Events This Week

Hapsburg Studies Network Seminar

Tuesday 23rd May, 5-6.30, Gonville & Caius

Siegrid Westphal (Osnabrück):
‘The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation as an Order of Public Peace’

Wolfson Humanities Society Seminar

Tuesday 23rd May, 5.45-7.15, Wolfson College

Boyd Brogan:
‘Gender, Sexuality and Illness in Early Modern Exorcism’

Renaissance Graduate Seminar

Tuesday 23rd May, 5.15-6.45, English Faculty GR06/7

Hero Chalmers (Cambridge):
‘Rhetoric and Restoration in Margaret Cavendish’s Orations of Divers Sorts (1662)’

Hero Chalmers is Fellow and Director of Studies at Fitzwilliam College. She is the author of Royalist Women Writers (Oxford, 2004) and essays on Cavendish and other writers, and has edited Three Seventeenth-Century Plays on Women and Performance (with Sophie Tomlinson and Julie Sanders; Manchester, 2006). She is currently working
on the Cavendish circle more generally, including the equestrian treatises of William Cavendish.

History of Christianity Seminar

Wednesday 24th May, 2.15, Faculty of Divinity, Lightfoot Room

Sarah Mortimer (Oxford):
‘Counsels of Perfection and Reformation Political Thought’

Early Modern British and Irish History Seminar

Wednesday 24th May, 5.15pm – 7:15pm, Trinity College, Old Combination Room
(NB a change from the regular venue)

Eamon Duffy (Magdalene College):
‘Career Reflections’

Calls for Papers and Upcoming Events

Poetics Before Modernity Conference 2017 CfP

Encouraged by the warm reception of the seminar series, we are delighted to announce the Poetics before Modernity Conference 2017, taking place at CRASSH, 14-15 December 2017. Aimed at early- and mid-career researchers, this is a conference with an open call for papers and we hope to attract some of the most exciting current work on the subject in Cambridge and beyond. The deadline for abstracts is 15 June. For all further information, please see the attached CFP and the conference website, and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Curiosity & Cognition – Embodied Things 1400-1900

9.30-6.30, Friday 16th June, Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, CRASSH, Cambridge

This is an international, interdisciplinary event bringing together a wide range of postgraduate and early career researchers to explore key aspects of material culture and embodied cognition. It will provide a significant discussion on the approach of current scholarship that investigates the human understanding of the world vis-à-vis objects, and consider the significance of embodiment in all processes of cognition and learning, moving beyond an obstructive divide between mind and hand, and between intellectual and manual knowledge.

Dr Marta Ajmar (VARI, Victoria and Albert Museum) will deliver the keynote paper. Dr Ajmar’s current research centres on the significance of embodiment within practice and engages with questions of cognition, experiential learning, knowledge exchange and the epistemology of making.

Registration is now open via this link: http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/27139

William Perkins Conference

7.30pm Friday 19th May-9.45pm, Saturday 20th May, Round Church, Bridge Street Cambridge

Conference on the influential Elizabethan Cambridge divine William Perkins (1558-1602)  sponsored by the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This is free to attend without the need for prior registration. Further details and conference brochure here: https://prts.edu/events/william-perkins-conference/

The Lisa Jardine Lecture

6.00, Wednesday 24th May, Skeel Lecture Theatre, People’s Palace, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Lyndal Roper (University of Oxford)
‘Cleverness is the garment that suits women least’: Luther and Women’

Lyndal Roper is Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford, and the first woman (as well as the first Australian) to hold the Chair. Professor Roper is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and a Fellow of the Brandenburg Akademie der Wissenschaften. She is former Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, a former Humboldt Fellow and an Honorary Visiting Fellow of the History Department University of Melbourne. She holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Melbourne. Professor Roper has worked on the history of witchcraft, and in 2016 published Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet (Penguin-Random House). She is currently writing a history of the German Peasants’ War (1524-5), the greatest uprising in Western Europe before the French Revolution.

