2016-2017 Scholarly Programs

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This article lists the programming of the Folger Institute for the 2016–2017 academic year. For more past programming, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

Convent Cultures

Nancy Bradley Warren
Fall Semester Seminar
Far from being an impenetrable boundary, the convent wall in early modern Europe was highly permeable; individual nuns and nunneries as institutions were strongly connected to their local communities and were deeply engaged in both secular and ecclesiastical politics. As Protestant reformations and Catholic reform movements (both monastic reforms and the larger movement generally known as the counter-reformation) unfolded, nuns and nunneries also took in significant symbolic meanings for polemicists of all stripes. This seminar explores writings by, for, and about early modern women religious in continental Europe and the New World. Its participants will consider such subjects as the ways in which English convents in exile in France, Portugal, and the Low Countries served as loci of English Catholic political activity and textual production; Protestant satirical writings about nuns and nunneries; translations of medieval texts for early modern women religious and the circulation of these texts in print culture; relationships among and textual exchanges among English, French, and Spanish nunneries; and the roles of nuns in French and Spanish colonization of the Americas.
Director: Nancy Bradley Warren is Professor of English at Texas A&M University. She is the author of three books on medieval and early modern female spirituality, including most recently The Embodied Word: Female Spiritualities, Contested Orthodoxies, and English Religious Cultures, 1350-1700 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010). Her current book project is entitled Hemispheric Medievalisms: The “Old Religion” in the New World, 1550-1800.
Schedule: Friday afternoons, 1:00 – 4:30 p.m., September 30 through December 9, 2016, excluding November 11 and November 25.
Apply: June 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid; September 6, 2016 for admission only.

Teaching Medieval Drama and Performance

Theresa Coletti
2016-2017 Colloquium
This colloquium welcomes advanced scholars whose research and pedagogical practice explore historical, literary, and theoretical dimensions of medieval drama from the perspective of performance. Some sessions may include workshop opportunities and visiting contributors; participants’ own research projects will shape others. Questions to be addressed might include: what is the role of medieval performative practices in the contemporary teaching of medieval drama? What classroom opportunities are offered by a focus on medieval performance? What archival resources—and in what forms—might facilitate this focus or mitigate common challenges? Performative practices may be broadly construed and participant contributions may include practical experiments and applications in the college classroom.
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 and Mary Magdalene and the Drama of Saints: Theater, Gender, and Religion in Late Medieval England; many essays and reviews on medieval drama; and editor of the forthcoming TEAMS edition of the Digby Mary Magdalene play.
Schedule: Friday afternoons, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., September 30, October 21, December 16, 2016; February 24, March 24, April 14, 2017.
Apply: September 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid.

Researching the Archive

Keith Wrightson and James Siemon
Yearlong Dissertation Seminar
This monthly seminar focuses on the wealth of archival material available for the study of the history, culture, society, and literature of early modern Britain. In the fall, the seminar participants will explore a variety of printed and manuscript sources relevant to both English and History Ph.D. candidates and will learn (with the assistance of Folger staff) some essential research skills. In the spring, they will focus on issues of research and interpretation raised by their projects. Throughout, the goal will be to foster interdisciplinary scholarship while considering broad methodological and theoretical problems relevant to current work in early modern studies. Preference will be given to applicants who have completed course work and preliminary exams; they should be preparing a prospectus or beginning to write chapters and be ready to make significant use of the Library’s collections as part of their monthly visits. Applicants should consult with their dissertation directors before applying to ensure that their work is at a stage that would benefit from the seminar, and their directors should certify that this is the case in their recommendation letters. Those whose dissertations are substantially complete will not be competitive applicants.
Co-directors: Keith Wrightson is Randolph W. Townsend Jr. Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of English Society, 1580-1680 (1982, 2003), Earthly Necessities (2000), and Ralph Tailor’s Summer (2011) and is currently editing the Cambridge Social History of England, 1500-1750. James Siemon is Professor of English at Boston University. He edits Shakespeare Studies and is the author of Shakespearean Iconoclasm (1986) and Word Against Word: Shakespearean Utterance (2002); he has edited Marlowe’s Jew of Malta as well as Shakespeare’s Richard III and Julius Caesar. He is currently editing Thomas Preston’s Cambyses.
Schedule: Friday afternoons, 1:00 – 4:30, September

23, October 14, November 4 , December 9 , 2016; January 27, February 17, March 17 , and April 21, 2017.

