2019-2020 Folger Institute Scholarly Programs

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This article lists the programming of the Folger Institute for the 2019–2020 academic year. For more past programming, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.


Teaching Paleography

Intensive Summer Workshop
This three-day workshop explores strategies for teaching paleography at the graduate or advanced undergraduate level. It aims to provide participants with the skills and resources to teach the English secretary hand, whether as a directed study, a single-session practicum in a topical seminar, or a semester-length skills course. It builds on Dr. Wolfe’s Folger Institute skills course, Introduction to Early Modern English Paleography, and her series of Mellon-funded monthlong Summer Institutes. Participants will discuss the challenges they face due to limited manuscript resources on their own campuses and how one extends resources through digital facsimiles. Drawing from digitized materials held at the Folger, they will compile a set of paleographical exercises and pedagogical methods for teaching paleography at their home institutions. Applicants need not have had experience in teaching paleography, but proficiency in reading secretary hand is required and should be addressed in the application materials.
Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts and Associate Librarian of Audience Development at the Folger Shakespeare Library, co-director of the multi-year research project Before 'Farm to Table': Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, and principal investigator of Early Modern Manuscripts Online. Author of numerous articles on early modern manuscripts, she has edited The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613–1680 (2007), The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608: A Facsimile Edition of Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.b.232 (2007), Letterwriting in Renaissance England (2004) (with Alan Stewart), and Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2001). Her current research explores the social circulation of writing paper and blank books and Shakespeare’s coat of arms.

Race and Periodization

Fall Conference
Co-sponsored with the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies
Following upon the inaugural Race Before Race event, a collaboration of medievalists and early modernists held at Arizona State University in January 2019, this conference will foreground the relationship between race and historical periodization. Medievalists and early modernists have long grappled with the meaning and use of their own historical period designations as well as the strictures of periodization itself. This event seeks to explore how critical race theory can enable new insights about, approaches to, and critiques of periodization. Critical race theory situated in both historical and contemporary disciplines necessarily challenges assumptions about historical knowledge, theoretical borders, and scholarly dissemination and impact. This theoretical complex thus holds exciting potential to revolutionize the very terms of academic periodization in medieval and early modern studies. Setting this conference at the Folger Institute and building upon its recent focus on early modern race studies, the conference invites scholars of history, literature, and other disciplines to consider the intersection of critical race studies and historical periodization in terms of the theoretical, methodological, archival, activist, pedagogical, professional, temporal, and spatial implications.
Organizer: Ayanna Thompson is Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University. Her recent books include, Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars (2018), Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose (2016), and Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (2011). She is editing a collection for Cambridge University Press on Shakespeare and race and is collaborating with Curtis Perry on the Arden4 edition of Titus Andronicus.
Invited Speakers: Geraldine Heng (University of Texas) and Francesca Royster (DePaul University) will open the conference on Thursday evening at the Folger Shakespeare Library. On Friday and Saturday at Arizona State University’s Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center, eight speakers will deliver presentations and lead sessions on the topics outlined above: Dennis Britton (University of New Hampshire), Ruben Espinosa, (University of Texas at El Paso), Michael Gomez (New York University), Wan-Chuan Kao (Washington & Lee University), Carol Mejia LaPerle (Wright State University), Su Fang Ng (Virginia Tech), Mary Rambaran-Olm (Independent Scholar), and Michelle M. Sauer (University of North Dakota). Haruko Momma (New York University), and Elisa Oh (Howard University) will serve as the conference’s respondents.

The Languages of Nature: Science, Literature, and the Imagination

Fall Workshop
This two-day workshop brings together scholars in different fields—the histories of science, medicine, and technology; literary criticism; and allied disciplines—to explore the entanglements of scientific and literary mentalities and investigate how they mutually informed each other circa 1500 to 1800. During this period, writing about nature evolved rapidly, inspiring many new scientific and literary genres and kinds of publications, including experiments with the written word and the relations between words and images. The emergence of new scientific instruments, practices, and institutions spurred other kinds of writing about science and its discoveries, in prose and poetry. The scientific letter morphed into the scientific article in an expanding variety of publications—learned journals, gazettes, magazines, and newspapers. Writing about scientific practitioners and philosophical thinkers—anatomists, astronomers, natural philosophers, experimenters—captured the changing state of knowledge on a more personal level, transforming leading minds into public figures. In early modern Europe and its overseas colonies, long before modern debates about “two cultures,” how did an encyclopedic understanding of knowledge, new forms of scientific observation, and the emergence of an imaginative vocabulary to describe natural phenomena shape early modern mentalities?
Director: Paula Findlen is Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History at Stanford University and Director of the Suppes Center for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. Her many publications include Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting and Scientific Culture (1994), Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (2002), and Leonardo’s Library: The World of a Renaissance Reader (2019).

