casaubon savile squareHenry Savile (1549-1622) and Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614) are two contrasting giants of late humanist culture. Both helped bring classical historians to Renaissance Europe: Savile with his translation of Tacitus’s Histories into English, Casaubon with his edition of Polybius. Both produced massive scholarly works on Christian antiquity: Savile’s pioneering Greek edition of the works of St John Chrysostom, Casaubon’s learned attack on Cesare Baronio’s authorized Catholic ecclesiastical history (in which he reconstructed religion in 1st century CE Palestine). Both are philologists: Savile in his work reconstructing fragmentary ancient Greek mathematicians, Casaubon in his editions and commentaries on the encyclopaedic works of late antiquity. But there are important differences too: Savile was a scientist, helping to bring the new heliocentric views of Copernicus to England. His works were directly engaged in political controversy (especially the rebellion of the Earl of Essex), and his reforms of the institutions in which he worked had lasting legacies. Casaubon, on the other hand, never found a permanent institutional home for his scholarship: his restless journey across Europe led him to England, where he was never fully absorbed into scholarly culture. 2014 is the 400th anniversary of Casaubon’s death and the 750th anniversary of Merton’s foundation (the institution Savile shaped), and therefore it is the ideal moment to bring together the vibrant recent scholarship on both these figures and early modern learned culture for the first time. Speakers include Mordechai Feingold, Robert Goulding, Anthony Grafton, and Joanna Weinberg. Registration and further details can be found here.


solid-cropWhat kind of knowledge does poetry give us? The fifth annual CEMS conference brought together an international array of scholars, and close to a hundred delegates, to explore and assess early modern responses to this question. In his introductory remarks, David Norbrook identified two potentially contradictory impulses behind the conference: to set early modern literary study within a broader intellectual world, and also to recognize the particularity of poetics and of the literary, at a time when they seem in danger of being subordinated to a very generalized history of cultures and mentalities, and beyond that to be eclipsed in the demand for education to have a direct economic impact. Luc Deitz gave a fresh perspective on Julius Caesar Scaliger’s Poetices libri septem as a pivotal work in developing the concept of polymathy. Colin Burrow explored the paradoxes of gaining an individual voice through imitating the inimitable Cicero, showing how imitation involved forma as well as discursive content. Perrine Galant offered a striking case study of such imitation in  Michel de L’Hospital’s engagement with his public role through Neo-Latin verse. Jan Loop discussed the ways in which European scholars tried to assimilate Arabic poetics to Hebrew models before they developed a stronger sense of its cultural specificity. The limits of early modern syncretism emerged in other papers. Nigel Smith presented the work of the German poet Quirinus Kuhlmann, who rejected literary imitation in a turn to prophetic inspiration, and in the combinatory sonnets of his Himmlische Liebes-Küsse invented a form of word-sculpture. In his keynote lecture Ralph Häfner discussed the role of myth and poetry in the exploratory writings of a differently heterodox figure, Johann Albert Fabricius. Kristine Haugen showed with what zest another controversial figure, Isaac Vossius, dismantled traditional accounts of Greek prosody. In a lively round table led by Terence Cave, Gavin Alexander, Micha Lazarus and Martin McLaughlin reviewed the the themes of the day, which had indeed highlighted early modern polymathy but also in different and unexpected ways revealed the irreducible role of formal stuctures, and suggested ways of moving beyond the dichotomies of the utile and the dulce.

solid-cropCEMS conference: Poetics and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

T. S. Eliot Theatre, Merton College.

Thursday 23 May, 10-6pm.

In the early modern period, poetry was central to every aspect of learned culture: it was the object of study of lawyers, medics, scientists, and theologians, not just literary critics. How did those disciplines understand poetry? To what kinds of unique knowledge did they believe poetry could grant access? And what role can poetry play for specialists in the history of those fields today? This conference should appeal to graduate students and scholars working across the disciplines of early modern studies, who are keen to contribute to a vital debate about the ways in which poetry can be studied within an interdisciplinary context.

Our conference will bring together an international group of leading literary critics, scholars of modern languages, orientalists, and historians to explore these questions in many different languages and social and national contexts, drawing on a huge range of published and unpublished sources. The conference and its themes will be introduced by David Norbrook, Merton Professor of English Literature and director of Oxford’s Centre for Early Modern Studies. Speakers will include: Colin Burrow (All Souls College, Oxford) on imitation; Luc Deitz (National Library of Luxembourg), editor of the Poetics of Julius-Caesar Scaliger, will speak on the place of poetics within learned disciplines; Perrine Galand-Hallyn (École Normale Supérieure), co-editor of the most comprehensive account of European poetics, Poétiques de la Renaissance (Droz, 2001), on the connections between poetry and the law; Ralph Häfner (University of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg), author of Götter im Exil (2003), on the ways Johann Albert Fabricius used poetry to reconstruct the early history of the universe; Kristine Haugen (California Institute of Technology), author of Richard Bentley: Poetry and Enlightenment (2011) on seventeenth-century poetry and music; and Jan Loop (Warburg Institute/University of Kent), leading expert on Europe’s encounters with the Arabic world and director of the Centre for the History of Arabic Studies, on the rise of aesthetic appreciation of Arabic poetry in Europe; Nigel Smith (Princeton University) on his new comparative study of the relationship between the rise of vernacular literature and state formation in early modern Europe. Terence Cave (St John’s College, Oxford) will draw together the themes of the day by chairing a round-table discussion. The whole day will allow generous amounts of time for detailed questions and debate for each paper.