To book please follow the link below:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-lisa-jardine-lecture-professor-lyndal-roper-tickets-34317668069

Anglo-Iberian Relations: From the Medieval to the Modern: CfP

19-21 October 2017
Zafra, Extremadura, Spain

We are now accepting individual papers, panels and roundtables by academics and heritage professionals for the second conference in this vibrant field of Anglo-Iberian studies, including colonial and Latin American studies. Since our inaugural meeting in 2015 (Mértola, Portugal) we have extended our timeframe from beyond the early modern period, to include papers from the medieval to the modern.

Papers should be 20 minutes in length. English is the preferred language of the conference, but papers will be considered in Portuguese and Spanish, if a detailed summary can be provided in English. Panellists may talk only on England or Portugal or Spain if so desired; organisers will team them up with panellists covering the other countries on a similar timeframe or topic. We aim to facilitate researchers wishing to communicate and collaborate with those outside of their present research network.

Abstracts and panel/roundtable descriptions should be sent no later than by midnight on 2 June 2017 to: angloiberian2017@outlook.com

If you would like to be considered for one of our Student Bursaries, please let us know when you submit your abstract.

For further information please contact: Elizabeth Evenden-Kenyon (elizabeth.evenden-kenyon@brunel.ac.uk)

Events This Week

IN CAMBRIDGE

Tuesday 16 May

English Legal History Seminar

5.15, Room 9, History Faculty

Helen Saunders (Cambridge)
‘Excavating the Archive: Expectant Heirs in the Chancery Decree Rolls, 1596-1640’

Wednesday 17 May

Embodied Things: Histories of Cognition, Practices, & Theories

12.30-2.00, Fitzwilliam Museum

Porcelain: Fitzwilliam Museum site visit with Helen Ritchie (Dept. of Applied Arts) at Things.

Thursday 18 May  

Early Modern Economic and Social History Seminar

5.00, Room 9, History Faculty

Susan Flavin (Anglia University),
‘Institutional Diets in Sixteenth-Century Ireland’

Early Modern World Seminar

8.00, Senior Parlour, Gonville and Caius

Ronnie Po-Chia Hsia (Penn State),
‘What did Missionaries Eat in China, 17-18th Centuries?’

Events This Week

IN CAMBRIDGE

Renaissance Graduate Seminar

Tuesday 9th May, 5.15, GR06/07

Julie Sanders (Newcastle University)
‘Fire, Flood, Ice and Inundation: Environmental Event and Narrative Description in the Early Modern Period’

Hapsburg Seminar

Tuesday 9th May, 5.00, Senior Parlour, Gonville & Caius College

William O’Reilly (University of Cambridge)
‘Hapsburg Control on the Ottoman Frontier: Medicine, The Military and Vampire Mania in an 18th Century Borderland’

History of Christianity Seminar

Wednesday 10th May, 2.15, Faculty of Divinity, Lightfoot Room

Colin Armstrong (Queens’ University, Belfast)
‘A Laudian in Ulster: The Irish Career of Bishop Jeremy Taylor (1658-67)’

Public Lecture: Professor Sven Dupré

Wednesday 10th May, 5.00, Little Hall, Sidgwick Site

‘Ingenious Failure: Artisanal Languages of Error’

Sven Dupré is Professor and Chair of History of Art, Science and Technology at Utrecht University, and Professor of History of Art, Science and Technology at the University of Amsterdam. He is a visiting fellow on the Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science project during May 2017.

Followed by a wine reception in the atrium, Alison Richard building.

