Early Modern Studies Working Group

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If you are interested in submitting a post to Ruff Draughts or wish to contact the Early Modern Studies Working Group,
please e-mail Nathan Braccio or Melissa Rohrer at earlymod@uconn.edu.

Report on the Annual Meeting of the North American Conference on British Studies

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.


News and Updates

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 earlymod@uconn.edu.


Early Modern Studies Working Group Fall Guest Lecture: Jane Hwang Degenhardt

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 earlymod@uconn.edu

 

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.


News Update

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.

 


Explorations at the Folger: My Search for Tudor Coronation Manuscripts

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

 


Surveying the Folger’s Surveys

The author of today’s blog post is Nathan Braccio, one of the EMSWG’s co-coordinators and a recipient of one of the Folger Consortium Travel Awards. Nathan is a PhD candidate in the History Department.

This summer I again visited the Folger with the generous support of UCONN’s Early Modern Studies Working Group. The Folger has provided invaluable sources for my dissertation, which, among other things, traces the development of cartography and surveying in New England. While my previous trips to the Folger have explored their collection of atlases and cosmographical texts, this trip focused on something far more mundane. Between 1600 and 1700, English mathematicians and surveyors made slightly more than a dozen manuals meant to teach the reader how to survey. Coming in a variety of shapes and sizes (including small versions meant to be kept in your pocket), these manuals claimed that they would teach literate readers the important skill of surveying. My hope was that by studying these manuals I could answer three questions: what activities, tools, and knowledge constituted surveying in the 17th-century? How did surveying change? And what is the relationship between surveying and mapping in the 17th-century?

While the answers to these questions existed in the surveying books, they were buried deeply within dozens of pages of geometry, tables of sin and tan values, equations, and diagrams of men shooting cannons at various angles. Perhaps what became most striking after looking through four books, all containing these elements and often mentioning each other, was the redundancy of the manuals. Of course, each author claimed a unique element, but the original parts occupied a handful of pages in what were often several hundred page long texts. Each author, after describing all the tools a surveyor needed in one chapter, would spend the largest part of the book examining how to use a “plaine table” to make plots of land. Almost all of them included chapters on the same techniques and the same tricky landscapes that required different approaches (such as a forest, a body of water, and hilly country). Two of them even gave near identical advice on how to make a survey look aesthetically pleasing after the initial drafting was done.

The formulaic nature of these manuals, several of which saw multiple printings, suggests a demand and profits to be made. One mathematician, William Leyborne, even made two surveying books in short succession. The question then emerges, why such a demand? Surveying had long been part of English culture and the first surveying manual in England was published in the 1540s. However, the manuals of the 1600s had several new elements. Technology and mathematics both saw improvement. The books spoke of new kinds of surveyors’ chains, new kinds of protractors, sextants, and of course the surveyors table. Whereas surveying before 1600 had required less math, simple instruments, and a written record, these new manuals implied requirement for higher technical skills and an ability to “plotte” (map). The confluence of a more technically rigorous surveying and a continued high likelihood of people encountering a survey in their life made at least some familiarity with the skills involved useful. While I cannot be sure, it seems likely that the redundant and dry manuals held by the Folger are indicative of and responding to this change.


Upcoming Reading Group and Transcribathon Meetings

This week the Early Modern Studies Working Group (EMSWG) kicks off two of its regular meetings. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the first meeting of Transcribathon at 10am in the UCHI conference room. As a group we will work our way through a challenging paleography project, confronting exciting puzzles in early modern handwriting. The focus of the group is transcribing the eclectic diaries of John Ward, with an eye towards the eventual publication of our transcription. Aspiring paleographers of all skills welcome!

On Thursday (12pm-1pm in the UCHI conference room-reading group members note the venue change) the Early Modern Cross Cultural Interactions Reading Group will be having its first weekly meeting discussing the book Mythologies of the Prophet Muhammad in Early Modern English Culture by Matthew Dimmock. If you are interested in joining the reading group, please contact either nathan.braccio @ uconn.edu or melissa.rohrer @ uconn.edu.

