Early Modern Studies Concentration for Graduate Students

vermeer-view-of-delft-480-320 vermeer-view-of-delft-1240-550

Early Modern Studies Concentration for Graduate Students 
in the Departments of English, History, Modern Languages and Literatures

The Early Modern Studies Concentration is an interdisciplinary concentration to be earned in conjunction with the individual Ph.D. requirements for the departments of English, History, and Modern Languages and Literatures (Romance Studies, Spanish and French). Graduate students will continue to be housed in any one of the three departments and must fulfill the requirements of their discipline.  To qualify for the Concentration, students must successfully complete a minimum of two courses (6 credit hours) in one or both of the other two departments, substituting for courses within their department; and a minimum of two courses (6 credit hours) in early modern studies within their department.

Alexandria Morgan's essay has been awarded the 2019 Early Modern Essay Award.

In selecting her essay, the Graduate Essay Award Committee wrote the following:

This is a perceptive, well-written essay about how poetic forms produce and inscribe unattainable bodies and desiring voices in Shakespeare's “Fair Youth” sonnets and in his epyllion about the epitome of male beauty,  Adonis.  In the compact, self-reflexive form of the sonnets, the author shows how the poetic voice is more invested in exhibiting its linguistic powers as the desiring body of the beloved than in depicting the actual physical beauty of the youth.  In “Venus and Adonis" the narrative poetic voice inscribes itself as a mirror of the reader and the essay’s author grapples productively with the limits of using language to “create and contain a physical body that is being eroticized.”  Both poet and reader revel in the unattainable body of Adonis and in Venus’s failure at possessing it, emulated by the narrative form of the poem in its open-ended, linear thrust.   The essay offers insights into Shakespeare’s engagement with the pleasures of representing the apogee of the beautiful, inaccessible male body of the fair youth--Adonis--and in an exploration of how different poetic genres contribute to enact the erotic failure to possess it.

Why an Early Modern Studies Concentration?

The University of Miami’s strength in early modern, transatlantic, and Caribbean studies translates into dynamic learning experiences for our graduate students. In conceptualizing the early modern period in both interdisciplinary and transnational terms, this concentration will better prepare our graduate students as scholars and teachers. As an example, students interested in the early modern English world can take advantage of classes that focus on literature as well as the histories of political and religious thought both in England and its colonies. Likewise, with our faculty’s wide-ranging coverage of the Spanish world, students can draw on literary analyses of the Golden Age as well as histories of Spanish-indigenous encounters, the Spanish colonial system in Latin America, and the Inquisition. The same can be said for students with interests in French colonial systems, given our faculty’s collective strengths in the French Caribbean. With the Early Modern Studies Concentration, students will:

• gain transcultural and interdisciplinary knowledge for stronger intellectual coherence within their program of study;
• enroll in courses with various faculty across the College of Arts and Sciences and interact with graduate students in other departments; 
• apply their coursework in selected courses to their language requirements within their home department;
• gain the competency to design and teach interdisciplinary courses or comparative courses in one or more disciplines once graduated;
• be more competitive on the academic job market and in government and international positions. 

Support for Early Modern Studies at the University of Miami

The Department of English enjoys considerable strength in the study of literature and culture of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Scholars who teach and write about this period of English literary history are engaged in exciting and innovative work, particularly in the following areas: Women’s Writing, Gender Studies, and Sexuality; Race, Religion, Ethnicity, and the Transnational; Popular Culture and Cultural Studies; Genre Studies.  The department’s strengths in Caribbean, colonial, and trans-Atlantic studies further complement the courses and research by faculty in the early modern period, fostering a rich climate for the study of early modern European literature and culture in a truly transnational context.

The Department of History has strong representation in the early modern era, with faculty working on colonial Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America as well as England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy. As this listing suggests, we conceptualize the early modern world broadly, employing transnational approaches to the study of this era. The History Department, moreover, has particular complementary concentrations in cultural, political, and religious history.

