2023-2024 Folger Institute Scholarly Programs

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Yearlong 2023-2024

Intersectional Lives in Early Modernity (hybrid yearlong colloquium)
Directed by Bernadette Andrea

This yearlong colloquium will pursue theoretical, methodological, and critical questions about “a range of identity positions” in the context of “systems of power” — from Brittney Cooper’s definition of “intersectionality” — with attention to the emerging and established empires of early modernity. The emphasis will be on transcultural lives with transtemporal resonances, from Leo Africanus / al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wezzan to Pocahontas / Matoaka. Grounded in a series of case studies covering African, Asian, and Indigenous American migrants to early modern Europe, the ongoing discussions will support participants’ projects on translation, critical fabulation, biofiction, and related topics; comparative approaches across languages and geographies are encouraged. Invited speakers in the fall will serve as interlocutors and resources for participants, who will be able to suggest speakers in the spring to support their presentations and projects. The colloquium will conclude with an in-person symposium at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where participants will access the newly refurbished reading room, present works-in-progress, and dialogue with educators, librarians, and other thinkers.

Director: Bernadette Andrea is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also affiliated with the Center for Middle East Studies, the Comparative Literature Program, and the Department of Feminist Studies. Her books include The Lives of Girls and Women from the Islamic World in Early Modern British Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2017) and Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2007). She currently serves as co-editor, with Julie D. Campbell and Allyson M. Poska, of Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and was the President of the Shakespeare Association of America for 2022–2023.

Next Gen Editing: Shakespeare (yearlong monthly seminar)
Directed by Emma Smith

This yearlong seminar has the modest aim of mobilizing the next generation of Shakespeare editors to take their place in the long history of textual scholarship stretching back to the eighteenth century. Our conversations, readings, expert guests, and practical exercises will develop confident ways of understanding and critiquing existing editorial practice and choices. Contemporary editing is an art not a science: it has its technocratic aspects, but it is also interpretative and imaginative. Although editors do need to have a working sense of certain histories and shared hypotheses about textual transmission, and of course they also need familiarity with a genealogy of editorial conversations, nevertheless, too often in the past these knowledge fields have been deployed as gatekeepers. Our next generation of editors will draw on a range of disciplines and fields to bring feminism, queer studies, trans studies, and pre-modern critical race studies into the traditional toolkit of source study, historicism, theatre and performance, and printing history. As major new publishing series – including Arden 4 and the Cambridge Shakespeare Editions – are launched, this is an opportune time to move the discipline of textual editing forward.

Director: Emma Smith is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College Oxford, and author of works on the First Folio and on Shakespeare’s print reception. She is currently General Editor for the Oxford Worlds Classics Shakespeare and completing Twelfth Night for Arden 4.

Researching and Writing the Early Modern Dissertation (hybrid yearlong dissertation seminar)
Co-directed by Herman L. Bennett, Julie Crawford, and Jenny C. Mann

This program focuses on the use of primary materials available for the study of the history, culture, society, and literature of early modern Britain, Europe, and the Atlantic World, broadly conceived. The goal throughout will be to foster interdisciplinary scholarship while considering broad methodological and theoretical problems relevant to current work in early modern studies, especially when working in fields that contain deliberate elisions and silences in their historical archives. Participants will visit the Folger and other DC-area special collections in the spring to explore a variety of printed and manuscript sources relevant to Ph.D. candidates in history and literature, and they will learn (with the support and assistance of Folger librarian and curatorial staff) essential research skills as well as strategies for working with digital resources and remediated rare materials. 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. 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: Herman L. Bennett is Professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and Director of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC). Among his monographs are Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570–1640 (2003); Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico (2009); and African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty & Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic (2019). Julie Crawford is the Mark van Doren Professor of Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is the author of Marvelous Protestantism (2004), Mediatrix (2014), and numerous essays on authors ranging from Shakespeare to Anne Clifford and on topics ranging from the history of reading to the history of sexuality. She is currently completing a book manuscript entitled “Margaret Cavendish’s Political Career” and editing the Oxford Handbook of Margaret Cavendish. Jenny C. Mann is an Associate Professor of English at New York University with a joint appointment with NYU Gallatin. She has followed her first book, Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare’s England (2012), with The Trials of Orpheus: Poetry, Science, and the Early Modern Sublime (2021). Her current research project explores problems of self-reference in utopian literature from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century.

