Periodization and its Discontents: Medieval and Early Modern Pathways in Literature (seminar)

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For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 2011 semester seminar led by Theresa Coletti.

In recent years, the study of English literary and cultural texts has embraced the impulse to examine the borders between medieval and Renaissance. Scholars have scrutinized the terms as designating both historical periods and conceptual categories; they have examined the assumptions and analytical frameworks that these terms have invoked and sustained. Their work bears fruit in new accounts of relationships between literary texts and cultural practices that move beyond notions of difference and dependence, rupture and continuity, to underscore a more complex historiography, one that pursues diachronic notions of repetition, reinvention, appropriation, renewal, revival, survival, and reciprocity. Assuming neither the foundational status of the medieval nor the cultural superiority of the early modern, this new literary historiography investigates how pre- and early modern texts mutually animate each other. This seminar invited participants engaged with any aspect of these relationships as they pertain to English textual cultures. Early readings focused on theories of periodization. Participants then examined topics, genres, and reading strategies that chart pathways between medieval and early modern. The syllabus for the seminar was informed by participants’ projects and interests as described in the application materials.


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 (1989) and Mary Magdalene and the Drama of Saints: Theater, Gender, and Religion in Late Medieval England (2004); she is also editor of the forthcoming TEAMS edition of the Digby Mary Magdalene.