The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures hosts a biannual Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque symposium that invites distinguished faculty as keynote speakers, and attracts from 60 to 80 participants from across the United States and other countries. Several publications have resulted from papers read at the meetings. Its faculty teaches courses in Renaissance and Baroque Spanish and Colonial Studies as well as 17th and 18th century French. 

The Center for the Humanities sponsors a thriving interdisciplinary Early Modern Studies Research Group.  Organized by Professors Maria Stampino (MLL) and Karl Gunther (History), and drawing paricipants and presenters from universities across south Florida, the group meets monthly during the academic year to discuss pre-circulated work-in-progress over lunch.  The group provides an excellent forum for gradute students to participate in the vibrant intellectual community of early modernists in Miami and workshop dissertation chapters and conference papers.

The University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum is in possession of a permanent collection with impressive strengths in Renaissance and Baroque paintings, housed in its Kress Gallery, by artists including Lippo Vanni, Guidoccio Cozzarelli, Bernardino Fungai, Battista Dossi, Sofonisba Anguissola, Jacob Jordaens, Nicolaes van Galen, El Greco, Jusepe de Ribera, Thomas Gainsborough, Leonardo Carlo Coccorante, and numerous others. 

Graduate students who have completed at least two courses in early modern studies may submit an essay for the yearly $500 Essay Award in Early Modern Studies. Past award winners include:

  • Anna Bennett, "Bagatelle or Stregamenti: The Spiritual Potential of Material Objects and Spaces in Late Rinascimento Venice, 1580-1630" (2018) 
  • Elena Bonmati, "Colón y el arte de navegar: el barco como lugar de enunciación epistemológica en el Primer viaje de Cristóbal Colón" (2017)
  • Anne Schmalstig, "'To Our Owne Benefits': Strategic Humility and Redemption in Aemilia Lanyer's Salve Deus" (2016)
  • Francesca Aguiló Mora, "Bilingüismo léxico por sujetos biculturales en los Comentarios reales del Inca Garcilaso y en la Primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno de Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala" (2015)
  • Simonetta Marin, "A New Image for a New Devotion: The Fleshy Heart of Jesus" (2014)

Library Resources

The Special Collections at the University of Miami’s Richter Library has particular strengths in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish literature and drama; seventeenth-century British political and constitutional history and in eighteenth-century Caribbean cultural and political history. Access to important electronic resources is available through the University of Miami Library website.  Resources include Early English Books Online (EEBO), Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), the Brown Women Writers Project, Perdita Manuscripts: Women Writers 1500-1700; Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance; the Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts; the Digital Library of the Catholic Reformation; Early American Imprints (Series I, Evans); and the Chadwyck-Healey Individual Literature Collections. The Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Kirsch Rare Book Room at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Campus preserves 3,000 books dating from 1496 to 1900, including the first German textbook on ophthalmology written in 1583, a rare second edition published 100 years later, and a 1613 book on depth perception with drawings by Peter Paul Rubens, as well as books on optics by Johann Kepler (1611), René Descartes (1664), and Sir Isaac Newton (1704).

The Cuban Theater Digital Archive (CTDA) includes materials digitized and filmed in Cuba and outside the island as well as resources and information related to Cuban theater, with a special focus on theater produced by Cuban communities in the United States. Plays staged by Cuban theater repertoires and archived play scripts include those by early modern playwrights such as Calderón de la Barca, Carlo Goldoni, Lope de Vega, Molière, and Shakespeare.

CAS Faculty in the Early Modern Period

Art and Art History
Karen Mathews  Medieval art, Islamic art.

English Department
Anthony Barthelemy  Renaissance literature, race and sexuality, Shakespeare’s Italy, intersections of politics and form. 
Tassie Gwilliam  Restoration and eighteenth-century popular culture and elite literature, sexuality and gender, medicine and literature. 
Pamela Hammons  Renaissance and medieval literature, especially poetry; women’s writing; property and material culture; manuscript studies; literary theories, especially feminisms and queer theory. 
Frank Palmeri  Comparative eighteenth- and nineteenth-century (including historiography, philosophy, and the visual arts), narrative theory, satire, postmodernism. 
Jessica Rosenberg  Early modern English literature and culture, the history of science (especially of practical knowledge), the history of the book and of material texts; literary and critical theory, including science studies and poetics.
Mihoko Suzuki  Renaissance and early modern studies, English and continental; gender and authorship; early modern political thought and historiography; the classical tradition. 
Susanne Woods  Renaissance literature, Milton, women writers, versification, literary feminisms, gender and authorship.