 

Early Modern French Seminar

Friday 12th May, 2.00, Clare College, Latimer Room

Emma Herdman (Saint Andrews)
‘Singing Out: Avian Uprisings in Renaissance France’

 

CAMBRIDGE ELSEWHERE

The Dudley White Local History Lecture 2017

Wednesday 10th May, 7.00, Room EBS.2.34, Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester Campus

John Morrill (University of Cambridge)
‘Living with the Revolution: Family Dilemmas in Civil War East Anglia’

 

Events This Week

IN CAMBRIDGE

Embodied Things (CRASSH)

Wednesday, 15 March 2017, Seminar Room SG1, Alison Richard Building

‘Death’
Emily Rose (Harvard), John Robb (Cambridge)

 

Ralph Roister Doister

Tuesday, 14 March, 7 PM, Judith Wilson Studio, English Faculty

Presented by the Marlowe Society and the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature (CMEMLL)

Ralph Roister Doister thinks Christian Custance loves him madly. Christian Custance thinks Ralph Roister Doister is a twit. Only one of them is correct.

Join the Marlowe Society as we set out on a new venture–exploring the lesser-performed plays of the early modern period through script-in-hand stagings. On March 14, we begin with Nicholas Udall’s 1552 comedy about a dim-witted man convinced of his own importance attempting to force himself on an unwilling woman. Sound like anyone in the news today?

Presented in partnership with the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature, the evening will include a panel discussion on the legal issues invoked by the play. Tickets are free and admission is first come first served, but space is limited!
https://www.facebook.com/events/179933412507462/

 

Early Modern European History Seminar

Thursday, 16 March 2017, 1-2pm, Green Room, Gonville and Caius College

Space, Privacy and Gender in the early modern Italian Palace

Sandra Cavallo (Royal Holloway, University of London)

 

 

IN LONDON

London Shakespeare Seminar

Monday 13 March, 17.15-19.00, Senate Room, Senate House
Gary Taylor, ‘Collaborative History: Parts of Henry VI’

 

Society, Culture & Belief, 1500-1800 (IHR)

Thursday, 16 March, 17:30, John S Cohen Room N203, 2nd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

Making a record of the self: Individual Stories and Collective Histories in the Archives of the London Livery Companies, c. 1540-1660

Jennifer Richards (Sidney Sussex, Cambridge)

 

Tudor & Stuart History (IHR)

Monday, 13 March, 17:15, Montague Room, G26, Ground Floor, Senate House

Mini-colloquium on Lord Burghley

Norman Jones (Utah State University), Simon Healy (History of Parliament), Neil Younger (Open University)

 

CFPs

CFP: European Shakespeare Research Association conference, Shakespeare and European Theatrical Cultures: AnAtomizing Text and Stage, University of Gdańsk and The Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, Poland, 27 – 30 July 2017

The deadline for the following seminars has been extended to MARCH 31st

1. Avant-Garde Shakespeares/Shakespeare in the Avant-Garde

2. “The accent of his tongue affecteth him:” “Accentism” and/in Shakespeare

7. Anatomizing Shakespearean Myth-making: Game of Thrones

9. Staged on the Page: Transmedial Shakespeare in Theatre and Visual Arts

11. The name of action: actors of Shakespeare and Shakespearean actors

12. Shakespeare and Music

13. Shakespearean Drama and the Early Modern European Stage

15. Magic through ritual objects and stage props: Early Modern practices and Modern adaptations

18. Staging Utopias: Shakespeare in Print and Performance

19. Shakespeare in performance in digital media

Seminar descriptions here

This conference will convene Shakespeare scholars at a theatre that proudly stands in the place where English players regularly performed 400 years ago. This makes us ponder with renewed interest the relation between theatre and Shakespeare. The urge to do so may sound like a commonplace, but it comes to us enhanced by the fact that in the popular and learned imagination alike Shakespeare is inseparable from theatre while the theatre, for four centuries now, first in England, then on the continent (Europe) and eventually in the world, has been more and more strongly defined and shaped by Shakespeare. Shakespeare has become the theatrical icon, a constant point of reference, the litmus paper for the formal, technological and ideological development of the theatre, and for the impact of adaptation and appropriation on theatrical cultures. Shakespeare has served as one of the major sources for the development of European culture, both high and low. His presence permeates the fine shades and fissures of a multifarious European identity. His work has informed educational traditions, and, through forms of textual transmit such as translation and appropriation, has actively contributed to the process of building national distinctiveness. Shakespeare has been one of the master keys and, at the same time, a picklock granting easier access to the complex and challenging space of European and universal values.