Apply: June 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid.

Early Modern Theatre and Conversion

Fall Symposium
How did the crisis of conversion in the early modern world open up a space for dramatists and others to play with one of the key questions of their time? How, that is, did early modern theatre and other kinds of theatrical practice adopt, repurpose, transform, and multiply forms of religious conversion? Offered in partnership with the SSHRC-funded project, “Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies,” this symposium will convene members of that project with others, bringing together historians of theatre and historians of religious and political culture with theatrical practitioners, whose work will open other ways of understanding how theatre is able to “convert” conversion. Through discussion and workshop sessions, symposium participants will work across differences of discipline and archive in order to reach toward a greater understanding of the social creativity of theatre in an age of political and religious upheaval.
Schedule: Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday, November 17 – 19, 2016. The symposium opens with an evening performance workshop, “Playing Conversion,” during which professional actors will stage themes that will resonate throughout the rest of the symposium. On Friday and Saturday, invited speakers will initiate discussion on a number of relevant topics. More details will be available this summer.
Organizers: Professor Paul Yachnin and Dr. Stephen Wittek of McGill University represent the “Early Modern Conversions” project. They have developed this symposium in collaboration with Drs. Kathleen Lynch and Owen Williams of the Folger Institute.
Apply: September 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid.

Political Thought in Times of Crisis, 1640-1660

Sponsored by the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought
December 2016 Symposium
Was the mid-seventeenth-century crisis in Britain and Ireland essentially one aspect of a broader “global” crisis? How might scholars theorize the relationships between political thought and other verbal and non-verbal expressions of change and instability (political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental)? Extending its recent investigations of the discursive and spatial boundaries of political thinking in the early modern period, the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought will offer a distinctive symposium that demonstrates the continuing value of the study of political thought, not least in showing the relevance of early modern thought to the concerns of our own world. The symposium considers political thought as it crosses language and geo-political domains beyond Britain and Ireland. The geographical range includes the pan-European world in the culmination and aftermath of the Thirty Years War as well as such global contexts as the colonial Americas and Asia. Scholars whose work considers these issues are encouraged to apply.
Speakers and Session Leaders: The symposium will open with a forum that welcomes Geoffrey Parker (The Ohio State University), Michael Braddick (University of Sheffield), and Richard Tuck (Harvard University). On Friday and Saturday, the following speakers have been invited to frame discussions and inspire new lines of inquiry on a number of topics: Sharon Achinstein (The Johns Hopkins University), Jeffrey Collins (Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario), David Cressy (The Ohio State University, emeritus), Cesare Cuttica (Université Paris 8), Martin Dzelzainis (University of Leicester), Rachel Hammersley (Newcastle University), Helmer Helmers (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Ariel Hessayon (Goldsmiths, University of London), Ann Hughes (Keele University), Laura Lunger Knoppers (University of Notre Dame), Karen Ordahl Kupperman (New York University), Gaby Mahlberg (Berlin), Ted McCormick (Concordia University, Montreal), Nicholas McDowell (University of Exeter), David Norbrook (Merton College, Oxford), Carla Pestana (UCLA), and Joad Raymond (Queen Mary University of London)
Schedule: Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday, December 1 – 3 , 2016.
Apply: September 6, for admission and grants-in-aid.

Introduction to English Paleography

Heather Wolfe
December Week-long Skills Course
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. Dr. Wolfe has published widely on manuscripts in early modern England and is currently thinking about hybrid books, early modern writing paper, and filing systems. She is also Principal Investigator of the EMMO Project.
Schedule: Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., December 5 – 9, 2016.
Apply: September 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid.

