2018-2019 Folger Institute Scholarly Programs

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This article lists the programming of the Folger Institute for the 2018–2019 academic year. For more past programming, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

The Many Faces of Hebraism in Early Modern Europe

Fall Weekend Seminar
Does the term “Christian Hebraism”—conventionally used in modern scholarship—actually suit the panoply of Christian approaches and methods to Jewish literature and culture in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries? This seminar will welcome up to sixteen faculty and graduate student participants to discuss the varied approaches taken by Christians to understand the Hebrew Bible and Jewish exegesis; the history, rituals, and customs of the Jews; Kabbalah, mysticism, and magic; and the early history of Christianity. Relevant topics for discussion may include treatises and commentaries by early modern Christian scholars, debates about the biblical text and claims about Jewish doctrine and ritual, efforts to apply Jewish learning to such disciplines as philosophy and natural history, and portrayals of Jews in images and pamphlets. Participants will also examine relevant materials from the Folger Shakespeare Library collection during the course of the seminar and will present their discoveries.
Directors: Joanna Weinberg is Professor Emerita of early modern Jewish history and Rabbinics at the University of Oxford. She has translated and edited the works of the major Jewish Renaissance scholar Azariah de’ Rossi. Other recent publications include a volume co-edited with Scott Mandelbrote, Jewish Books and their Readers: Aspects of the Intellectual Life of Christians and Jews in Early Modern Europe (2016). Anthony Grafton teaches European history at Princeton University. His books include Joseph Scaliger (1983–93); The Footnote: A Curious History (1997); and, with Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities (1986). Together Grafton and Weinberg have written “I have always loved the holy tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (2011).

What Acting Is

Sponsored by the Folger Institute Center for Shakespeare Studies
Beginning with Antony Sher’s Year of the King (1985), the actor’s own story of what it was like to prepare the role of Richard III for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and ending with Year of the Mad King (2018), his account of his recent King Lear, this seminar will look inside the creative process of acting Shakespeare. Historically underestimated as an interpretive rather than a creative art, acting is not only the principal medium through which playwrights bring their characters to life as co-creations. It also stands up as an art form on its own rigorous terms, a process of probative rehearsal and perfected performance demanding exceptional resources of imagination, psychological acuity, and memory as well as physical gifts of voice, movement, and physical stamina. Saying what acting is requires learning as much as possible about what the greatest Shakespeareans make of it, and the Folger’s holdings in production history support precisely such explorations and discoveries.
Director: Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater at Yale University, is the author of The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (1985), Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (1996), and It (2007), a study of charismatic celebrity and ageless glamor.

Advancing the Miranda Digital Asset Platform

Fall Weekend Workshop
Co-sponsored by the Folger Digital Media & Publications division and the Folger Institute with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Miranda, our digital asset platform, will be the new home for the Folger’s collections online, bringing together metadata and multimedia content in a single flexible hub and generating new possibilities for scholarship. This two-day workshop aims to situate Miranda in a number of overlapping communities of practice by bringing together a variety of participants from early modern studies, digital humanities, libraries, and archives to consider the choices and issues involved in Miranda’s continued development. Workshop conversations will be framed in the context of current tools and the trajectory of digital scholarship in early modern studies writ broadly, with a keen eye towards efficacy and practical use. Selected participants will contribute to small, collaborative working groups focused on (but not limited to) four areas of inquiry: transcription and annotation, textual analysis, users’ needs regarding big data or audiovisual materials, and project management. Applicants are encouraged to address their interest in one or more of these areas in relation to their personal work or research in their application essay. See more details about the workshop on Folgerpedia.

