Folger Institute scholarly programs archive
This article serves as a repository for past scholarly programming at the Folger Institute.
2013-2014 Folger Institute programs
Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography
- An NEH Collaborative Research Conference
- Spring 2014
- There is no more iconic figure with whom to push forward a fresh critical evaluation of the aims and methods of literary biography than Shakespeare. Within the academy, textual analysis often denies biography any explanatory force, while popular conceptions of Shakespeare look to biography precisely for insight into the works. In the standoff, the genre of literary biography is lost as a subject of serious inquiry. On the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, the Folger Institute Center for Shakespeare Studies will undertake a rigorous investigation of the multiple—and conflicted—roles biography plays in the reception of Shakespeare today. A cadre of influential scholars, many of whom have written biographies of Shakespeare, will focus discussion on such topics as the distinctions between authorship and agency, the interpretations of documentary evidence, the impact of methods of dating texts on an understanding of Shakespeare’s life, the broadened context for that life of a more robust understanding of theatrical activity, and the possibility that biography is itself a form of historical fiction. The conference opens Thursday evening with a session that doubles as Shakespeare’s Birthday Lecture. In his presentation on “Shakespeare, Biography & Anti-Biography,” Brian Cummings will assay the problem of writing a life of Shakespeare.
- Organizers: Brian Cummings (Anniversary Professor of English, University of York), Kathleen Lynch, and David Schalkwyk.
- Speakers: Tarnya Cooper (National Portrait Gallery), Ian Donaldson (University of Melbourne), John Drakakis (University of Stirling), Katherine Duncan-Jones (Somerville College, Oxford), Lawrence Goldman (St. Peter’s College, Oxford), Stephen Greenblatt (Harvard University), Margreta de Grazia (University of Pennsylvania), Graham Holderness (University of Hertfordshire), Julia Reinhard Lupton (University of California, Irvine), Jack Lynch (Rutgers University), Lena Cowen Orlin (Georgetown University), Lois Potter (University of Delaware), Joseph Roach (Yale University), David Schalkwyk (Queen Mary University of London and University of Warwick), and William H. Sherman (University of York)
Rogues, Gypsies, and Outsiders: Early Modern People on the Margins
- David Cressy
- Late-Spring Faculty Weekend Seminar
- Focused on early modern England, but incorporating participant research interests that involve Ireland, the rest of Britain, and continental Europe, this seminar attends to people on the margins of settled society. Its subjects are mountebanks and wanderers, tale-tellers and tricksters, vagrants, Gypsies, prostitutes, discharged soldiers, and the roving poor, who appear from time to time in both literary and documentary sources. Pirates, outlaws, rogues, rebels, fortune tellers, cunning folk, sexual misfits, and “the canting crew” also inhabited this world of poverty and the picaresque, along with ethnic and religious outsiders. Studying these marginal people exposes strains and contradictions in culture and society and shows how the establishment dealt with anomalies. Marginality may need to be de-glamorized, and its fascination reconsidered. The seminar will reconnect older work on “cony catchers” and the Elizabethan underworld with recent scholarship on outsiders and transgression. It will consider the social, legal and economic circumstances of marginality, as well as literary and artistic representations from Thomas Harman’s A Caveat or Warening for Commen Cursetors Vulgarely Called Vagabones (1567) to Richard Head’s The English Rogue: Containing a brief Discovery of the most Eminent Cheats, Robberies, and other Extravagancies, by him Committed (1688).
- Director: David Cressy is Humanities Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus and George III Professor of British History at The Ohio State University. His many publications include books on literacy, migration, commemoration, ritual, transgression, and seditious speech. He is currently working on the reign of Charles I and on Gypsies in early modern England.
Jews, Christians, and Hebraic Scholarship in Early Modern Europe
- Spring Symposium
- In collaboration with the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the Folger Institute will host a daylong symposium on the issues of social, cultural, and religious change in early modern Europe that are the focus of the Katz Center’s 2013-14 fellowship program. Case studies for discussion will draw from Folger holdings.