Political Personhood in the Early Modern British World before 1800

Fall Symposium
Sponsored by the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought
How does the complex history of how a person is defined shed light on contemporary conceptions of subjectivity, individuality, and citizenship? This symposium gathers invited speakers to open conversations on test cases involving the political philosophy and lived reality of personhood in early modern Britain, Europe, and the Atlantic World. Sessions will consider political personhood in relation to subjecthood and identity; legal rights and responsibilities; dual allegiances; enslaved people; commonwealths and commerce; petitions and protests; and the relationship between human and non-human beings. Scholars from history, legal studies, literature, philosophy, and art history whose work considers these issues are encouraged to apply.
Organizers: The Steering Committee of the Center for the History of British Political Thought: Sharon Achinstein (The Johns Hopkins University), David Armitage (Harvard University), Julia Rudolph (North Carolina State University), and Nigel Smith (Princeton University).
Program: A plenary presentation with Lauren Benton (Vanderbilt University) and Paul Halliday (University of Virginia) on Thursday evening will be followed by two days of sessions. Invited speakers include Amanda Bailey (University of Maryland), Kathy Brown (University of Pennsylvania), Urvashi Chakravarty (George Mason University), Alison Games (Georgetown University), Kinch Hoekstra (University of California at Berkeley), Daniel Hulsebosch (New York University), Hannah Weiss Muller (Brandeis University), Noémie Ndiaye (University of Chicago), Geoff Plank (University of East Anglia), Philip Stern (Duke University), Robert Travers (Cornell University), Phil Withington (University of Sheffield), and Sue Wiseman (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Researching the Archive

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, broadly conceived. 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: Alison Games is the Dorothy M. Brown Distinguished Professor of History at Georgetown University. She writes on different aspects of the English engagement with the seventeenth-century world. Author of The Web of Empire: English Cosmopolitans in an Age of Expansion, 1560-1660 (2008), she is completing a book tentatively titled Inventing the English Massacre: History, Memory, and Amboyna. Laura L. Knoppers is George N. Shuster Professor of English Literature at the University of Notre Dame. Her research focuses on seventeenth-century literature, politics, and religion, especially the work of John Milton. Most recently the author of Politicizing Domesticity from Henrietta Maria to Milton’s Eve (2011), she is completing a study of luxury and the court of Charles II.

Rethinking Lyric Histories

Fall Semester Seminar
Lyric poetry’s engagement of the dialectic between universal and particular, community and self, private and public, suggests why it is a crucial (and difficult) test case for recent trends in early modern studies. This seminar explores how such paradoxes have come to define the lyric, combining an overview of the early modern European lyric with a philosophically-driven treatment of its relationship to history and selfhood. It will focus on the early modern period, from roughly Petrarch to Milton, an arc which sees the emergence of diverse lyric forms in all European vernaculars. Themes will include the material cultures of lyric production and dissemination; the performance and transmission of lyric poetry; structuralist efforts to define the lyric in formal terms; and debates over the (continuing) political-ethical function of lyric poetry. Participants will pay close attention to the construction of literary genealogies, tracing how early modern lyric shapes a network that reaches back to antiquity and forward to romanticism and modernism. Drawing on the Folger’s rich holdings, they will examine the affiliations of lyric with other genres (drama, romance, epic, novel, caption, epigram and epigraph), its textual presence across various media, and its shape-shifting use across lines of gender and class. Depending on participant interests, the seminar might include a comparative component, engaging with the lyric’s cross-cultural presence within and beyond Europe.
Director: Ayesha Ramachandran is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University. Author of The Worldmakers: Global Imagining in Early Modern Europe (2015), numerous articles, and co-editor, with Melissa Sanchez, of a special issue of Spenser Studies, she is currently at work on a monograph titled “Lyric Thinking: Poetry, Selfhood, Modernity.”

