A post written by our very own professor Brendan Kane, along with Greenhouse Studios’ Wes Hamrick and Deidre Nic Chárthaigh, was recently featured on the blog of The National Archives. This fascinating read, which details the importance of The National Archives’ Gaelic sources, can be found below or through this link.
The Early Modern Studies Working Group has a few exciting events in the next few weeks.
On March 7th, we are please to announce that Professor James Rice will be giving a talk titled “‘Early Modern’ and ‘Indigenous’ Histories.” The talk begins at 1pm and will be preceded by a lunch at 12:15. The talk will explore the intertwining questions of periodization, theories of historical causation, and identity. The ways in which scholars have traditionally periodized the ‘Early Modern’ match up with certain important turning points in Native American history, and that’s not a coincidence. Yet any attempt at marking the beginning and end dates of the Early Modern also serves to elide important continuities in Indigenous histories – elisions with significant consequences for the politics of today.
Professor Rice is the chair at the Tufts History Department and the Walter S. Dickson Professor of English and American History. His major publications are Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America (2012) and Nature and History in Potomac (2009). Currently, the Early Modern Cross Cultural Interactions Reading Group is reading Tales from a Revolution on Tuesday’s between 12-1 in the UCHI conference room. All are welcome to join.
On February 21st we will be holding our first transcribathon meeting in the UCHI conference room at 11am. As always, we will be transcribing John Ward’s diary along with a guest transcription. All are welcome.
Today’s post comes from the Early Modern Studies Working Group’s Co-Coordinator, Melissa Rohrer. Melissa is a PhD Candidate in the English Department.
In October of 2018, I visited the Folger Shakespeare Library with generous funding from the UConn Early Modern Studies Working Group and the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute. My dissertation investigates how playwrights of the early modern period adapted notorious true events for the stage—events such as true crimes and scandals. I already had access to the plays which adapted these events, so I my trip to the Folger was centered largely on learning more about how these events were understood, circulated, and commented upon, both at the time of their unfolding and in the centuries after they transpired.
The archival materials I investigated during this trip centered on a scandal known as the Overbury Affair, a bizarre murder conspiracy that unfolded between 1613 and 1616 and which implicated one of the most powerful royal couples in King James I’s court. Sir Thomas Overbury died in 1613 while imprisoned in the Tower of London, and two years later it came to light that he had been murdered at the behest of the Countess of Somerset. Enraged that Overbury had tried to thwart her marriage, the Countess (Lady Frances Carr née Howard) enlisted several co-conspirators of lower birth to poison him during his imprisonment; though poison was slipped into several tarts and jellies sent to Overbury, a poison-laced enema is what eventually killed him. The revelation that Overbury had been murdered caused an uproar in both in the royal court and in larger society; Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset, was James I’s great favorite, and it was unclear to what extent Carr—or even the King himself—were complicit in the murder. Large crowds turned up to attend the trials of all who were associated with the conspiracy, and transcripts of these proceedings were circulated contemporaneously in manuscript.
The first part of my research was examining some of these manuscript copies, particularly those which transcribed the arraignments of Frances Howard’s co-conspirators: Richard Weston (an assistant jailor), Anne Turner (Howard’s confidante), and Gervase Helwys (Lord Lieutenant of the Tower). These manuscripts demonstrate contemporary interest in the court proceedings, which could not be published and so were circulated via manuscript. Whoever transcribed these documents took great care to recreate these arraignments as closely as possible. For example, the manuscript of Anne Turner’s arraignment includes a word-for-word copy of a letter Frances Howard sent to Turner, including the instructions “Burne this.” Transcripts such as these acted as a kind of news report about the trial, and for those who could read or copy them, it was the best way access the real accusations against and confessions of those who were involved in the Overbury Affair.