Visualizing English Print

Michael Gleicher, Michael Witmore, and Jonathan Hope
December Weekend Seminar
With the release of EEBO-TCP transcriptions, scholars of early modern literature have access to far larger collections of texts than before. However, making use of large collections requires different strategies for exploration. In Visualizing English Print (VEP), funded by the Mellon Foundation, scholars have explored ways to create a new “scalable scholarship” amplifying the traditional techniques of literary study (such as close reading) with the computational thinking that is required to interact with corpora that are far too large for any individual to read. This seminar will introduce approaches to statistical scholarship that integrate with (rather than replace) more traditional literary approaches. Its goals are to enable scholars to work with the EEBO-TCP collection (or similar corpora) in scalable ways, to discuss the choices and issues involved in performing large-scale studies, and to establish a scholarly community of practice around VEP’s data and methodologies as it seeks collaborative partners for its next phase of development. Sessions will introduce specific tools, methods, and datasets; discuss issues in using transcribed texts and statistical methods; provide example case studies; and allow participants to discover how these approaches can fit with their own inquiries.
Directors: Michael Gleicher is Professor of Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Michael Witmore is Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library; and Jonathan Hope is Professor of Literary Linguistics at Strathclyde University, Glasgow. They are jointly responsible for the project. You can read their forthcoming paper, “Digital Approaches to Shakespearean Tragedy,” online.
Schedule: Thursday and Friday, December 15 – 16, 2016.
Apply: September 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid. Visualizing English Print project funding extends eligibility to all interested scholars.

Cavendish and Hutchinson

Julie Crawford
Spring Semester Seminar
In many ways Margaret Cavendish (1623-73) and Lucy Hutchinson (1620-81) make strange bedfellows. One was a royalist and one a republican; one largely indifferent to religion and the other a devoted Calvinist; one an aggressive circulator of her work in print and the other largely committed to scribal publication. Yet they also had a surprising amount in common: both were actively involved in the central political conflicts of their time; both wrote widely printed and widely admired vindicatory accounts of their husbands’ political and military lives; both lived on large, redoubtable, and profoundly compromised estates in the north; both were actively interested in natural science; both were astonishingly erudite and prolific. This seminar seeks to examine what they shared as much as what divided them, and takes as its premise that Cavendish and Hutchinson were the complex heirs of what is often called “politically active” humanism.  Participants will discuss many aspects of their work, including the books they read as well as the histories and other works they wrote, and the local, as well as national, contexts in which they undertook this work.
Director: Julie Crawford is Mark van Doren Professor of Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and Chair of Literature Humanities at Columbia University.  She works on topics ranging from the history of sexuality to the history of reading, and is the author of two books, Marvelous Protestantism: Monstrous Births in Post-Reformation England (2005) and Mediatrix: Women, Politics, and Literary Production in Early Modern England (2014). She is currently completing a book entitled Margaret Cavendish’s Political Career.
Schedule: Friday afternoons, 1:00 – 4:30 p.m., February 3 through April 21, 2017, excluding March 31 and April 7.
Apply: September 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid; January 17, 2017 for admission only.

Pasts in Early Modern Britain: Perception and Representation

Daniel Woolf
Faculty Weekend Seminar
The past is itself arguably plural, not singular. Studies of early modern historical thought and writing have proliferated over the past quarter century and have broadened their scope beyond the traditional “great texts” to include everything from oral tradition to nationalist sentiment to the mnemonic function of landscape. Several recent works remind scholars that the past was not an objective, monolithic concept, or even a single set of facts. Rather, it was a somewhat “wild” field of human interest that provided useful tools for making sense of the contemporary world. It simultaneously lay increasingly heavily upon the present as a set of constraints and limits on how early modern English people were able to make sense of and deal with change in their own time. This seminar will examine the segmentation of the past along social, political, and gender lines and explore the emergence of what might be called a “national” British past, which solidified in the eighteenth century. Participants from history, literature, and related disciplines are welcome.
Director: Daniel Woolf is Professor of History at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is author of The Social Circulation of the Past (2003) and A Global History of History (2011) among other books. He is working on a series of essays on women and historical thought and writing from 1500 to 1800.
Schedule: Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11, 2017.
Apply: September 6, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid.