Book Theory

Weekend Seminar
This seminar will subject the book to intense theoretical scrutiny. While not discounting current knowledge of what books are or may be in their diverse material formats, its primary undertaking will be to bring to light, share, and develop the productive uncertainty that results from a theoretical consideration of the question, what is a book? Behind that ontological crux lie others whose common answers we will also need get beyond: what is writing? what is a surface? what is an archive? Starting from readings of the provocative but clarifying work on these topics by Jacques Derrida, whose entire career was spanned and structured by his interest in book history, seminar participants will be invited to bring their own topics and case histories to the table, especially as these may be illustrated with materials drawn from the Folger and other collections. These will be collectively examined in the strange new light cast by Derrida’s disruptive thought on the ontology of the book. Areas of further discussion might include the recovery of graffiti, the possible futures of book theory, and what early modern writing technologies might teach scholars of the book about the design and practices of contemporary classrooms.
Director: Juliet Fleming is Professor of English at New York University. She is the author of Graffiti and the Writing Arts of Early Modern England (2001) and Cultural Graphology: Writing After Derrida (2016); and the editor, with Bill Sherman and Adam Smyth, of The Renaissance Collage: Toward a New History of Reading (2015). She is currently preparing an annotated English translation of three of Derrida's earliest essays which offer early and more concise version of the first half of Derrida's De la Grammatologie.

Intersecting the Sexual: Modes of Early Modern Embodiment

Fall Symposium
Differences of gender, age, and social position informed both the rhetorics and the lived experiences of sexuality in the early modern period. Yet other modes of embodiment—such as those associated with racial identity, physical incapacity, impoverished vagrancy, and conspicuous sartorial display—also impacted sexual practices and meanings in ways that have yet to receive sustained scholarly attention. Rather than simply expanding the category of the sexual, this symposium aims to understand how a focus on these other modes of embodiment might complicate or unsettle current theories and histories of sexuality. While building on insights from early modern sexuality studies, presenters will also draw on theoretical models and methods from adjacent fields such as early modern race studies, disability studies, transgender studies, global Renaissance studies, material culture studies, and posthumanist studies. How might the objects and questions foregrounded by such approaches advance the study of early modern sexuality beyond familiar paradigms? How might such intersections contribute to both historicist and present-day understandings of sex, gender, and embodiment?
Organizer: Mario DiGangi is Professor of English at Lehman College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He is the author of The Homoerotics of Early Modern Drama (1997) and Sexual Types: Embodiment, Agency, and Dramatic Character from Shakespeare to Shirley (2011). He has edited three plays by Shakespeare and, with Amanda Bailey, Affect Theory and Early Modern Texts: Politics, Ecologies, Form (2017). His current project explores sexuality and race in English Renaissance literature.
Invited Speakers: Ian Smith (Lafayette College) and Valerie Traub (University of Michigan) will open the symposium with plenary lectures on Thursday evening. On Friday and Saturday, twelve speakers will open conversation on the areas outlined above: Abdulhamit Arvas (University of California, Santa Barbara), Amanda Bailey (University of Maryland), James Bromley (Miami University), Simone Chess (Wayne State University), Julie Crawford (Columbia University), Ari Friedlander (University of Mississippi), Colby Gordon (Bryn Mawr College), Natasha Korda (Wesleyan University), Vin Nardizzi (University of British Columbia), Carmen Nocentelli (University of New Mexico), Marjorie Rubright (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Christine Varnado (University at Buffalo). Jeffrey Masten (Northwestern University) will serve as the symposium’s respondent.

Eating through the Archives: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Early Modern Foodways