During my time at the Folger, I also examined the 1651 quarto, A True and Historical Relation of the Poysoning of Sir Thomas Overbury, With the Severall Arraingments and Speeches of those that were executed thereupon. This tract was published at the close of the English Civil War, when it was no longer prohibited to publish content that presented a critical view of the monarchy and aristocracy. Without these restrictions, the pamphlet gathered together a multitude of official and legal documents—such as arraignments, confessions, and royal speeches—concerning both Overbury’s murder and the divorce Frances Howard orchestrated in order to marry Robert Carr. While the materials included in this pamphlet include no commentary by the compiler, the original owner of the Folger’s copy made several comments and corrections in the margins. These marginal comments are what make this pamphlet useful to my project, as they demonstrate how ordinary citizens engaged with the scandal of Overbury’s murder. The owner’s careful correction of errors suggest that the scandal was still well-known nearly 40 years after it occurred, and his comment of “preposterous” alongside an opinion given by King James in Frances Howard’s divorce trial suggests that ill feeling about the scandal and its participants still lingered in the public consciousness.
I spent the rest of my research time looking at various other materials related to the Overbury Affair, including responses to the scandal written centuries after Overbury was murdered. I transcribed a handwritten theater review, supposedly written by David Garrick, for the 1777 production of Sir Thomas Overbury: A Tragedy by Richard Savage. My dissertation is largely concerned with scandals that were adapted for dramatization in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but Savage’s play and Garrick’s review of it indicate that these scandals remained relevant and of interest to theater audiences over a hundred years after they occurred. A similar interest inspired Andrew Amos to write his 1846 book, The Great Oyer of Poisoning: The Trial of the Earl of Somerset for the Poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury. Amos is one of the first writers to treat the Overbury Affair as a subject of significant legal and scholarly inquiry, and his book remains an important source on the trials for historians and legal scholars.
In their own way, all these materials hint at the lingering impact scandals can have on a society and its culture. We may think of scandals as phenomena of the moment, events which inspire outrage while current, but which fade from importance once resolved. My study of the Folger’s holdings which relate to the Overbury Affair suggest that this is not the case; scandals can linger in a society’s collective memory for many years, serving as cultural touchstones and points of societal self-reflection. As our own society looks back on the scandalous crimes of the 1990s and adapts these events into movies and television dramas (American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson, Casting JonBenet, Lorena, Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders), we can look back on the Overbury Affair and its legacy in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century culture for an important precursor.
For anyone who missed it, find a link here for a video of Jane Hwang Degenhardt’s lecture, “The ‘Kindness’ of Humans: Empathy, Race, and Kind in The Tempest and The Shape of Water” (November, 2018). Expect a forthcoming announcement on our Spring 2019 speaker.
Today’s Post is an interview introducing Professor Evelyn Tribble, a recent addition to the UCONN early modern community and active member of the Early Modern Studies Working Group
Evelyn Tribble (Lyn) is Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, having come from the University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ. She is the author of Margins and Marginality: The Printed Page in Early Modern England (Virginia, 1993), Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age (with Anne Trubek, Longmans, 2003), Cognitive Ecologies and the History of Remembering (with Nicholas Keene, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), and Cognition in the Globe: Attention and Memory in Shakespeare’s Theatre, Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). She has also published articles in Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare, Shakespeare Survey, Shakespeare Studies, and Textual Practice, and ELH, among others. Her most recent book Early Modern Actors and Shakespeare’s Theatre: Thinking with the Body was published by Bloomsbury in 2017, and will be published in a paperback edition in 2019.
As a scholar, your specialization is in cognitive theory. For those who might be unfamiliar, can you explain this theory and your particular approach?
