Early Modern Graduate Forum, Michaelmas Term 2009

January 11, 2010

Early Modern Literature Graduate Forum

The Forum meets in alternative weeks to the Seminar and is run by and designed for graduate students. Though it is based in the English Faculty, it is open to graduate students in all subjects. One session last term was a discussion of John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought by Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns (OUP, 2008). The consensus that emerged was that Campbell and Corns’s provocative review of the documentary record, along with their study of their subject’s political career, had opened up opportunities for intellectual biographers to reconsider the usefulness of concepts and labels like ‘Puritan’, ‘Laudian’ and ‘radical’ – though their own revisionist argument was felt by some to go beyond their documentation. Kelsey Jackson Williams spoke about his current research on John Aubrey, dealing with Aubrey’s correspondence networks, gaps in the biographical record, Aubrey’s place in a culture of informal scientific experimentation and demonstration, and the difficulties of working with archives more generally.  Tim Smith-Laing discussed his work on the reception of Senecan drama and self-address for the MSt, which ranged from the wranglings of a late-antique grammarian about whether ‘ego’ had a vocative to the intricacies of Senecan translation and adaptation in the university drama of the late 16th century. Chris Stamatakis treated us to a nuanced reading of Wyatt’s penitential psalms that rescued them from the reductions of biography and court politics to which they had been subjected, and restored them to their place within an important tradition of devotional, theologically attuned religious writing.  James McBain discussed his work on law in early Tudor drama in relation to Lorna Hutson’s recent study of the relationship between legal thought and later English Renaissance drama (The Invention of Suspicion, 2007), wrestling with her positing of a radical break between earlier and later dramatic corpuses.  In doing so, he reminded us that claims for the unique characteristics of later sixteenth-century English literature often rest on an ignorance, whether accidental or strategic, of what preceded it (an ignorance unfortunately sustained by the period boundaries currently dividing the Medieval strand of the Oxford English MSt from the Early Modern).

Nick Hardy (nick.hardy@ell.ox.ac.uk)

Jenny Sager (jenny.sager@jesus.ox.ac.uk)

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