History Department
Karl Gunther  Early modern Britain, Reformation, politics.
Jesse W. Izzo  Medieval Mediterranean world and Christian-Muslim relations.
Mary Lindemann  Early modern Europe, Germany, history of medicine.
Martin Nesvig  Latin America, Colonial Mexico, the Inquisition.
Guido Ruggiero  Italian Renaissance, gender, sexuality, literature, microhistory.
Hugh Thomas  Medieval England.
Ashli White  Atlantic world, slavery, revolutions, and material culture.

Modern Languages and Literatures
Susanna Allés-Torrent – Iberian medieval, digital humanities.
Viviana Díaz Balsera – Early modern Spanish and Colonial Latin American literatures, cultures, and postcolonial studies.
Logan J. Connors – Eighteenth-Century French Theater, Theater and Performance Studies, Cultural Polemics, History of the Emotions, Early Modern European Literature.
Rebecca Doran – Medieval and early modern Chinese literature, gender studies, historiography, and women's literature.
Laura Giannetti – Renaissance Italian, literature and culture, Renaissance drama, gender and sexuality, women's studies.
Ralph Heyndels – Classical, modern and contemporary French and comparative literature, critical theory, philosophy, postcolonial cultural studies, gay studies.
Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel – Classical, modern and contemporary French and comparative literature, critical theory, philosophy, postcolonial cultural studies, gay studies.
Maria Galli Stampino – Italian and French Renaissance and Baroque Literatures and cultures, performance studies.

Early Modern Graduate Courses

Students in the early modern concentration may chose from a variety of courses offered each semester.  Some recent course offerings include:

  • Logan Connors (MLL), “Controversy and Creation: a polemical history of French Classical Theater”
  • Pamela Hammons (English), "Queering Early English Literary History"
  • Karl Gunther (History), "The Tudors" and "Field Seminar in Early Modern European History"
  • Mary Lindemann (History), “The Early Modern Urban Experience” and "Science, Magic, and Medicine"
  • Martin Nesvig (History), "New Conquest History"
  • Guido Ruggiero (History), "Fiction and Friction in History" and "Rethinking Machiavelli"
  • Mihoko Suzuki (English), "Gender and Authorship in Early Modern England" and "Order and Disorder in Seventeenth-Century England"

 Courses offered in Fall 2019 and Spring 2020:

 Courses Day Description

ENG 672-65: Comparative Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Literature: Early Modern Literature and the Environment

Professor Jessica Rosenberg

1:00pm - 3:30pm

Location TBA

Fall 2019

Though neither word would have been familiar to inhabitants of early modern England, both “environment” and “ecology” have in recent years become key terms for the study of the period. Drawing on this recent criticism and a range of literary sources, this seminar will explore the changing ways in which English literature of the 16th and 17th centuries registered the relationship between humans and the natural world, in terms of everyday practical engagements (agriculture, husbandry, cooking, predicting and understanding the weather); literary depictions in poetry, drama, and prose; and natural historical writing and illustration. Holding our weekly meetings in Special Collections’ new seminar room, we will draw extensively on the wonderful resources in Richter Library to explore how early modern writers and illustrators imagined their widening natural world in the context of global exploration and conquest and through the eyes of evolving practices of observation and empiricism. Through our readings and discussions, we will also draw historical and theoretical comparisons with our present moment, and will ask to what extent we are able to historicize both the environment and “environmental writing.”