I draw upon the cognitive sciences in my work on memory, skill, and embodiment in the early modern theatre. It’s important to realize that the cognitive sciences are a highly diverse interdisciplinary endeavor: there is not one unified theory of cognition that unites them, so there isn’t really one ‘cognitive theory’ that I employ. It’s not like there is some inert, settled background of science that we can invoke to explain, say, how an actor approaches a role. Critics from outside the field sometimes still identify ‘cognitive science’ with some stereotypical assemblage of rationalist, individualist, universalist, essentialist views, but I don’t agree with this assessment. Why would we rule such rich areas of research out of court as, say, too reductive? I’ve found research in the sciences of memory, attention, and perception to be extraordinarily useful in my research into early modern acting. Just to take one example, I think that research into memory degradation over time – the process by which we forget verbal material – can help to understand which texts in Shakespeare are likely to be mnemonic reconstructions of a forgotten written text. Similarly research on how easily attention is manipulated can help us understand how Shakespeare’s players managed overlapping entrances and exits, and how audiences track, remember, and forget the unfolding action of the play.
Your latest book, Early Modern Actors and Shakespeare’s Theatre: Thinking with the Body, seems (at first glance) to center more on skill and embodiment than cognition. What drew you to study the relationship between bodily skill and cognitive processes, and can you explain more about that relationship?
This is a great question that follows directly from the previous discussion. If we posit that cognition is simply ‘thinking,’ then what do we mean by thought? Thinking does not just happen in the head, but is distributed across brain, body, and world. This model helps us to understand how early modern players coped with seemingly overwhelming cognitive loads, performing up to six different plays a week. It was often said that players could only have managed by using stock practices or routines, pandering to the groundlings, and so forth. But a model of distributed cognition can help us see that they succeeded by creating and embedding themselves within physical, social and material smart structures: the playhouse itself, governed by shared conventions of movement across the stage; cognitive artefacts such as the part and the plot; the strong social bonds fostered by the system of sharers in the playhouses; and the regimes of training and education that undergirded their practice.
In my latest book, I was particularly interested in how skills are sedimented in the body. So to study skill, we examine, amongst other matters, the training the nervous system with habituation and practice; the role of attention, memory and perception; and the extension of the body through a range of instruments and objects, including tools, treatises and social and material practices such as apprenticeship.
How were early modern actors different than the actors we know today? Why is it important for students and scholars of early modern drama to attend to these differences?
It takes enormous intelligence and commitment to be an actor, no matter what era you are living in. One of the ideas I have sought to combat is that the actors of Shakespeare’s eras were using stock routines and gestures to manage their workload. Another misconception is that the boys who played the female roles were sending it up and weren’t taken seriously. On the contrary, actors, men and boys alike, had a reputation throughout Europe as highly skilled. Yet they were working within a particular ecology – a particular set of material practices, social bonds, physical environments, and the like. Contemporary actors work in very different systems: their training is different; regular repertory work is rare; they work with a very different set of materials and artifacts; and the economics of theatre is completely different today. I think attending to these differences is very important, but it can be done without denigrating either historical or contemporary actors.
What appeals to you about the early modern period, and why should it be a presence in curriculum and research today?
There’s a lot about the early modern period that resonates with our world today. I think there was simultaneously a sense of great possibility and of great anxiety. One reason I love the early modern theatre so much – especially the earlier periods, that 1580s and 1590s – is that this was a genuinely new form. Theatre itself isn’t new, of course, but the idea of purpose-built commercial theatre, with multiple companies competing for urban audiences, really was an innovation. In many ways, the media ecology of the early modern period has many analogues to our own. Shakespeare in particular continues to resonate with students today because it is such an open form. I like to teach through performance so that students can become aware of the many choices he builds into his plays and thus can bring their own experiences into the playworld.
What aspect of your scholarly work and teaching on early modern studies are you most excited to share with the UConn community?
I’m really enjoying being a part of the English department, and it’s been great to get involved in the early modern group. I’m been working on a project on early modern magic – especially its relationship to affect and altered states – that I’m looking forward to sharing in the spring.
Today’s post is brought to us by Edward Guimont, a PhD candidate in the History Department.