Please send your abstracts and biographies to seminar organisers (and cc conference organisers at gdansk@esra2017.eu) not later than 31 March 2017.

You need to be a member of ESRA to take part in the congress. It is free to join ESRA and you can register here (http ://www . um . es/shakespeare/esra/registration . php).

The list of seminars has been made available on the ESRA and the conference website

Download seminars list here!

Keynote speakers: Professor Małgorzata Grzegorzewska (University of Warsaw), Professor Diana Henderson (MIT), Professor Peter Holland (University of Notre Dame), and Luc Perceval (Hamburg Thalia Theatre)

The congress coincides with the 21st International Shakespeare Festival in Gdansk taking place at the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre

We will continue to update our website with the details of forthcoming productions and special festival events, including workshops with invited theatre companies and meetings with theatre directors.

CFP: Shakespeare Unbound, Conference of the French Shakespeare Society, Paris, 18 – 20 January 2018

The Société Française Shakespeare is dedicating its annual conference to “Shakespeare Unbound”. The topic addresses Shakespeare’s propensity to negotiate with dominant ideologies, his ability to break and renew formal and cultural rules and his long-lasting influence in creating innovative dramatic and poetic forms, new words and thoughts, “And all that faith creates or love desires, / Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes” (Shelley), Prometheus-like. This conference will provide an occasion for academics, theatre, performance and arts practitioners to discuss Shakespeare and his contemporaries’ abilities to question and renew the boundaries of art. We welcome proposals (in English or in French) on topics such as:

–      The publication and editorial history of Shakespeare’s and his contemporaries’ works — in bound and unbound formats;

–      Shakespeare’s and his contemporaries’ reappropriation of classical and early modern culture, Shakespeare’s “borrowed robes”, his contribution to liberating dramatic and poetic aesthetics, and ability to “beguile Nature of her custom”;

–      Shakespeare adaptations and appropriations from the 17th to the 21st century which have contributed to liberating or rediscovering his work and/or influence.

Selected proceedings will be published in the Société Française Shakespeare’s peer-reviewed online journal: http ://shakespeare . revues . org. Please send proposals by April 25, 2017 to contact@societefrancaiseshakespeare.org. Proposals should include a title, an abstract (750-word max.), and a short bio.

 

 

Events This Week

IN CAMBRIDGE

 

History of Material Texts Workshop

Monday 6 March, 12.30-2, Milstein Seminar Room, University Library

‘The Medical Book in the Nineteenth Century: From MS Casebooks to Mass Plagiarism’
A workshop led by Sarah Bull, Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, HPS

 

Middle English Graduate Seminar

Wednesday, 08/03/17, 5:15pm, English Faculty Room GR04

Rita Copeland (University of Pennsylvania), Enthymeme and Emotion from Aristotle to Hoccleve

 

Poetics Before Modernity

Tuesday, 7 March 2017, 5.15pm, Old Combination Room at Trinity College

Gavin Alexander (University of Cambridge)

“LYRIC POETICS?”