Early Modern Manuscripts Online: New Directions in Research

Late Spring Conference
Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) is an IMLS-funded Folger digital transcription and encoding initiative. EMMO will be the subject of—and occasion for—a conference on the impact of digital scholarship on manuscript studies as well as the impact that wider access to manuscripts will have on our understanding of early modern humanities. Sessions will address emerging scholarly trends and approaches, collaborative research projects, and genre-specific topics. Workshop sessions will introduce the EMMO corpus of crowd-sourced, encoded transcriptions and the new ways college faculty are using online tools to teach paleography. More details will be available in the fall.
Schedule: Thursday and Friday, May 18 – 19, 2017.
Apply: January 17, 2017 for admission and grants-in-aid.

The Embodied Senses

Laura Gowing, Mark Jenner, and Bruce Smith
Spring Symposium
“Things,” wrote Montaigne, “are sensed through the understanding, understood through the senses.” However, the nature, value, and reliability of sensory experience was a constant preoccupation in early modern culture. Debates about its character and the extent to which it can be expressed and communicated continue to this day. A growing body of recent scholarship seeks to historicize precisely what the senses do offer; this symposium considers ways to reconstruct how early modern people lived, felt, and sensed their way through life. Contributions are sought from those working on and developing all the ways of thinking about the embodied senses, sensory embodiment, and the evocation and reconstruction of sensory perception between c.1500 and c.1750. Relevant intellectual fields and approaches include early modern natural philosophy, religion, neuroscience, performance theory, selfhood, habitus, and re-enactment; artistic creation and performance (including a variety of media); modes of encounter with the world (including touch, infection, erotics, and eating); forms of expertise relating to the senses (including commerce, midwifery, healing, service, and technology); and sensory reception and retrieval (including seeing, hearing, reading, remembering, and feeling).
Organizers: Laura Gowing is Professor of Early Modern History at King’s College, London, and author of Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern England (1996); Common Bodies: Women, Touch and Power in Seventeenth-Century England (2003); and recent articles on demeanor and bed-sharing. Mark Jenner is Reader in Early Modern History at the University of York. His research focuses on ideas of cleanliness and dirt in early modern culture. His publications include the co-edited collections Londinopolis (2000) and Medicine and the Market in England and its Colonies c.1450-c.1850 (2007) and articles on smell, taste, and pollution. Bruce Smith, Dean’s Professor of English at the University of Southern California, is the author of seven books, including The Acoustic World of Early Modern England (1999), The Key of Green: Passion and Perception in Renaissance Culture (2009), and Shakespeare | Cut: Rethinking Cutwork in Distracted Times (forthcoming).
Schedule: Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday, May 25 – 27, 2017. The organizers will present a forum on Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, invited speakers will initiate discussion for approximately two dozen participants. More details will be available in the fall.
Apply: January 17, 2017 for admission and grants-in-aid.

A Folger Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas

Late Spring Intensive Skills Course
The best research is inquiry based and allows for serendipity. A scholar needs to sharpen research questions and search skills simultaneously and with sensitivity to the ways questions and sources affect each other. The available evidence may invite a new thesis, require a revised approach, or even suggest a new field of exploration. This intensive week is not designed to advance participants’ individual research projects. Rather, it aims to cultivate a habit of curiosity into primary sources with exercises that engage participants’ research interests. It is offered to help early-stage graduate students develop a set of research-oriented literacies as they explore the Folger’s rich collections. With the guidance of visiting faculty and Folger staff, up to two dozen participants will examine bibliographical tools and their logics, hone their early modern book description skills, and improve their understanding of the cultural and technological histories of texts. Participants will ask reflexive questions about the nature of primary sources, the collections that house them, and the tools whereby one can access them.
Schedule: Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., May 8 – 12, 2017.
Apply: January 17, 2017 for admission and grants-in-aid. This skills course is intended for students in the early years of graduate work. In addition to following the general application guidelines, applicants for this course should describe a research question, the motivating reason to look to primary sources to answer this question, and any previous experience with early modern materials. This skills course may be taken for one credit of independent graduate study; if a participant is able to arrange for one graduate credit on the home campus under the direction of an on-campus advisor, the Institute will certify participation.