: Theater, Gender, and Religion in Late Medieval England (2004); she is also editor of the forthcoming TEAMS edition of the Digby Mary Magdalene.
Editing and its Futures
- Fall Semester Seminar
- What is scholarly editing now, and what are its futures? This seminar will consider editorial theory and practice in the twentieth century in order to think about productive forms of editorial method, practice, and theory for the twenty-first. It will also think about how key methodological innovations and theories in literary studies over the preceding decades have or could inflect early-modern editorial work–e.g., post-structuralism, feminism, new historicism, sexuality studies, transnational and ethnic studies, theories of authorship and collaboration. In addition to examining particular print editions, we will also analyze the impact and possibilities inherent in new and emerging technologies of textual production, including hypertext, electronic editions and resources for editing, and new reading technologies. What has changed with the emergence of new(er) media, with many editing projects now involving digital technologies, whether as a starting point or in the finished (or always-in-process) product? To what extent have the dominant New Bibliographical approaches of the twentieth century persisted, been re-tooled, or been supplanted, as a result of critical and technological developments? In order to think most broadly about methods and futures, we will read a wide range of critical, editorial, and theoretical works (from the paradigm-setting New Bibliographical work of Pollard, Greg, Bowers, and Tanselle, through the variety of theorists and practitioners articulating the methodological developments mentioned above). Although our “primary”-text examples will concentrate on early modern English drama, several sessions will be dedicated to issues raised by poetry, prose, and potentially non-literary documents. What assumptions and methods are transportable across generic and disciplinary boundaries–particularly from the direction of drama, where some areas of critical debate have been elaborated especially strongly?
- Director: Jeffrey Masten is Herman and Beulah Pearce Miller Research Professor in Literature at Northwestern University. He is the author of Textual Intercourse: Authorship, Collaboration, and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama (1997), co-editor of Language Machines: Technologies of Literary and Cultural Production (1997), editor of The Old Law for the Oxford Middleton (2007), and editor of the Arden edition of Marlowe’s Edward II (in progress).
Researching the Archives
- Year-Long Dissertation Seminar
- 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.
- Directors: Peter Lake is the University Distinguished Professor of History and Professor of the History of Christianity at the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University. His most recent books are The Antichrist’s Lewd Hat (2002) and The Boxmaker’s Revenge (2002). Current research projects include Shakespeare’s history plays and the religious and dynastic politics of the 1590s, Catholic critiques of the Elizabethan regime as a conspiracy of evil counsel and tyranny, and Samuel Clarke’s collections of godly lives.
- Nigel Smith is the William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature at Princeton University. His major works include Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon (2010) and Literature and Revolution in England, 1640-1660 (1994). His current book project, The State and Literary Production in Early Modern Europe, involves the comparison of English with literatures in other European (and some oriental) vernaculars in the context of political and scientific transformation between 1500 and 1800.
Introduction to Early Modern English Paleography
- Fall Semester Skills Course
- This skills course provides an introduction to English handwriting of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with a strong emphasis on the secretary hand. Participants will be introduced to a wide range of documents of historical and literary interest from the manuscript collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library, including correspondence, literary works, accounts, inventories, wills, miscellanies, commonplace books, receipt books, petitions, and depositions. Applicants should describe their progress to date on a relevant research project and the kinds of manuscript resources required, whether at the Folger or elsewhere. Enrollment is limited to eight participants.
- 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).
NEH Summer Institute: Shakespeare from the Globe to the Global
- An NEH Summer Institute for College & University Teachers, at the Folger Institute Center for Shakespeare Studies 13 June – 14 July 2011
- In today’s multicultural classrooms, a nuanced understanding of such early modern English concepts as nation, race, and imperial destiny is needed to address the culturally sensitive issues raised in many of Shakespeare’s plays.This institute will equip college teachers with the knowledge to introduce their students to Shakespeare in his global and historical contexts. While the plays initially reflected the concerns of an expanding early modern world, Shakespeare soon emerged as a voice and an icon of empire and Englishness. He is now the most significant representative of a globalized literary culture and the most popular playwright of the non-Anglophone world. Twenty participants will examine this history of reception, adaptation, translation, and re-appropriation. With a distinguished faculty and the unparalleled Folger collections, they will integrate their discoveries into their courses and disseminate them through a resource-rich website.
Directed by Michael Neill Emeritus Professor of English, University of Auckland