HIS 638-43 Studies in Early Modern European History: Disaster! Crisis in the Early Modern World

Professor Mary Lindemann

2:00pm - 4:30pm

Ashe 621

Fall 2019

This course focuses on a world for which Thomas Hobbes’s description of life as “nasty, brutish, and short” fits well.  Although famines, wars, plagues, and other disasters are not limited to early modern Europe, there has been a good deal of historical interest in these subjects for the late medieval and early modern periods, running roughly from 1300-1750.  This rich scholarship has given us important insights into a world we have lost. This course examines the actual course of these events and their impact on European society, culture, politics, and religion.  Among other subjects, we will focus on the Great Famine of 1311, the “plague” of 1347-50, the Little Ice Age, the Thirty Years War, volcanic eruptions, and the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. We will devote much attention to understanding how people coped with these admittedly horrible experiences and made sense of them in their own lives.  It is a story of despair and fear but also, perhaps somewhat curiously, of optimism and hope. The class will be devoted to lectures and discussions of assigned materials.  We will read a series of primary sources, historical interpretations, “reportage,” and literary treatments.

ENG 616: Translation as Figure and Practice: Case Studies in Chaucer & Middle English

Professor Thomas Goodmann


Spring 2020

Eustace Deschamp called his contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer, a “grant translateur,” and in this course we will engage the Canterbury Tales, and other works by Chaucer, such as Troilus and Criseyde, to think through theories and practices of how Chaucer’s work has been received in translation and adaptation. We’ll draw on the Global Chaucers project and the free adaptations and poetic riffs of Patience Agbabi (Telling Tales); Agbabi et al (Refugee Tales), and Caroline Bergvall (Meddle English), and perhaps Gloria Naylor’s Bailey’s Cafe.  (https://globalchaucers.wordpress.com/) We’ll read contemporary sources on the importance of translation in the period (1350-1450), especially the contested act of translating Scripture, and engage ideas about “translating” relics, transferring bodies (that of the murdered Richard II), and rumors of London being “translated” or renamed as “Troy,” in light of the great deal of literary reimaginations of the Troy story.

Anyone interested in medieval literature, and its long and varied reception into the twenty-first century, is welcome to take part in this seminar, including those with critical, theoretical, historical, and creative interests. 

ENG 620 or 621: Shakespeare, The Globe, and Nascent Global Thinking

Professor Anthony Barthelemy


Spring 2020

Before the Age of Exploration, England sat on the periphery of the Mediterranean world. Always looking eastward, England accepted that its economy, religion and culture would be shaped and frequently determined by events and actors emanating from the East. Nothing underscores this more than the fact that the printing press was a German invention brought to England at the beginning of the early modern period.  The age of discovery which also began in the East ultimately caused a European refocusing with England, Spain, Portugal and France looking West for power, wealth and influence.  Shakespeare’s Globe theater built in 1599 brought to it audiences the adventures, the geography, the philosophical, religious and cultural interrogations that resulted from knowledge of and contact with new peoples, biologizes and economies.  The Globe made visible the power, danger and possibilities of global thinking. Here is a list of some of the plays which may be included on our syllabus: Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar; Marlowe’s, Tamburlaine the Great, part one, The Jew of Malta, Massacre at Paris; Shakespeare’s Richard II, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, The Tempest; Hayward’s The Fair Maid of the West, parts one and two; Fletcher’s The Knight of Malta; Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. There will also be relevant secondary readings.

HIS 638-42: Microhistory: Its History, Theory, and Practice

Professor Guido Ruggiero

2:00pm - 4:30pm

Ashe 621

Spring 2020

In 1991 when Ed Muir and I published Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe little did we realize that with a book that had begun over beers in a sleazy bar in St. Louis that we were touching off a debate on the theory and practice of microhistory that would in many ways usher in a new field of history.  A couple of years ago in yet another sleazy bar reflecting on the literal explosion of microhistorical studies, Ed remarked to me ruefully, “Guido what have we done?”

Indeed!  In this seminar I would like to consider that question, albeit with the obvious caveat that I don’t think we should take all the blame or credit for the explosion of microhistory – we were just at the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) moment.  Still two decades later with microhistory flourishing as perhaps the most important competitor with global history and newer cultural approaches to political and intellectual history, this seminar will examine the way microhistory works more as a strategy for research and writing history than as a discipline.  Eschewing the sound bites of microhistory as “truly dead history” or offering the truth “in the details” it will consider the way in which it offers a fruitful strategy not only for writing a more literate history that features the particular, the individual, and human agency, but also can be seminal for thinking about and reformulating fruitfully the larger structures and themes of not just history, but also the humanities more generally.