On October 25-28, 2018, the annual meeting of the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS) was held in Providence, Rhode Island. NACBS is the umbrella organization of historians of Britain resident in Canada and the United States, and consists of six regional affiliate groups. The annual meeting is hosted by a different regional affiliate every year, on a rotating basis. In 2018, the affiliate hosting was the North East Conference on British Studies (NECBS), whose current president is UCHI faculty member Brendan Kane. Due to its location, a number of UConn History Department doctoral candidates attended NACBS, participating in a variety of panels.
Brendan chaired and commented on the panel “Everything Old is New Again: Refugees, Climate Change, and Rebuilding in Early Modern Britain and Ireland,” while History Department associate professor Janet Watson commented on the panel “Historicising Selfhood.” Hilary Bogert-Winkler, History Department doctoral candidate, presented her paper, “What’s in a Name? Identifying Members of the Church of England, 1640-1662,” as part of the workshop panel “Populations: Counting, Classifying, Moving, and Managing Groups of People.” I presented my paper “Colonialism from the Cretaceous: Living Fossils as Imperial Justification” as part of the panel “Journey to the Liminal State: Travel Abroad and the Interpretation of Mythic History,” a panel which I also organized.
This was the first conference in which I organized a panel of my own. In the past, applying to conference as an individual had resulted in me sometimes being placed into panels which could be described as thematically dissonant. Creating my own panel, however, allowed me to choose historians whose work not only fit my own, but who I already admired and whose work I knew would complement my own research. As such, their comments would be particularly useful when revising the chapter from my dissertation that I drew my paper from.
In addition, Brendan, Hilary, fellow History Department candidates Robert Howe and Kristen Vitale, and myself all worked on the local arrangements committee. This gave me newfound appreciation for the amount of labor which goes into a conference such as this to enable the presentations to take place without a hitch. This included, but was far from limited to, manning the registration table to handling last-minute registrations, finding room numbers, printing additional programs, and handling tech support. I would encourage all who participate in conferences to work the tables (metaphorically as well as literally) at least once in order to gain a full appreciation of the labor involved in conferences by the support staff. I feel this is as important to becoming a rounded academic as organizing a panel.
On the topic of panels, NACBS offered an extremely diverse range of subjects. My area of expertise is modern Britain, with a focus on the British Empire in approximately the first half of the twentieth century. I found plenty of presenters who shared my general area of focus, but many more who went beyond it – from a queer interpretation of James Bond, to a nineteenth century search for Alexander the Great’s relics in Central Asia, to paranoid pre-World War I fantasies of German invasion of Britain. Even though these panels were completely outside of my area of focus, each one I attended – in addition to being of great interest – gave me ideas, big and small, to incorporate into my own work, whether my dissertation or plans for future research. This is the greatest benefit of a major conference like NACBS – by being exposed to work from your field, outside of your individual focus, you can gain insights into conceptual arenas you did not even know you were ignorant of beforehand.
It is precisely this aspect that exposes the fallacy of comparing conferences and higher education in general to a marketplace of ideas. It is the exact opposite: information is freely exchanged in an environment where all participants, from tenured professors to first-semester students, are on an equal setting, and all benefit as a result.
November is a busy month for the Early Modern Studies Working Group. On November 1st, we hosted a talk by Jane Hwang Degenhardt, titled “The ‘Kindness’ of Humans: Empathy, Race, and Kind in The Tempest and The Shape of Water.” Degenhardt is an associate professor in the department of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Thirty-five people attended the talk including faculty and grad students from three departments and several undergraduates. The talk was followed by a robust Q&A.
Next week, the group will be hosting its two regular events: Transcribathon and the Cross Cultural Interactions Reading Group. Transcribathon will meet at 10am on Wednesday in the UCHI collaborative space, where we will be honing our paleography skills by continuing to transcribe John Ward’s mid-1600s diary. The reading group meets at noon in the UCHI conference room, where we will be discussing another chapter from Black Africans in Renaissance Europe. The chapter, by T.F. Earle, is titled “Black Africans versus Jews: Religious and Racial Tension in a Portugese Saint’s Play,” and can be found on the HuskyCT page for the Early Modern Studies Working Group.