Fall Graduate Student Workshop
Sponsored by Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures, the inaugural project of the Andrew W. Mellon Initiative in Collaborative Research at the Folger Institute
Food permeates every aspect of the early modern world, from the social rituals of the London coffee house to the saltfish fed to Barbadian slaves, from the disappearing banquet in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest to the spare olla of Don Quixote’s rustic table. Food’s omnipresence is both a potential smorgasbord for scholars and an embarrassment of riches, for studying and talking about food is a complex affair that tests the boundaries of traditional disciplines. The program invites up to two dozen graduate students to reconsider the term “foodways” as a framework that maps the convergence of disciplines, including history, literary studies, biology, ecology, philosophy, mathematics, culinary studies, and art history. The Before ‘Farm to Table’ team will lead group discussions as well as focused break-out sessions centered around a core set of primary sources, including our collection of over one hundred early modern English manuscript recipe books—the largest such collection in the world—as well as other texts and images from the Folger collection.
Organizers: This weekend program is organized by four members of the Folger Institute’s Mellon-funded collaborative research project team, Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures. Project co-director David B. Goldstein (Associate Professor of English at York University) publishes on early modern foodways, including Eating and Ethics in Shakespeare’s England, two co-edited essay collections (Culinary Shakespeare and Shakespeare and Hospitality), and two books of poetry. Jack Bouchard (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) is an historian of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century north Atlantic fisheries, especially Newfoundland. In her research, Elisa Tersigni (Postdoctoral Digital Research Fellow) combines algorithmic analysis and analytical bibliography to study the language and literature of the English Reformation. Michael Walkden (Postdoctoral Research Fellow) explores links between digestion and emotion in early modern medicine and culture. They will be joined by project co-directors Amanda Herbert (Associate Director for Fellowships, Folger Institute) and Heather Wolfe (Curator of Manuscripts and Associate Librarian of Audience Development at the Folger Shakespeare Library).


The Visual Art of Grammar: Iconographies of Language from Europe to the Americas

Weekend Seminar at Brown University
Grammar was the cornerstone of Renaissance humanism. The design and decoration of manuscripts and books devoted to the discipline signaled its importance, while elaborate diagrams and allegorical illustrations gave a fuller impression of the vital role of grammar in education. Such visualizations could acquire deeper significance, given the connection in ancient Greek between gramma, “drawing” or “letter,” and grammatike, source of the Latin grammatica. Further depictions and emblems were devised by creole and native artists in the Americas, as missionary linguists applied the European art of grammar to the systematization of indigenous languages in the New World. This interdisciplinary seminar will welcome up to sixteen faculty and graduate student participants to consider the early modern iconography of grammar as a basis for exploring broader historical conceptions of the relation between language and the visual field. Participants will also have the opportunity to examine copies of relevant Renaissance texts from the John Hay Library as well as a number of grammars, artes (manuals), and vocabularies of American languages in the John Carter Brown Library.
Director: Andrew Laird is John Rowe Workman Distinguished Professor of Classics and Humanities at Brown University. His books include Powers of Expression, Expressions of Power (1999), The Epic of America (2006) and Antiquities and Classical Traditions in Latin America (2018). His most recent publications treat the relation of Latin to Amerindian languages, and the influence of European humanism on missionaries and native scholars in post-conquest Mexico. The seminar will be joined by David Cram (Jesus College, Oxford) and Ahuvia Kahane (Royal Holloway, University of London).

Early Modern Iroquoia

Spring Semester Seminar at Syracuse University
This seminar examines key areas of cultural difference between Native Americans and Europeans during the early modern period by focusing on their interactions in the Haudenosaunee homelands—sometimes referred to as Iroquoia. The five-nation confederacy—made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca peoples—reached the apex of its power during the course of the seventeenth century, simultaneous to its contact with French, Dutch, and English colonial endeavors. In their struggles for hegemony over North America, these same Europeans recorded their observations of the Haudenosaunee peoples with whom they interacted and in doing so produced as unusually rich archive focused on Haudenosaunee culture. During the seminar, participants will also attend to the continuing oral cultures that have preserved an Indigenous perspective on this same history and its legacy among the Haudenosaunee. An analysis of these two archives, written and oral, explores the profound cultural differences around notions of ecology, gender, and politics, not only for Euro-Iroquoian relations, but for those relations with other Indigenous nations encountered throughout the colonization and conquest of North America.
Director: Scott Manning Stevens is Associate Professor of English and Director of Native American and Indigenous Studies at Syracuse University. A citizen of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, he works primarily on Native American cultures of the Northeast from the pre-colonial period to the present. In addition to many articles and book chapters, his monographs include Why You Can't Teach United States History without American Indians (2015).