The seminar will involve weekly reading and discussion on the theory and practice of the field with short biweekly essays to help build and direct discussion.  After some preliminary fairly straightforward theoretical considerations, it will range widely over the most important (and fun) works published in the field with an emphasis on the pre-modern period, but with significant excursions into the most significant or suggestive works published on the Americas, North and South.  The only real prerequisite for the course is a willingness to read and discuss and non-historians are encouraged to sign up and contribute their point of view to the discussions.

SPA 733: “The Struggle for Representation: Writing, Power and Resistance in the Spanish-American Colonial Period”

Prof Viviana Díaz Balsera

Wednesdays: 5:00-7:30pm

Merrick 210.01


Spring 2020

The European encounter with a continent and peoples in 1492 they had never known opened one of the most dramatic chapters of the early modern period. The colonization of the indigenous peoples from the Americas entailed their insertion by the Spanish monarchy into a universal Catholic communitas and into European and transatlantic cultural, political and socio-economic circuits. With special emphasis in Mexico, the course will examine textual and cultural productions throughout the Spanish-American colonial period as multi-vocal spaces in which the Amerindians were narrated, contested, memorialized and vindicated in their pre-Hispanic “gentile” past and colonial “modernity” by Spanish, criollo, mestizo, and indigenous writers and intellectuals. The struggles to acknowledge, invent and/or contest the difference of indigenous peoples were more than literary or rhetorical gestures; for their debated proximities to or distances from the universal imaginaries of Christianity in these texts were destined to shape the perceived legitimacy of all claims to their place, power and justice in the new regime under the Spanish empire.

The course will include works by Motolinía, Bernardino de Sahagún, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Alvarado Tezozómoc, el Inca Garcilaso, Hernando Ruiz de Alarcón, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and Francisco Javier Clavigero, among others. Some topics that will be explored in the readings are:

[1] the politics of (universal) natural law

[2] the theology and anthropology of idolatry

[3] indigenous polities and cultural translation

[4] intersections between the Christian preternatural and indigenous epistemologies

[5] colonial modernity and the subjection of knowledges

*The course will be conducted in Spanish but students who do not seek Spanish credit may write their papers and do their presentations in English as well as read the works in translation when available.


Courses offered in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019:


 Courses Day Description

ENG 695 Special Topics: Gender and Sexuality in Early English Literary History

Professor Pamela Hammons

12:30pm - 3:00pm

Ashe 427

Fall 2018

Many well-known medieval and early modern English literary texts foreground matters of love, desire, and sexuality. Chivalric romances intertwine stories of combat with tales of courtly love; medieval mysticism theorizes desire between human believers and the divine; Petrarchan sonnets dissert the intense, vacillating emotions and turbulent psychological states associated with unrequited love; Renaissance drama stages the erotics of mistaken identities and crossed purposes. As we will see in this course, the diversity and complexity of early English representations of love, desire, and sexuality deeply challenge modern notions of hetereonormativity.  For example, what does it mean when two medieval knights merrily (and repeatedly) kiss one another? How are we best to understand a medieval housewife and mother who is publicly scorned and threatened by Church leaders for her conversion to earthly celibacy and her erotically charged relationship with Christ; does her manner of loving Christ make her queer? What are we to make of a cross-dressed female knight who unhorses male opponents and turns the Renaissance ladies’ heads? And perhaps most famously, how can we best understand Shakespeare’s frequent portrayal of homoerotic desire to increase the emotional intensity of his verse and the delightful complications of his plots? Is it historically accurate to refer to straights, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, homosexuals, heterosexuals, or queers in medieval and Renaissance England? What methodological differences are there among identifying representations of same-sex desire or homoerotic acts; locating figures of non-normative sexuality; and queering a text, genre, or literary history itself?