Organized by the Centre for Early Modern Studies and Merton College History of the Book Group. With thanks for the generous support of the OUP John Fell Oxford University Research Fund and Oxford’s English Faculty.

Full: £35 / Grad: £20

Registration (by 16 May)  here.  For more details contact:

handwritingimageMethods of describing, distinguishing and identifying hands differ from scholar to scholar and, although the work of individual early modernists is often based on very substantial unarticulated ‘tacit knowledge’ about the dating and differentiation of script styles, little detailed work on the topic has been published. Most of the scholarship in the area focuses, in an ad hoc way, on high-status manuscripts and on the identification of hands associated with major figures.  This one-day workshop will explore the potential for future collaboration on more comprehensive and systematic ways of understanding the variation between different hands in the period, and specifically the possibilities for a new project  which will aim to produce substantial publicly-available material mapping key elements in the development of English handwriting between 1500 and 1700. Speakers and chairs: Carlo M. Bajetta (Aosta), Peter Beal (Institute of English Studies, London), Giles Bergel (Oxford), Colin Burrow (Oxford) Guillaume Coatalen (Cergy-Pontoise), Julia Craig-McFeely (Oxford), Tom Davis (Birmingham), Jonathan Gibson (Open University), Gabriel Heaton (Sotheby’s), Simon Horobin (Oxford), Steven W. May (Sheffield), William Poole (Oxford), Daniel Wakelin (Oxford) Heather Wolfe (Folger Shakespeare Library), Henry Woudhuysen (Oxford).

The workshop will be held in the T. S. Eliot  Theatre, Merton College, Thursday 25 April, 9.30-4. Organized by the Centre for Early Modern Studies and Merton College History of the Book Group, with the co-operation of the Bodleian Library Centre for the Study of the Book.

The workshop has been timed so that delegates can also attend one of Professor Richard Beadle’s Lyell Lectures, ‘Medieval English Literary Autographs 1: Fugitive Pieces’, in the same venue at 5pm.

For registration, click here. For further details contact;  programme details will be posted soon at Registration closes Thursday 18 April.

Early Modern Dramatic Records

February 25, 2013

symeIn the scant records of Elizabethan drama, one document that stands out is the ‘plot’ of the second part of a play on The Seven Deadly Sins (digitized images of which are available at the Henslowe-Alleyn digitization project). In a CEMS works in progress session on ‘Doing Things with Records in Early Modern Theatre History’, Holger Schott Syme (Toronto), author of Theatre and Testimony in Shakespeare’s England: A Culture of Mediation (CUP, 2012) and Bart van Es, author of Shakespeare in Company (OUP, 2013) van esdiscussed the difficulty of moving from such records to firm grounds in literary history. Exploring a detailed image of the plot, Syme warned against the tendency to simplify elements that are in fact ambiguous palaeographically and in other ways. Van Es raised a different set of problems: critical value judgements often weighed the interpretation of documents without being fully scrutinized. If the discussion failed to produce a new consensus, it did help to raise some salutary doubts.

The CEMS works in progress series on ‘maps and exploration’ continued with a presentation on ‘Editing Hakluyt’  by Professor Daniel Carey, National University of Ireland, Galway. Professor Carey outlined the daunting tasks facing the editing of The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques, and Discoveries of the English Nation (second edition, 1598–1600), a massive work of some 1.76 million words which will run to fourteen volumes and involve a large editorial team. He explained how Hakluyt’s materials overrode any clear schema, making it hard to establish divisions between the volumes. Hakluyt’s title, however, did strike an innovative note in its insistence on national identity, and he tried to equate English explorations in the north with the Spanish and Portuguese in the west. His interest in exploration was not matched by an interest in maps, and it was difficult for the editors to include modern maps which would not correspond to his own understanding of the world; but his catalogues of places could themselves serve to orient readers. We can look forward to the edition in three groups of multiple volumes; meantime some preliminary essays have been published.

In the first of a new CEMS Works in Progress series on Maps and Exploration, Nick Millea, the Bodleian’s Map Librarian, and Jerry Brotton (Professor of English, Queen Mary, University of London; author most recently of author of A History of the World in Twelve Maps), discussed both practical and theoretical aspects of map research. Nick Millea pointed out that the Bodleian has one of the ten largest map collections with the world, greatly strengthened by the donation from Richard Gough in 1809. The sheer size of maps has long given difficulties for librarians, and as of now the Bodleian’s collection is still largely searchable only through the card index in the Map Room. This is now being transferred to SOLO, however, and there is a wide range of digital resources  on the map Room website. The remarkable digitization of the Gough Map can be freely searched.

Nick Millea noted that there is a division between western maps and those housed in the Oriental Collections (digitizations of Bodleian maps from the Islamic world can be seen here), and such divisions have long preoccupied Jerry Brotton. He recalled that he had begun work in this area under the influence of the ‘spatial turn’ in such writers as Bourdieu, Foucault and Lefebvre. The fact that medieval Islamic maps place the south at the top,  locating Mecca at the centre of the world, vividly illustrates the role of ideology and cultural identity in representing space; but Professor Brotton said that he had become increasingly aware of the complex interconnections that went beyond such oppositions, and that detailed archival research and collaboration between disciplines was needed to identify these with precision. In discussion, it was pointed out that some of the richness of the Bodleian’s holdings stemmed from the active role of seventeenth-century Oxford scholars in searching for Arabic manuscripts, as discussed by G. W. Toomer and others. How far there was true intellectual exchange back then, and how easy it is even today, were matters the discussion could open up though not resolve.