Reimagining Andrew Marvell: The Poet at 400

Spring Weekend Colloquium at the University of St Andrews
This weekend colloquium brings together an international team of scholars to celebrate the approaching quatercentenary of Andrew Marvell’s birth. Its aims are twofold: to chart the advances in Marvell scholarship since the publication of landmark editions of Marvell’s poetry and prose at the start of the millennium; and to inaugurate a new century of Marvell studies, of fresh approaches and new contexts. Perhaps the most important contribution to the last anniversary conference on Marvell, in 1978, was made by Christopher Hill, who insisted on seeing politics as essential to Marvell’s writing. In this colloquium, we mean to build on the superb historical scholarship that has emerged since then by seeking an even broader, more elastic concept of the political. At the same time, in asking what comes “after” politics, this colloquium also calls for renewed attention to Marvell’s verse in the context of recent work on the relationship between literature and the environment, affect, and cognition. The strong tradition of editing and archival research which surrounds Marvell serves to remind us that all such inquiry is conditioned by the materiality of reading, writing, and reception.
Organizers: Matthew Augustine and Giulio Pertile are Senior Lecturer and Lecturer, respectively, in the School of English at the University of St Andrews.
Invited speakers: Martin Dzelzainis (University of Leicester); James Loxley (University of Edinburgh); Nicholas McDowell (University of Exeter); Victoria Moul (University College London); David Norbrook (University of Oxford); Tessie Prakas (Scripps College); Joanna Picciotto (University of California, Berkeley); Diane Purkiss (University of Oxford); Jacqueline Rose (University of St Andrews); Nigel Smith (Princeton University); Noël Sugimura (University of Oxford); Gordon Teskey (Harvard University); Esther van Raamsdonk (Queen Mary University of London); Nicholas von Maltzahn (University of Ottawa); and Steven N. Zwicker (Washington University, St Louis).

An Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas

Summer Intensive Skills Course at Pennsylvania State University
The best research is based on inquiry 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 the participants’ curiosity about primary resources by using exercises that engage their research interests. It is offered to help early-stage graduate students develop a set of research-oriented literacies as they explore Penn State’s special collections in ways that will be useful for navigating other collections. With the guidance of visiting faculty and curatorial staff from the Folger and Penn State Libraries, up to two dozen participants will examine bibliographical tools and their logics, hone their early modern book description skills, learn best practices for organizing and working with digital images, 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: Marcy North is Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Anonymous Renaissance and numerous articles on early print, manuscript, and women’s writings. She has directed a previous Folger seminar and participated in the Folger's Teaching Paleography and Advanced Paleography workshops. She is finishing a book on the intersection of labor and taste in the production of post-print manuscripts. Claire M. L. Bourne is Assistant Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. She is the author of Typographies of Performance in Early Modern England (forthcoming), which was supported by a long-term Folger fellowship, and is currently editing 1 Henry the Sixth for the Arden Shakespeare (4th series). Whitney Trettien teaches digital humanities and book history at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is Assistant Professor of English. She is the author of Cut/Copy/Paste, a hybrid monograph on digital book history currently being staged on Manifold Scholarship through University of Minnesota Press.

Making Meaning: Hands-on Basic Paleography and Book Production

Summer Intensive Skills Course at Texas A&M University
Integrating traditional seminar-based discussion with experiential inquiry, this course will investigate the physical means of knowledge production during the early modern period. Daily lab sessions concentrating on historical book production will include hands-on exercises in allied trades such as typecasting, papermaking, ink-making, typesetting, and hand-press printing. In addition to this print-oriented praxis, participants will also experience manuscript production through experimentation with contemporary writing materials such as goose quills and iron gall ink as part of their paleography work. Throughout the week, guided discussions of assigned theoretical readings will synthesize issues raised by the hands-on practice within a wider theoretical framework on media intersections. The course will seek to demonstrate the ways technologies of textual production drove meaning-making in the early modern period and foster an understanding of the rich interrelations between the manuscript tradition and renaissance printing. Equipped with these skills, participants will be able not only to read and analyze the texts, but to locate their place in the larger context of early modern written culture.
Directors: Margaret J.M. Ezell is Distinguished Professor of English and the John and Sara H. Lindsey Chair of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University. In her most recent work, the Oxford English Literary History, Volume V: 1645-1714, the Later Seventeenth Century, she offers an alternative model of literary history exploring how oral traditions, handwritten manuscript practices, and print media intersected and influenced each other. Kevin M. O’Sullivan is Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts for the Cushing Memorial Library & Archives at Texas A&M University, where he also serves as the Director of the Book History Workshop. He is a founding partner of the 3Dhotbed Project, a collaborative digital humanities effort that seeks to enhance book history instruction through 3D technologies. They will be joined by Heather Wolfe (Curator of Manuscripts and Associate Librarian of Audience Development at the Folger Shakespeare Library).