In this class, we will explore the ways in which recent theories of gender and sexuality have been especially useful in increasing our knowledge of pre-modern sexualities, including unpredictable, shifting connections among emotions, gender expressions, eroticism, desire, sexual acts, and identities. The course will provide a substantial survey of medieval and Renaissance literature by male and female writers: likely authors include the anonymous “Gawain” poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, Margery Kempe, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Margaret Cavendish, and Katherine Philips. We will become familiar with specific genres such as the spiritual biography, chivalric romances, fabliau, erotic epyllion, Petrarchan sonnet, romance epic, Shakespearean comedy, closet drama, and seventeenth-century love lyric. This course should be especially helpful to students seeking greater familiarity with medieval and Renaissance literature; feminism, gender theories, and queer theories; and the theoretical stakes  underpinning the writing of literary histories.

HIS 538/638 Studies in Early Modern History: The Early Modern Mediterranean

Professor Jesse W. Izzo

2:00pm - 4:30pm

Ashe 621

Fall 2018

In the early twentieth century, Henri Pirenne put forth what has come to be known in scholarship as the “Pirenne Thesis”: the ancient world came to an end not in the fifth century, with the deposition of the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, but after the Arab conquests of North Africa and Spain in the seventh and early eighth centuries. He argued that these conquests shattered the unity of the “Roman lake” (mare nostrum) and marked out a durable civilizational divide between the northern and southern shores of the inland sea. Forever after, in Pirenne’s view, the Mediterranean would be characterized by a Christian North and an Islamic South in constant struggle with each other. Some decades later, the early modernist Fernand Braudel offered a radical new vision of Mediterranean history. Heavily influenced by structuralism and the Annales School’s interest in mentalités and the longue durée, Braudel evoked a shared experience across North and South, East and West, in which the geography, weather, and rhythms of the sea were far more important unifiers among its many communities than language, politics, or religion were dividers. More recently, natural successors to this Braudelian understanding of the Mediterranean are Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell and their espousal of the so-called “New Thalassology” (i.e. sea studies/the Oceanic Turn). Like Braudel, they take the “long view” of the Mediterranean, tracing its history over the course of thousands of years. They point out the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious character of the Mediterranean by using the sea itself as the basis for writing history. By taking what was a liminal, interstitial space and placing it at the center of their research, they provide an opportunity for considering diverse human communities and their relationship to each other on neutral ground (so to speak) rather than privileging any single cultural, political, or religious perspective.

In this course we will explore the history of the medieval and early modern Mediterranean, grapple with modern scholarly debates in the field, and evaluate “Mediterranean Studies” as an idea, a conceptual framework, a category of inquiry. The course will place special emphasis on trans-regional connections, comparative perspectives, and the fluidity of cultural, political, and religious identity. In this vein, we will consider long-distance and local trade; how the Mediterranean’s unique environment and its many diverse micro-environments helped shaped its human communities and were, in turn, shaped by them; and several paradigms for understanding interfaith relations, cultural contact, and political frontiers over time and across the region.

Assignments may include weekly blackboard posts related to class discussion and readings, a 5-page paper, and a 15-page paper.


MLL726/FRE711/SPA711: War, Love, and Storytelling in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Professor Susanna Allés-Torrent


Spring 2019

In this seminar, we will study three main topics in the literature of the Middle Ages and Early Modern Western Europe, from approximately 800 to 1500 CE. We will focus on war, love, and storytelling, and we will analyze their evolution diachronically and geographically. War and epics in the chanson de geste will offer us a field of exploration: Which are the values shared by the Chançon de Roland and the Cantar de Mio Cid, why the great French hero Roland turns into the madly in love and raging Orlando of Ariosto, or what Don Quixote and the medieval heroes have in common. Our attention will then turn to medieval romance, especially on courtly love and poetry, analyzing differences between Spaniards and French troubadours, and the poets of the Italian Dolce Stil Novo, continuing to Petrarch and his reception during the Renaissance. Next, we will pay attention to the form of storytelling, analyzing the French roman and lai, and the short narrative of the Decameron. The seminar will be taught in English, and will be conducted primarily through discussions of primary and secondary materials. The readings of primary sources will be given in the original language (French, Spanish, Italian, or Catalan) and in translations.