- Organizer: David B. Ruderman (Ella Darivoff Director of the Herbert D.Katz Center)
- Heather Wolfe, Folger Curator of Manuscripts
- 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.
- 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).
Where Was Political Thought in England, c. 1600-1642?
- Fall Symposium
- This symposium asks about the spaces and places within which political thought was conducted, circulated, and debated in the decades leading up to the Parliamentary crisis of 1642, and it does so with a format that is designed to open up to general discussion from comments and framing questions set by session leaders. All political thinking occurred within identifiable institutions, arenas, and even buildings, but the ways in which these spaces shaped political thought have rarely been comprehensively assessed. What value might there be if the history of political thought were to follow a variety of other historical fields in taking a “spatial turn”? Sponsored by the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought, this symposium will bring together several dozen scholars interested in the early seventeenth century to address the distinctive kinds of political thought that emerged from country houses and aristocratic households, in universities and theatres, at the Inns of Court and the common-law courts, or from chartered companies and colonial settlements. How did they differ from, and how might they have converged with, the political thinking conducted in Westminster Hall or at Paul’s Cross? How did political thought circulate among these spaces, in what forms, and with what transformative effects as it moved?
- Session leaders: Christy Anderson (University of Toronto), Christopher Brooks (Durham University), Thomas Cogswell (University of California, Riverside), David Como (Stanford University), Andrew Fitzmaurice (University of Sydney), Cynthia Herrup (University of Southern California), Ann Hughes (Keele University), Julia Merritt (University of Nottingham), Noah Millstone (Harvard University), Mary Morrissey (University of Reading), Sarah Mortimer (Christ Church, Oxford), Alan Orr (Maryland Institute College of Art), Carla Gardina Pestana (UCLA), Richard Serjeantson (Trinity College, Cambridge), Barbara Shapiro (University of California, Berkeley), Philip J. Stern (Duke University), and Jenny Wormald (University of Edinburgh) have been invited to start conversations on these and related questions.
Researching the Archive
- Karen Ordahl Kupperman and Peter Stallybrass
- 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: Karen Ordahl Kupperman is Silver Professor of History at New York University. Among her recent publications are an edition of Richard Ligon’s True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (2011), The Atlantic in World History (2012), and The Jamestown Project (2007). Her current research centers on music as a mode of communication in the early modern world and music’s links to universal language projects. Peter Stallybrass is Annenberg Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the History of Material Texts. His Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography on “Printing for Manuscript” will be published next year by the University of Pennsylvania Press. He is at present working with Roger Chartier on a history of the book from wax tablets to e-books.
Political Theologies in Early Modern Literature
- Lorna Hutson and Victoria Kahn
- Fall Faculty Weekend Seminar
- For some scholars, political theology refers to the transcendental grounding of political authority; for others it names the problem of the relationship between politics and theology in the early modern state; and for still others it conjures up the range of early modern conceptions of political authority as a product of the literary imagination. This seminar will take up the problem of political theology in the early modern period, focusing on both literary and political texts, and on recent secondary work in the field of early modern studies. Drawing on the work of Carl Schmitt, Ernst Kantorowicz, and others, twelve to sixteen faculty participants will bring their own research questions to bear as they collaboratively explore the usefulness of these paradigms for thinking about early modern literature and political theory. The seminar will begin by considering the relationship between politics and theology as a question of legal authority, including debates over the jurisdiction of the soul, over royal prerogative, and over national sovereignty in early modern England and Scotland. Discussion will also focus on the relationship between political theology and what the Florentine Neoplatonists called poetic theology as derived from Boccaccio and Ficino, Machiavelli and Hobbes, Marlowe and Milton.