This paper is about lyric poetry’s place in classical and early modern poetics. That place looks less sure than does that of tragedy or epic—which may be Aristotle’s fault, or due to the nature of lyric; it clearly has something to do with the fact that lyric is hard to define and delimit. I question two common myths about lyric’s place in the system of poetic genres: that there has always been a straightforward and accepted tripartition of poetry into epic, dramatic, and lyric; and, conversely, that this tripartition was only a Romantic discovery. I also resist the direction of the “new lyric studies”, which attempts to challenge the usefulness of the category “lyric” to the understanding of various kinds of short poetry. I trace lyric’s presence in less familiar theoretical settings (grammar, rhetoric) in order to ask if we might consider such treatments as a part of the poetics of lyric. And I aim to show how the interplay between the paradigms and taxonomies of rhetoric and poetics contribute to lyric’s vexed (and rich) status in the history of literary theory. Do Sappho, Pindar, Horace, Petrarch, and Shakespeare actually have something in common that might be captured by the term “lyric”; or should ancient lyric can only be grouped with modern lyric of a strictly neoclassical bent? In considering why it has been difficult to agree about both what a lyric poem is and what features of form, content, mode, or method might characterise lyric, I will suggest how theoretical muddle might be contained by a larger clarity.

Gavin Alexander is Reader in Renaissance Literature in the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Christ’s College. His publications include Writing after Sidney: The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney, 1586-1640 (Oxford, 2006), editions of Sidney’s “Defence of Poesy” and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism (London, 2004) and William Scott’s Model of Poesy (Cambridge, 2013), and the collection Renaissance Figures of Speech (Cambridge, 2007; with Sylvia Adamson and Katrin Ettenhuber).

 

Early Modern Interdisciplinary Seminar

Wednesday, 8th March, 12-1:15pm, English Faculty, Board Room

In Collaboration with the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature (CMEMLL)

Dr Maria Mendes (Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema, Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa) will present the following paper:

Praise with Purpose: Flattery in Early Modern England

Susceptibility to flattery has long been considered a character flaw, which is the reason those who believe it are usually described as being vain, proud, tyrannical or conceited. I will close-read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, so as to question if Caesar’s failure to anticipate the conspirators’ plot is, as is usually thought, an illustration of his proneness to flattery or, as I hope to show, an example of the flatterer’s capacity to mirror one’s own mind. Flatterers might be very able in showing rhetorically what the flattered person’s ideal self would look like, and they might in turn tend to supplement rhetorical suggestion with their own desires and concerns. If this is the case, flattery is central to understanding that Julius Caesar describes a hermeneutic difficulty, and characterises the difficulties of knowing another’s mind.

 

Early Modern French Seminar

Friday, 10 March, 2-4pm, Clare College, Latimer Room

Phillip USHER (New York University)

Exterranean Insurgency in the Humanist Anthropocene

 

Early Modern British and Irish History Seminar

Wednesday, 8 March, 5.15pm, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall

Alice Soulieux-Evans (Wolfson),
‘“Because thou canst not walk in thy minster’s way”: cathedrals, conformity and the Church of England in the Restoration period’

 

 

IN LONDON

British History in the 17th Century Seminar (IHR)

Thursday, 9 March, 17:15, Pollard Room N301, 3rd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

‘The Print that Binds: official print and personal record keeping in seventeenth-century England’
Frances Maguire (York)

 

 

Events This Week

IN CAMBRIDGE

Renaissance Graduate Seminar

Tuesday, 28/02/17, 5.15pm in G-R06-07
David Hillman (Cambridge)
‘Farewell as welcome (and vice versa) in Antony and Cleopatra’

 

Early Modern Interdisciplinary Seminar

Wednesday, 1st March, 12-1:15pm, English Faculty, Room GR03

Nailya  Shamgunova (University of Cambridge)
‘Queering the Anglo-Ottoman Contact, c. 1550-1700’

 


Early Modern French Seminar

Friday, 3 March, 2-4pm, Clare College, Latimer Room

Mathilde BOMBART (Lyon 3)

‘La posture insurrectionnelle de l’auteur dans la polémique au XVIIe siècle: du littéraire au politique? Autour de Guez de Balzac’

 

 

Early Modern British and Irish History Seminar

Wednesday, 1 March, 5.15pm, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall

Jamie Trace (St Catharine’s)
‘Giovanni Botero and English political thought’

 

Early Modern Economic and Social History Seminar

Thursday 2nd March, 5pm, Room 9 of the History Faculty

John Morgan (University of Manchester)
Storm surges and state formation in early modern England: coping with flooding in coastal and lowland Lincolnshire

Recurrent flooding was a condition of life in low and wet grounds. Erecting dams, scouring ditches and laying drains consumed significant amounts of labour time and money, as the profitability of agriculture rested on maintaining appropriate water levels. The success of one farmer was reliant on another, requiring complex co-ordination and administration. I will outline how flood protection was provisioned, its costs and their impact.