We welcome anyone interested in these Early Modern offerings to join us! Attend at your leisure.

 

 


Encountering Alchemy

On October 28, 2017, several members of the UConn Early Modern Studies community participated in “Encounters: Alchemy & Science” at the Hartford History Center sponsored by the Humility and Conviction in Public Life project at UConn in partnership with the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, the Hartford History Center, the Hartford Public Library, and the Wadsworth Atheneum. Debapriya Sarkar (English) and Walt Woodward (History) served on a panel of faculty experts for the event. Below is a wrap-up written for us by Debapriya Sarkar:

The public humanities event on “Encounters: Alchemy & Science” convened at the Hartford History Center centered around the relationships among science, alchemy, religion, and politics. The discussion aimed to use the art—or science, or esoteric practice—of alchemy to test the boundaries between modernity and pre-modernity. In order to facilitate a common starting point, participants (who ranged from members of the local community to students and faculty from UConn) began the session by reading short excerpts from Albertus Magnus’s writings on alchemy (13th century), Fama Fraternitus (c. 1610-1614), and a “Letter from Jonathan Brewster to John Winthrop, Jr.” (January 31, 1656) (available here: http://hhc.hplct.org/encounters-alchemy-science/). These texts immediately exposed all attendees to some of the main issues of alchemy: the relation of art to nature, the importance of secret knowledge, the idea of perfection as it pertains to both religious and epistemological contexts, and contemporary disagreements about the usefulness of alchemy.

It was striking how quickly the common texts provoked a wide range of questions: what are the boundaries between “scientific knowledge” and “alchemical knowledge”? Who gets to be designated an “alchemist”? How does the practice of alchemy test the boundaries between “science” and “belief”? In a culture where alchemy was often related to fraud, were there avenues for policing or censoring it? How successful was alchemy in its goals? How do we reconcile the contradictory views, that alchemy was both the precursor to modern chemistry and a useless form of practical knowledge? How did alchemy become vital to discussions of perfection in the New World? What is the status of alchemy today, or—are there living alchemists? As our ensuing discussions made evident, the answers to these questions were often multifaceted. For instance, it is not always clear what the “success” of alchemy means—while alchemists might not have attained their final aim of transforming base metals into gold, they achieved enough changes in chemical reactions of entities to convince themselves that the translation of metals was possible.

While a significant portion of the discussion was devoted to the status of alchemy in the pre-modern period, one of the abiding concerns of the group centered around the relationship of the past to the present, or more specifically, how could our understanding of alchemy as a practice, or even as a way of being, shape our comprehension of our current social, political, and intellectual moment? To this end, we discussed topics like the centrality of religion or religious discourse in science—while pre-modern alchemists claimed that the alchemical perfection would mirror or fulfill God’s perfect creation, modern science explicitly distances itself from religious discussion. We also encountered how our concerns about changes in nature (for example, on the topic of climate change) forces us to grapple with competing points of view about knowledge and belief, in ways similar to those found in alchemical discourse. Thus, the discussion enabled us to see what while the specific problems faced by alchemists might not seem relevant, the larger questions of expertise, knowledge, faith, belief, and power that were central to the lives of alchemical practitioners resonate in surprising ways with our own understandings of intellectual, religious, and intellectual life.


UConn at the Northeast Conference on British Studies

This year’s Northeast Conference on British Studies (NECBS), held at Endicott College, was well attended by members of UCONN’s Early Modern Studies Working Group. Graduate students and faculty from both the History Department and English Department presented at the conference. This included a panel with three participants from UCONN (find a full list of UCONN participants and panel/paper titles below titles below). Professor Brendan Kane (UCONN) organized the program for the conference, which took place on October 13th and 14th. During the proceedings, the NECBS confirmed him as the new organization president. Around fifty or sixty people attended, resulting in a very collegial atmosphere. While a full schedule can be found online, the conference featured a wide variety of panels with Early Modern Topics, including a panel on Early Modern West Africa chaired by John Thornton, and a panel on Dutch/British exchanges in the Late Tudor and Early Stuart periods.