- Directors: Lorna Hutson is the Berry Professor of English Literature at the University of St Andrews. Her books include The Usurer’s Daughter (1994) and The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance English Drama (2007). She is working with Bradin Cormack on The Oxford Handbook to English Law and Literature, 1500-1700. Victoria Kahn is Katharine Bixby Hotchkis Chair of English and Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Wayward Contracts: The Crisis of Political Obligation in England, 1640-1674 and of The Future of Illusion: Political Theology and Early Modern Texts (forthcoming).
Entangled Trajectories: Integrating European and Native American Histories
- Marcy Norton
- Fall Semester Seminar
- No one would dispute that the trajectories of European and Native American cultures and societies were enmeshed after 1492. Yet it is the premise of this seminar that we have only begun to fully understand the repercussions of these entanglements for Europe. Soldiers, colonists, missionaries, readers, and consumers were profoundly affected by their exposure to radically different ways of organizing life, and these effects permeated European culture. What if we take seriously indigenous men and women as participants—not merely as objects—in the re-making of intellectual history in the Atlantic world? The seminar, supported by The Kislak Family Foundation and organized in collaboration with the Early American Working Group, will make use of The Jay I. Kislak Collection at the Library of Congress. While participants’ own research interests will determine the final shape of the investigation, topics may include: How did early modern missionary, natural history and lexigraphical genres reflect the participation of Amerindian collaborators? How might early modern sources help us read contemporary ethnographic texts of indigenous communities, and vice versa? How many degrees separated European writers such as Montaigne and Hobbes from Amerindian informants? What kinds of histories emerge when we read their texts alongside Native American cultural and natural artifacts (featherworks, furs, parrots)? How might an investigation of indigenous perspectives inform our readings of such canonical authors?
- Director: Marcy Norton is Associate Professor of History at The George Washington University. Her publications include Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (2008) and “Going to the Birds: Animals as Things and Beings in Early Modernity” (2010). Her current research concerns human-animal relationships in Europe and Native America after 1492.
Constructing and Representing Authorship in Early Modern England
- Barbara K. Lewalski
- Year-Long Afternoon Colloquium
- This colloquium is designed for faculty members and advanced graduate students at work on projects pertaining to the conception or practice of authorship in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. Recent scholarship has put under continual revision the Romantics’ conception of the independent, sovereign author by emphasizing collaboration, borrowing, coterie audiences, the practices of the printing house, and censorship. Such approaches are welcome from colloquium participants as are investigations into how particular early modern English authors (or groups of authors) themselves wrote about or dealt with such issues as genre, literary tradition, models, imitation, inspiration, Muses, audience, wit, and the value and uses of poetry. Sources include treatises about poetics such as Sidney’s Defense of Poesy , letters and other formulations, marginalia, funeral elegies for writers, and fictional portrayals of the authorial role (e.g., Sidney’s Philisides and Astrophil, Spenser’s Colin Clout, Wroth’s Pamphilia). Sessions will generally center upon discussion of participants’ pre-circulated works in progress.
- Director: Barbara K. Lewalski taught at Harvard and Brown Universities and is now William R. Kenan Jr. Research Professor of History and Literature and of English at Harvard. Some recent books include The Life of John Milton: A Critical Biography (2000, 2003) and Writing Women in Jacobean England (1995). She is currently writing a book on “Early Modern Authorship, Sidney to Milton.”
A Folger Introduction to Research Methods and Agendas
- Denise Albanese
- Spring Semester Seminar
- This seminar will illustrate and exemplify graduate-level work in the humanities, surveying 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 (e.g., theatrical, cultural, social, scientific, 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 outline potential research projects; identify and discuss 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: Denise Albanese is Professor of English and Cultural Studies at George Mason University, where she teaches courses in Shakespeare, Milton, and other early modern writing; critical and literary theory; and the cultural study of science and technology. Author of New Science, New World (1996) and Extramural Shakespeare (2010), she is currently completing a study on division and the natural world in seventeenth-century England.