Students seeking to fulfill a language requirement in French or Spanish should compete their written course work in that language.


HIS 763: Science, Magic, and Medicine in the Early Modern World

Professor Mary Lindemann


Spring 2019

The period from 1490 to roughly 1730, generally termed the “early modern” era, was, as two highly respected historians of science have described it, “pregnant with expectations of things to come.” This sense of anticipation and newness has been famously interpreted in two ways: as Max Weber’s the “demythologizing of the world” and as expressed in the idea of the “Scientific Revolution . . . that [represented] the birth of the modern world” (Herbert Butterfield in 1949). Both argued that the decline of superstition and magic resulted from the impact of the “Scientific Revolution” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. More recently, however, scholars have raised numerous objections to the idea of there being a significant break in how people viewed and interpreted the world about them. Much of this work is reflected in the books and articles that we will be reading this semester. Steven Shapin, for example, argued provocatively that “there is no such thing as the Scientific Revolution” and then proceeded to write a book about it.  Others have doubted every word in the phrase “The Scientific Revolution” including the definite article. The general thrust of this recent scholarship, therefore, has been to downplay, or even deny, the suddenness of the break between a “medieval” and a “modern” world and worldview, to question the putative differences between science and magic, to expand the idea of where and how science was “done” (that is, the “sites of science”), and to consider the importance of all sorts of actors once ignored by historians of science: women, merchants, artisans, and “magicians” (including alchemists). This course begins with an examination of the more traditional views of the Scientific Revolution before moving on to survey the ways in which the history of science has been transformed over the past thirty years or so.  This transformation has rendered the history of science absolutely critical to all early modern scholars.  Historians of the modern world can do quite nicely without ever reading a work on the history of science; that is now impossible for any well-educated early modernist.

Courses offered in Spring 2018:

 Courses Day Description

Seminar in Comparative Medieval Studies   

Professor Susanna Alles Torrent

5:00pm - 7:30pm

In this seminar we will study the main topics in the Literature of the Middle Ages in Western Europe, approximately from 800 to 1500 CE. We will discuss general questions such as the beginnings of romance writing in the different areas, the duality among orality vs writing, or the places of knowledge (courts, universities). We will privilege three main genres and analyze their evolution diachronically and geographically. Epics and the chanson de geste will offer us a field of exploration: which are the values shared by the Chançon de Roland and the Cantar de Mio Cid, or why the great French hero Roland turns into the madly in love and raging Orlando of Ariosto. Our attention will then be put on Medieval romance, especially on the courtly love and poetry, analyzing differences between Spaniards and French troubadours and the poets of the Italian Dolce Stil Novo. Afterwards, we will pay particular attention to the form of story-telling analyzing the French roman and lai, and the short narrative of the Decameron; we will finally analyze the main ingredients of the chivalric romance and why Miguel de Cervantes burlesqued them in his Don Quixote. The seminar will be taught in English and will be conducted by discussions of primary and secondary materials. The readings of primary sources will be given in the original language (French, Spanish, Italian, or Catalan) and in translation. Special care will be given to digital tools and resources related within the field of Medieval Studies, and there will be several digital assignments.

HIS 638
The History of Early Modern Emotions

Professor Guido Ruggiero

Office: 627B Ashe

In the last decade the history of emotions has become a new field of intense controversy especially for cultural historians.  Even as neurobiologists and psychologists have been making important discoveries about the nature and endurance over long periods of time of human and primate “emotions,” a very active group of scholars especially in Australia and England have been arguing that emotions have a limited endurance in a historical time frame and, in fact, a significant history as a cultural construct that can be traced in premodern history.  These findings have added fuel to the growing number of psychologists who argue against theories of biological determinism that hold that very little in the way of human emotions are pre-cognitive and thus “hard-wired” or fixed without a history at least in any recorded time frame.  Looking at emotions in pre-modern Europe (and briefly more broadly in the world) as a seminar we will evaluate whether texts from the past (with an emphasis on early modern Europe) indicate that emotions and their nature have changed for humans over time.  In this context we will also look more closely at how premodern Europe understood emotions both in their functioning and in their “nature.”  To consider these questions this seminar will focus on extensive reading of both prescriptive literature and literary texts as well as intensive seminar discussion; intensive because this is a field of history and scientific inquiry where the answers are very much in flux and debate. In additional we will sample a few of the more cutting edge historical works that consider these issues.  And while we may not be able to answer these debates, we can definitely add to them a more articulated historical dimension.  A willingness to read extensively and discuss analytically the often controversial issues involved in seminar is required.