If you are interested in any of our activities and not yet on our e-mail list, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UCONN Early Modern Studies Working Group invites you to a guest lecture by JANE HWANG DEGENHARDT, “The ‘Kindness’ of Humans: Empathy, Race, and Kind in The Tempest and The Shape of Water” on November 1st, at 12:30 PM in the UCHI Conference Room. A lunch will precede the talk, which is open to the public. Please invite colleagues and students who might be interested. Please RSVP for the lunch at email@example.com
The “Kindness” of Humans: Empathy, Race, and Kind in The Tempest and The Shape of Water
Pairing Shakespeare’s Tempest and Guillermo del Toro’s film The Shape of Water, this talk focuses attention on the kinds of criteria by which we come to distinguish who is human from who is not. Both of these works provide us with an ambiguously hybrid being who strains the definition of the human and in turn helps to shore up a more stable but relationally-constituted ideal for what the human should and should not be. In seeking to define a relationship between humanity and humaneness, which privileges kindness, compassion, and empathy for others, both play and film project a limit case that demonstrates how the category of the human is fundamentally bounded, exclusionary, and relationally-determined. This talk demonstrates the need for a human rights approach that moves beyond the distinction of the human while at the same time avoiding the assumptions of a post-human movement that implicitly reaffirms a normative or universalized conception of humanity and denies the ways that metaphysical orders of being are determined through a logic of race. We cannot embrace an approach to social justice that moves beyond the ontology of the human race without first acknowledging the mutually exclusive constitution of human and race.
Jane Hwang Degenhardt is associate professor in the department of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Islamic Conversion and Christian Resistance on the Early Modern Stage (2010) and co-editor of Religion and Drama in Early Modern England (2011). She is currently completing a book entitled Fortune’s Empire: Chance, Providence, and Overseas Ventures in Early Modern English Drama that explores evolving understandings of “fortune” in relation to English global expansion. She is also beginning a new project on the concept of “the world” in the plays of Shakespeare. Provisionally titled Shakespeare in the World / The World in Shakespeare, this study considers how Shakespeare as a global phenomenon might be used as a vehicle for devising more ethical worldviews that resist the violence–racial, gendered, epistemological, and material–of globalization.
Professor Degenhardt’s talk is made possible through the support of the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and is co-sponsored by the University of Connecticut English Department.
In the following weeks several events of interest to early modern scholars will be taking place on UCONN’s campus.
The first thing to note is our regular events. On Wednesday, 9/26/2018, Transcribathon will be meeting in the UCHI collaborative space at 10am. We will be transcribing John Ward’s diary, but feel free to bring any thorny paleography challenges from your own research. On Thursday, 9/27/2018, at 12pm, the Early Modern Studies Cross Cultural Interactions Reading Group will be meeting in the UCHI conference room to continue its discussion of Matthew Dimmock’s Mythologies of the Prophet Muhammad in Early Modern English Culture.
On October 10th from 2:30-4:00pm in the Stern Lounge, AUST 217, Debapriya Sarkar will be giving a talk titled “‘endless error’ The Literary Methods of Early Modern Science.” This talk is part of the English Department’s Brown Bag Series. The flyer for the talk follows.
Today’s post was written by Kristen Vitale, a PhD student in the UCONN History Department and one of this summer’s recipients of the EMSWG Folger travel award. We asked Kristen to answer some questions to introduce herself, which follow her post.
In August I visited the Folger for the first time to enhance my research on Tudor coronation practices. I had heard that the Library was aesthetically pleasing, but vocalized admiration and web images couldn’t prepare me for the view of the Gail Kern Paster Reading Room. The high trussed roof, embroidered wall tapestries, vintage table lamps, and the Seven Stages of Man stained glass window embodied England in early modernity and made me feel as though I was in the Tudor era.