Finance, Race, and Gender in the Early Modern Atlantic World

Yearlong Colloquium
In recent years, a host of new scholarship exploring the relationship between slavery and capitalism has emerged. How might this new canon be reconfigured by a thorough consideration of race and gender in tandem with histories of fungibility and value? Late medieval and early modern modes of accounting cohered around notions of enslavability, and the hereditary mark of race became embedded in how gender produced categories of freedom and slavery—all of which are crucial to the study of economy and race in the Atlantic world. Interrogating early modern notions of finance by asking how they intersected with, shaped, and were shaped by categories of race and gender will garner new understandings of these interrelated processes. This year-long colloquium will explore those intersections between histories of race, gender, and finance that culminate in early modern Atlantic slavery. Participants will treat the Atlantic world as the dynamic space that it was, attempting to balance engagement across continents and empires. Scholars working on histories of gender, race, and enslavement in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas will be crucial to this seminar. Scholars who have approached their work in one of these areas, but who are committed to thinking more broadly across geographical and thematic concerns, are particularly encouraged to apply.
Director: Jennifer L. Morgan is Professor of History in the Departments of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University. The author of Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery (2004), she is the editor, with Jennifer Brier and Jim Downs, of Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America (2016) and is currently completing a study of gender and the slave trade tentatively entitled “Accounting for Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Modern Black Atlantic.”

Researching the Archive

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 and Europe. 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. 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 Folger’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.
Directors: Carole Levin is Willa Cather Professor of History at the University of Nebraska. She is the author of a number of books including The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power (1994); Dreaming the English Renaissance: Politics and Desire in Court and Culture (2008); and (with John Watkins) Shakespeare’s Foreign Worlds: National and Transnational Identities in the Elizabethan Age (2009). Alan Stewart is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He works on early modern literature, history, and culture, with particular interests in life-writing, manuscript studies, letters, and the history of sexuality. His recent books include Shakespeare’s Letters (2008), volume 1 (2012) of The Oxford Francis Bacon, and volume 2, Early Modern (2018), of The Oxford History of Life-Writing.

Digging the Past: Writing and Agriculture in the Seventeenth Century

Fall Weekend Seminar
This seminar will focus on English texts that promoted new crops and agricultural methods in the hopes of creating a more varied, reliable, and abundant food supply—and attracting investment in colonial ventures. Eager amateurs experimented with amending soil, making wine and cider, importing seeds and plant starts, and naturalizing those plants by outwitting the climate. Books, ancient and new, informed these experiments, which, in turn, yielded more texts, from letters, travel narratives, notebooks, plays, and poems to how-to guides. Sampling this variety, up to sixteen participants will also trace the influence of ancient writers, including Pliny and Columella, and explore how metaphors—such as the earth as a hungry mouth—persist from antiquity to the early modern period to pitches for agricultural reforms today. The seminar will include a field trip to farmer-writer Forrest Pritchard’s Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Virginia, to investigate the still fertile connections between agriculture and writing. Faculty and advanced graduate students with research interests in any aspect of agriculture and food in the early modern period are welcome to apply. Participants’ interests will determine the readings.
Director: Frances E. Dolan, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California at Davis, is an award-winning teacher and the author of five books, most recently True Relations: Reading, Literature, and Evidence in Seventeenth-Century England (2013). Her current project brings past and present proposals for agricultural reform into dialogue, focusing on soil, local food, wine, and hedgerows.

Introduction to English Paleography

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) corpus.
Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Dr. Wolfe has published widely on early modern English manuscripts and is currently thinking about early modern writing paper, filing systems, civilité type, and Shakespeare’s coat of arms. She is principal investigator of EMMO, curator of Shakespeare Documented: An Online Exhibition, and co-director of the Mellon-funded Before Farm to Table initiative.

The Corporation in Early Modern Political Thought

Spring Semester Seminar
Sponsored by the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought
The corporation was a foundation of medieval and early modern political, religious, and commercial life and a central feature of early modern European thought about overseas expansion. This seminar will trace the evolution of the corporation as an idea and an institution, particularly in relation to European commerce and empire in Asia, Africa, the Atlantic, and Mediterranean worlds. It will engage with questions about legal and institutional pluralism and the composite nature of imperial sovereignty, the intimate relationship between political economy and political thought, the development of ideas about the distinctions between “public” good and “private” interest, and the ways in which encounters with other Europeans as well as indigenous peoples outside Europe influenced European political and economic thought. Readings will include works by Giovanni Botero, Johannes Althusius, Gerard de Malynes, Thomas Smith, Richard Hakluyt, Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, Josiah Child, Charles Davenant, Samuel Pufendorf, Adam Smith, and Edmund Burke, as well as various texts—such as administrative records, legal documents, and institutional correspondence—critical to excavating the political thought of corporations in the early modern world.
Director: Philip Stern is Gilhuly Family Associate Professor of History at Duke University and the author of The Company-State: Corporate Sovereignty and the Early Modern Foundations of the British Empire in India (2011). He is currently working on two projects, one tracing the history of the colonial corporation and another that explores problems in legal geography in the early modern British Empire.