 

 

Early Modern European History Seminar

Thursday, 2 March 2017, 1-2pm, Green Room, Gonville and Caius College

Censorship and philosophy in the Two Sicilies, c. 1688-1767

Felix Waldmann (Cambridge)

 

 

IN LONDON

 

Tudor & Stuart History Seminar (IHR)

Monday, 27 February,17:15, Wolfson Room NB01, Basement, IHR, North block, Senate House

‘Ralph Sheldon of Beoley & Weston (1537-1613): No Catholic or no consequences?’
Hilary Turner (Independent scholar)

 

 

 

CFP: “Show they queere substance”

Details for an upcoming event at the University of Westminster.

A 2015 episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race saw the work of Shakespeare make a perhaps rather surprising appearance on the show. In the episode, titled ‘Shakesqueer’, the season eight queens performed in rewritten Shakespeare plays – Romeo and Juliet became ‘Romy and Juliet’ and Macbeth became ‘Macbitch’. In 2016, the Globe gave us a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Helenus (played by male actor Ankur Bahl) rather than Helena, transforming the relationship with Demetrius (and indeed Lysander) into an overtly queer one. At exactly the same moment, Russell T. Davies inserted a lesbian kiss into his BBC adaptation of the same play – a kiss which prompted Katie Hopkins to declare “I don’t want Shakespeare queered-up so you feel more at home”.

This queer cultural exploration of the Early Modern is happening at the same time that academic scholarship continues to use queer theoretical frames as a way of illuminating and interrogating Early Modern texts and contexts. Notably, this can be seen in John S. Garrison’s Friendship and Queer Theory in the Renaissance: Gender and Sexuality in Early Modern England (2013); Simone Chess’ Male-to-Female Crossdressing in Early Modern English Literature: Gender, Performance, and Queer Relations (2016); and Will Stockton’s forthcoming Members of His Body (2017), amongst many, many others.

This one-day symposium seeks to ask two questions: firstly, what can queer frames tell us about Early Modern texts and contexts? Secondly, in what ways can the Early Modern (be it literature, culture or politics) speak to queer cultures in the present? Or, what do queer reiterations of Early Modern texts and contexts achieve in the present?

Topics may include but not be limited to:

  • the intersections between queerness and race in both Early Modern texts/contexts; and contemporary reiterations of Early Modern cultural artefacts;
  • queer uses of Early Modern texts in the contemporary;
  • queer readings of Early Modern texts or contexts;
  • what it means to suggest that a “queered-up” Shakespeare (for example) might make one feel “more at home”;
  • considerations of contemporary productions of Early Modern plays which draw out queerness or which introduce queerness;
  • queer history/histories.

Abstract of 250 words, accompanied by a short bio, should be submitted to Kate Graham at k.graham1@westminster.ac.uk by March 3rd 2017.

Events This Week

IN CAMBRIDGE:

Embodied Things: Histories of Cognition, Practices, & Theories (CRASSH)

Wednesday, 22 February 2017, 12:30-14:00, Seminar room SG1, Alison Richard Building

‘Dress’

Rebecca Unsworth (QMUL/V&A), Elizabeth Currie (Central Saints Martins)

 

Middle English Graduate Seminar

Wednesday, 22/02/17, 5:15pm, English Faculty Room SR24

Marilynn Desmond (Binghamton University), Chaucer and the Matter of Troy: Reading the Blank Spaces in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 61

 

 