Courses offered in Fall 2017:

 Courses Day Description

ENG 624: Gender and Authorship In Seventeenth-Century Literature

 Professor Mihoko Suzuki

3:30pm - 6:00pm
Ashe Room 427

This seminar will place in historical context issues concerning gender and authorship in late sixteenth- to seventeenth-century England. In the beginning of this period, women were generally enjoined from becoming authors because the “publicity” of authorship—i.e., the circulation of texts—was considered tantamount to the circulation of bodies. Thus a more acceptable form of authorship—for aristocratic males, as well as for women—was in manuscript, whose circulation among a coterie readership could be controlled. Those who did venture into print generally avoided naming themselves on the title page or used pseudonyms. Certain modes of writing and topics were also deemed more acceptable for women: translations and religious subjects. Yet a number of women were able to assert their autonomy—and address political subjects—even within these modes that apparently entailed the author’s subordination to a master text or in treating topics that were assumed to emphasize devotion and privacy. The reign of Elizabeth—who was an accomplished author, in her own right, of speeches to Parliament and poetry circulated in manuscript—produced an “Elizabeth effect” that encouraged women during and following her reign to become published authors. In the mid-seventeenth century, during the English Civil Wars and Commonwealth (1640–59), the tumultuous upheaval of the social order encouraged middle-class women to break a number of earlier taboos concerning female authorship: they collectively authored, presented, and published petitions to Parliament, and published advice to or criticism of the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. After the Restoration of Charles II (1660), women continued to publish on political subjects; others began to write plays for the public theatre for the first time as actresses were newly permitted on the stage. In addition to tracing this trajectory of women’s increasing boldness as authors during this century-long period, the seminar will call attention to the historically specific conditions of authorship that women negotiated according to their rank and position in the social hierarchy.

Authors and texts: Elizabeth I, Mary Sidney, Aemilia Lanyer, Elizabeth Cary, civil war and Restoration petitions and tracts, Anne Bradstreet, Katherine Philips, Margaret Cavendish, Lucy Hutchinson, Aphra Behn.

Requirements: Weekly Blackboard posts; two shorter (2500-3000 words) papers OR one shorter and one longer (5000-6000 words) paper, the second of which can be a revision/expansion of the first.

HIS 652: The Inquisition

Professor Martin Nesvig

2:00pm - 4:30pm
Ashe Room 621

This course is a reading-intensive seminar which examines the 7-century long history of inquisitions.  The most notorious inquisition was the national Spanish Inquisition, launched in the 1470s, but there had been various medieval inquisitions and inquisitors in Germany, France, Italy and Catalonia dating from the 1230s.  This course examines the long history of inquisitions and related debates surrounding them as institutions, as cultural phenomena, and about the peoples investigated by inquisitional powers.  Regionally, the course focuses on four core areas in specific time periods: 13th-14th century France; early-modern Spain; early-modern Italy; and colonial Latin America (especially Mexico and Brazil).  Topically, the course analyzes issues such as inquisitional law, scholastic theology, Roman jurisprudence, torture, heresy, blasphemy, Judaism, popular religion, Lutheranism, witchcraft, homosexuality, and censorship.  Methodologically, the course exposes students to major debates concerning the use of sources, microhistory, intellectual history, the sociology of religion, linguistics, and the nature of dissent.  Students can expect to read widely and deeply in primary sources and in relevant secondary literature and should have the ability to conduct research in at least one of the following languages: Latin, Spanish, Italian, French, Catalan, or Portuguese.