Lucy Hutchinson and the Cultures, Politics, and Historiography of the English Revolution

Spring Faculty Weekend Seminar
Since its publication in 1806, Lucy Hutchinson’s Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson has enabled a compelling, and highly moralistic, vision of the seventeenth century as a long-term struggle between the forces of progress and reaction. What was more or less invisible in this narrative was the author herself. Now that the full range of her writings is known, as part of a wider recovery of writings by women, this seminar will ask how far the new perspectives undermine, or perhaps refresh, the older grand narratives. Topics to be discussed will include: the relations between personal and familial writings and narratives of the Civil War; the role of the Memoirs in shaping the later historiography of the Revolution; secularization and the Puritanism of the Revolution (with special reference to the Lucretius translation); self-identification with social groups (gentry and otherwise) and the interplay with gender identity; ideologies and practices of companionate marriage; the relations between theological positions and political affiliations; biblical poetics; manuscript and print networks and their relationships with gendered networks of friendship; republican liberty and international slavery. Participants will relate Hutchinson’s writings to her own reading in classical and contemporary literature and political thought and to contemporaries, including Cavendish, Clarendon, Harrington, and Milton.
Director: David Norbrook is Emeritus Merton Professor of English, University of Oxford. He is general editor of The Works of Lucy Hutchinson (volume 1, The Translation of Lucretius, with Reid Barbour, 2012; volume 2, Theological Writings and Translations, with Elizabeth Clarke and Jane Stevenson, 2018).

Creating Nature: Premodern Climate and the Environmental Humanities

Spring Conference
Humans have long revered, attempted to manipulate, and faced the devastating consequences of their intimate contact with the nonhuman environment. This conference brings scholars of premodern environmental humanities into conversation with researchers in the sciences, social sciences, and creative arts to explore this long and varied history. It will juxtapose different academic discourses and modes of analysis in order to seek new insights into the historical and cultural forms through which humans express their love for, dependence on, and need to alter their environments. The convened speakers come together to discover or invent a critical language to conceptualize the inhuman power that Shakespeare calls “great creating Nature.” They hope to provide insights into premodern ideas about human entanglement with the nature they knew themselves to be creating and the nature that created them.
Organizer: Steve Mentz is Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York City. His ecocritical books include Shipwreck Modernity: Ecologies of Globalization, 1550-1719 (2015), At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean (2009), and Oceanic New York (2015). In 2010 he curated “Lost at Sea: The Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550–1750,” at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Invited Speakers: Following a plenary dialogue between literary scholar Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and astrophysicist Lindy Elkins-Tanton (both of Arizona State University) that is open to the public, twenty two invited speakers and chairs will develop conversations in four areas: storms, sustenance, shelter, and spirits and science. See the website for more information.

A Folger Introduction 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.
Organizers: Kathleen Lynch and Owen Williams are, respectively, Executive Director and Associate Director of Scholarly Programs for the Folger Institute. Elisa Oh is Associate Professor of English at Howard University.

English Paleography

Mellon Summer Institute in Vernacular Paleography
Supported by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this four-week course will provide an intensive introduction to reading and transcribing secretary and italic handwriting in the Tudor-Stuart period. Fifteen participants will also experiment with contemporary writing materials, learn the terminology and conventions for describing and editing early modern manuscripts, and, as time allows, discuss the important and evolving role of handwritten documents within a wider context of print, manuscript, and oral cultures. The institute emphasizes the skills needed for the accurate reading and transcription of texts, but attention may also be given to the instruments of research, codicology, analytical bibliography, and textual editing. Examples will be drawn from the manuscript collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and transcriptions will become part of the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) corpus. For more information on applying to the Mellon Summer Institute, please see Folgerpedia.
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).