Poetics Before Modernity

Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 5.15pm Old Combination Room at Trinity College

Jon Whitman

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“THE SECOND-GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD”

It is sometimes said that the narrative of Scripture is the greatest story ever told. The story that I would like to discuss in my presentation is what might be called the second-greatest story ever told. It is the story of the provocative effort to make the greatest story ever told an even greater story—not just a story that speaks to diverse peoples, but a story spoken by diverse peoples, in diverse tongues, at diverse times—a universal story. It is the intriguing record of how controversial movements in poetics come to align Scripture with a broad realm of imaginative discourse once regarded as largely distinct from Scripture, so that sacred Scripture itself comes recurrently to be considered a form of imaginative literature at large.

Scholarly approaches to this critical change have commonly concentrated on the modern era. Despite important research exploring certain earlier aspects of the transformation, attitudes toward the subject as a whole regularly tend to focus on extensive interpretive and cultural developments after the Reformation that lead by the nineteenth century to a “crisis of faith”—a cumulative process in which the divine authority of canonical texts is increasingly questioned, while, conversely, other texts are invested with a virtually religious aura. Though this general view has its point, it seems to me to be historically inadequate and sometimes misleading. Already before the Reformation, for example, there are far-reaching efforts in the Christian world to align biblical writing with other writing, including the poetic writing of non-Christian peoples. These efforts arise in part from an ecumenical impulse in Christian faith itself that aims to ease distinctions between diverse texts and cultures. In this respect, the inclination to coordinate Scripture with literature arises not from the abdication, but from the amplitude, of Christian belief. In the end, it appears that this very amplitude advances the crisis of faith that it is designed to avert, even while it raises fascinating questions about the foundational concept of “Scripture.”

In my presentation I plan to explore some of the crucial turning points in this multifaceted process from the Middle Ages to the early modern era. My analysis will focus on three formative periods and places: 1) twelfth-century France, 2) fourteenth-century Italy, and 3) sixteenth-century England. Whereas early Christian interpretive theory assigns the Christian Bible a unique historical status, a special figural method, and a singular doctrinal position, a number of striking critical texts in these times and settings show how that assessment is gradually transformed. As prior distinctions—historical, methodological, and conceptual—between Christian Scripture and other kinds of writing are increasingly blurred, poetry at large tends to modulate into a form of Scripture, while Scripture tends to modulate into a form of poetry.

It should be stressed that not everyone—either in the past or in the present, either inside or outside the Christian world—has endorsed the development of the “second-greatest story ever told.” At the close of my presentation I would like to open the question of how the complex issues raised in efforts to align Scripture with literature imply still broader issues about the extent to which beliefs and idioms can be translated from one people or milieu to another. From this perspective, an inquiry into the poetics of Christian Scripture as imaginative literature is more than a study of religious and literary change. It is an exploration of some of the attractions and risks in the very drive for human consensus and community.

Jon Whitman is Professor in the Department of English at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research explores the interplay between conceptual and literary changes from antiquity to the modern period, and his publications include Allegory: The Dynamics of an Ancient and Medieval Technique (Oxford/Harvard, 1987) and the edited collections Interpretation and Allegory: Antiquity to the Modern Period (Leiden, 2000) and Romance and History: Imagining Time from the Medieval to the Early Modern Period (Cambridge, 2015). He is presently conducting a multiyear research project entitled “The Literal Sense: Scriptural Interpretation, Poetics, and Historical Change”.

 

Early Modern British and Irish History Seminar

Wednesday, 22 February, 5.15pm, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall

Jens Åklundh (Trinity)
‘“Admett mee again into the church”: individual and communal responses to excommunication in Restoration England’

 

IN LONDON:

British History in the 17th Century Seminar (IHR)

Thursday, 23 February, 17:15, Pollard Room N301, 3rd floor, IHR, North block, Senate House

‘Conscience, obedience and British royalism’
Calum Wright (Birkbeck)