Shannon McSheffrey (Concordia University) gave the keynote presentation on her new book, Seeking Sanctuary: Crime, Mercy and Politics in English Courts, 1400-1550. McSheffrey’s talk explored how people accused of crimes in England used church land as santuary. The accused would often live in exile until family members could garner them a pardon. Members of the nobility, engaged in a violent honor culture, regularly took advantage of sanctuary. Much of McSheffrey’s presentation focused on the importance of the Knights Hospitaller in the process of granting sanctuary. Due to their association with mercy in English life, criminals regularly sought out members of the order for sanctuary.

While the conference was obviously focused on the British Isles, the panels reflected a transnational and transatlantic approach to Early Modern history. As an Early Americanist, I was particularly excited to find panels and papers dealing with Africa, the West Indies, North America, and mainland Europe. I would recommend to the conference to any Early Americanist seeking to broaden their geographic scope or interested in taking a transatlantic approach. Next year, NECBS will be hosting the North American Conference on British Studies in Providence.

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UCONN Participants:

Hilary Bogert-Winkler (PhD. Candidate, History): “‘Too like the sons of Israel’: Royalism, Exile, and Israel during the Interregnum”

Nathan Braccio (PhD Candidate, History): “Willing exile: The choice to move to the spatial/social periphery in 17th-century New England”

Clare Costley King’oo (English): “Henry VIII, Joan Fish, and A Supplicacyon for the Beggers (1528/29)”

Edward Guimont (PhD Candidate, History): “Indian political leverage in the Commonwealth of Nations, 1947-64”

Robert Howe (PhD Candidate, History): “We may have of them whatsoever we will desire”: The Sovereign’s Stripping of the Abbeys in Scotland

Brendan Kane (History): “Léamh: Learn Early Modern Irish – a digital guide to reading and paleography, c. 1200-1650”

by Nathan Braccio (PhD Candidate, History)

 

 

 


Léamh: Learn Early Modern Irish Officially Launches

From October 3-5, 2017, Celticists, historians, and literary scholars from both sides of the Atlantic gathered at UConn for “Re-Reading the Revolution: A Conference Launching Léamh: Learn Early Modern Irish (léamh.org)”. The purpose of the conference was four-fold: to launch the Léamh website for the public; to work together on some translations for the site; to bring together Celticists, historians, and literary scholars in one room to discuss how scholarship could be deepened through the greater use of Celtic language sources; and to examine what that could look like through a series of papers and roundtables about the mid-seventeenth century conflicts in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

The conference began with “One Day, One Text,” which brought together Celtic language scholars and learners to translate several texts for the Léamh website. Participants gathered both digitally and in-person at the UConn Hartford campus to learn about the Léamh site and to do some “hands on” work with it. The group worked on ‘Eireóchthar fós le cloinn gColla,’ which will be added to the site for public use at a later date. October 4 was dedicated to a series of research panels as well as the official launch of the Léamh website. The research panels—“Ireland and an Ghaeilge in an age of Revolution, 1630-1660,” “Wales and y Gymraeg in an age of Revolution, 1630-1660,” and “Scotland and an Ghàidhlig in an age of Revolution, 1630-1660”—presented a series of papers that demonstrated just how dynamic scholarship that incorporates Celtic language sources can be.

The final day of the conference consisted of roundtables focused on the themes of “culture and society,” “ideas, religion, and memory,” and “transnational perspectives.” Here panelists presented their views on the state of the field and how Celtic language sources can contribute to current scholarship, and then the floor was opened up for everyone in the room. There ensued lively conversations and speculations about where the field is headed, what new questions scholars can/should be asking, and how these issues affect graduate education and professionalization.

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in the conference, and invite you all to check out the Léamh website.