This reaction put me in the perfect state of mind to research the plethora of Tudor revel documents that are housed at the Folger. These revels, or manuscripts pertaining to royal festivities in England, belonged namely to Sir Thomas Cawarden. He was the first man to receive the title of ‘Master‘ of Revels as an independent, official patent in 1544. To explore these manuscripts, I requested documents from the More Family of Loseley Park, which is a collection of revels from ca. 1489-1682 concerning the set up, wardrobe, styling, and stage management of royal festivities. I requested numerous manuscripts from the collection, but my focus was on one in particular: a large manuscript booklet titled, Anno Primo Edwardi vj, Revelles At The Coronacion of Edward the Sixth. The document contained the theatrical, ceremonial, and monetary details of Edward VI’s (1537 –1553) coronation.
My excitement at discovering this manuscript was palpable. Yet, the enthusiasm that had been building since my arrival abruptly changed to dismay as I looked over the revel’s remaining eight pages. I appreciated the beauty of sixteenth century script, but it was unlike anything I had transcribed before. Following a silent thank you to the Early Modern Study Group’s transcribathons –and a lot of help from my adviser– I was able to transcribe a portion of the document. I was in awe of what I had discovered. The manuscript outlined the differing pageants that were to be performed before and during Edward VI’s coronation, portrayed the charges that were needed to move the King’s ceremonial outfits and “Masks from Warwick Inn to the late disolved house of Black friars” and detailed the appropriate ” Masks and garments for players” in the subsequent plays. In short, this Revel presented the intricate detail, specifically concerning wardrobe styling, that went in to traditional coronation processions and pageants.
While the Edward VI revel was certainly enough to keep my attention, there were other notable manuscripts that I discovered during my stay. For instance, one document, written during the reign of King Henry VIII (1491-1547) in 1539, ordered Christopher More (1483 –1549), a Member of Parliament, to proceed to London with “6 servants honestly furnished” to serve as “guard of honor” to Anne of Cleves (1515-1547) upon her arrival to England. While only a small folio, this manuscript depicted the proper attire for ceremonial wedding occasions in King Henry’s court. This specifically was an occasion that would have been followed by a coronation procession, had he not annulled the marriage five months after the vows.
My time at the Folger came to an end far too quickly. While I could spend eons describing these fascinating Tudor manuscripts, it would be thoughtless not to take a moment to praise the kind employees at the Folger. Not only were they patient and willing to answer any questions that arose during my stay, but they were also genuinely interested in my discoveries. Their supportiveness fostered a warm and intellectually stimulating research environment that I will be sure to visit in the future. Moreover, I could not have made the trip without the generous funding from the Humanities Institute’s Early Modern Studies Working Group in the form of the Folger Travel Award. I am immensely grateful to have had the opportunity to embark on such an endeavor, and am already planning my return trip to the Folger.
What are your research and teaching interests?
Research: Early Modern Europe, specifically England. Cultural and Gender History; Monarchies; Early Tudor Pageantry
Teaching: Western Traditions 1300 — love teaching surveys!
What is your current projects?
Just finished a history grad seminar project on the pageants of Anne Boleyn’s coronation procession ca. 1533.
What is your favorite thing to teach? (ex: unit, concept, text or reading, etc.)
If I am sticking with Western Traditions Hist-1300- I love teaching the Greco-Persian Wars and the Founding of the Roman Republic through the Roman Empire (emphasis on Caesar’s dictatorship) — course usually ends ca. 1492 (at least when I’ve taught it) a tad before my period.
Who is your favorite historical figure from the early modern period and why?
This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer! If I am staying in my field then Anne Boleyn. I realize Anne as a historical figure is rather streamline, but while most focus on her relationship with Henry, I find her emotional and intellectual inclinations toward humanism fascinating. As a side, I adore Matilda of Flanders.
Where are you from originally and/or where else have you taught or gone to school?
I am a native of CT. I went to Nazareth College in Rochester NY for undergrad, Providence College in Providence RI for my Masters. I’ve taught at Manchester Community College