Spring 2024

Race, Place, and the Nonhuman in Early Modernity (spring weekend workshop)
Organized by Hillary Eklund and Debapriya Sarkar

How can early modern literature, art, and philosophy help us expand the range of available models for just, situated creation? How might we rethink entanglements of mastery, power structures, and exceptionalism? What methods must we envision to engage ethically with intertwined formulations of race, place, and the nonhuman? This workshop invites scholars, teachers, artists, and activists to explore and interrupt the legacies of early modern racial and environmental injustice. Early modern ideas of racial and cultural difference were often linked to geography and climate. At the same time, categories of animality and monstrosity were used to dehumanize colonized people and inscribe upon their bodies the alienness of foreign geographies. To examine these intersections, we aim to bring the environmental humanities – with its tendency to focus on the physical world and center the nonhuman – into conversation with work on race and empire that exposes why the “human” is still too fraught a category for many kinds of decentering and reveals why considerations of place must attend to modes of habitation.

Organizers: Hillary Eklund is Associate Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans. She is the author of Literature and Moral Economy in the Early Modern Atlantic (2015), editor of Ground-Work: English Renaissance Literature and Soil Science (2017), and co-editor of Teaching Social Justice Through Shakespeare (2019). Recent work on the environmental humanities and empire appears in SEL, Criticism, and ELR. Debapriya Sarkar is Assistant Professor of English and Maritime Studies at University of Connecticut. She is the co-editor of “Imagining Early Modern Scientific Forms” (special issue, Philological Quarterly, 2019) and author of Possible Knowledge: The Literary Forms of Early Modern Science (2023). Her current research engages PCRS, ecocriticism, and postcolonial theory to examine the “disposable forms” pervading early modern writing.

Program and Presenters: Malinda Maynor Lowery (Emory University) and Mónica Domínguez Torres (University of Delaware) will open the workshop with a plenary session on Thursday evening, May 16. Over Friday and Saturday, the following presenters will address four respective topics: Karen Ann Daniels (Folger Theatre and Folger Programming) and Carol Mejia-LaPerle (Wright State University) on Community Engagement; Laura Harjo (University of Oklahoma) and Ashley Sarpong (California State University, Stanislaus) on Scholarship; Vanessa M. Holden (University of Kentucky) and Kathryn Vomero Santos (Trinity University) on Public Humanities; and Olga Sánchez Saltveit (Middlebury College) and Brittany N. Williams (actress and author) on Art. Ruben Espinosa (Arizona State University), Davy Knittle (University of Delaware), and Lehua Yim (independent researcher) will serve as respondents during the course of the workshop.

The Futures of Early Modern Literatures, Philosophies, and Sciences (spring symposium)
Organized by Liza Blake

This symposium invites participants to take stock of the study of various literary forms as they intersect with the histories of natural philosophy and science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries before those fields were reified in the academy. Decades of work in this field have advanced beyond locating figurative language in “scientific” texts, or finding references to scientific ideas in, say, poetry, and are now investigating, for instance, how the question of form might cut across both literary and non-literary texts. Participants will be invited to present polemical manifestos sketching their visions for futures of the intersections of these three fields in the study of early modernity, especially as those fields take up questions of race, empire, gender, and sexuality. How, this symposium will ask, might the boundaries of all three modes of thinking and writing stretch, bend, or break when different voices and approaches are included in the “canon” of literature-science-and-philosophy?

Organizer: Liza Blake is Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto, with research interests and publications in the intersections of early modern literature, philosophy, and science. She is currently completing a monograph entitled Early Modern Literary Physics, and she is one of three General Editors (with Jacob Tootalian and Shawn Moore) of The Complete Works of Margaret Cavendish.

Invited Presenters include Pavneet Singh Aulakh (Vanderbilt University), MacKenzie Cooley (Hamilton College), Su Fang Ng (Virginia Tech), Jennifer Park (University of Glasgow), Suparna Roychoudhury (Mount Holyoke College), Debapriya Sarkar (University of Connecticut), Whitney Sperrazza (Rochester Institute of Technology), Jacob Tootalian (Portland State University), and Henry Turner (Rutgers University).

Late-Spring 2024

Introduction to English Paleography (spring skills course)
Co-sponsored with the Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Directed by Heather Wolfe

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 digitized and physical manuscripts, participants will be trained in the accurate reading and transcription of secretary, italic, and mixed hands. In conjunction with the Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies’ Renaissance of the Earth research program, the workshop’s focus will include estate accounts, annotated almanacs, and household inventories that showcase how early moderns were practically and imaginatively transforming the earth. The workshop’s focus will include recipe books, personal correspondence, and poetry miscellanies drawn from the Folger collection. Participants will 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. Transcriptions made by participants will become part of the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) corpus.

Director: Heather Wolfe is Consulting Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She was formerly Associate Librarian, 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, Dr. Wolfe 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). She is currently working on a book on early modern writing paper in England.

Summer 2024

A Folger Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas (skills course)
Directed by Patricia Akhimie, Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Heather Wolfe, and Owen Williams

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 the Folger Collections in ways that will be useful for navigating other collections. With the guidance of visiting faculty and curatorial staff from the Folger, twelve to fourteen 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.