Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Middle Ages, the Crusades, & the Alt Right: A Symposium

The Middle Ages, the Crusades, & the Alt Right: 
A Symposium
Fri, October 13, 2017
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT

This symposium, aimed primarily at bringing together scholars and journalists, will explore some aspects of popular contemporary nostalgia for the Middle Ages, specifically the Crusades and ideas about Race. Recently, scholars and journalists alike have begun to discuss the appropriation of medieval imagery - the "Deus Vult" cross, Viking nostalgia, etc. - by white supremacists groups, such as the so-called "Alt Right." Discussions here will center around where those ideas come from, what the real Middle Ages was like, how universities are reacting to this newfound interest, and how these modern groups are themselves evolving.
The event is open to the public, but seating is limited. Per GWU Library policy, attendees will have to show an ID to enter.
Panels will include:
The Crusades & Modern Politics
  • Prof. Susanna Throop (Ursinus College)
  • Prof. Suleiman Mourad (Smith College)
Race & the Academy
  • Sierra Lomuto (Univ. of Pennsylvania)
  • Prof. Cord Whitaker (Wellesley College)
The Nostalgia of the Alt Right
  • Jacob Siegel (Vice)
  • Elizabeth Bruenig (Washington Post)
  • TBA

If you would like to attend, please register HERE:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Annual Shakespeare Lecture: Jonathan Hope

Please join us for the George Washington University’s Medieval & Early Modern Studies Institute's 
Annual Shakespeare Lecture and reception with Dr. Jonathan Hope

Friday, September 8th

Monstrous Devices or Shakespeare Machines? 
Can computers read Hamlet for you?

4-5:30 pm, Post Hall (on GWU's Mount Vernon Campus)
Free and open to the publicfree shuttle to Mount Vernon campus (more information available here)

Please join us as we celebrate the start of the academic school year with our sixth Annual Shakespeare Lecture and reception. All are welcome.

In this talk, Professor Hope will explore how computers, digital texts, data visualization, and statistics are changing the ways we read Shakespeare. In it, Professor Hope takes up questions like: How are Shakespeare's plays different if we convert them into bags of words instead of books of pages or speeches on stages? What if we count the words instead of reading them? What if machines allow us to read everything his contemporaries printed at the same time we read Shakespeare? In doing so, Professor Hope shows how readily available tools can provide an "in" to texts that might surprise your professors and reveal how everything people tell you about Shakespeare's inventive vocabulary is wrong. Using these tools we'll see instead how surprisingly average Shakespeare turns out to be. 

Dr. Jonathan Hope is a professor at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland and a contributor to the Mellon-funded, interdisciplinary project Visualizing English Print. He is the author of numerous books, including Shakespeare and Language: (Arden 2010), Shakespeare's Grammar (Arden 2003), and The Authorship of Shakespeare's Plays (Cambridge UP 1994). His teaching and research focuses on the intersection of language and literature: he uses techniques from linguistics to explore literary texts as evidence for the linguistic history of English.  
For more information contact: Holly Dugan,

All events this year celebrate the tenth year of the Institute's flourishing at GW. Thank you for your decade of support!

Monday, June 12, 2017

GW MEMSI 2017-18: Big Events!

Please mark your calendar now for a symposium and a celebration as the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (GW MEMSI) celebrates ten years of community-making and capacious welcome.

Monday October 16
The Future of the Past: 
Race, Inclusion, Change
International Brotherhood of Teamsters Room, Gelman Library 7th floor
3 PM

This symposium brings together six medievalists and early modernists for a wide ranging conversation about institutional and canon transformation, especially in in a time of intolerance; the challenge past materials pose to current racial fantasies and formations; the inhibiting factors that the unthought whiteness of the fields present; how to forge a way forward to more inclusive memberships, institutions, shared endeavors. Our hope is to sustain and intensify the energy of two recent conference sessions, "The Color of Membership" at the Shakespeare Association of America and "Whiteness in Medieval Studies" at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo. This symposium is open to everyone who would like to attend and features:

Cord Whitaker, Wellesley College (and blogger at In the Middle)
Mirage's Shimmer and the End of the White Middle Ages
Cord J. Whitaker teaches medieval literature and the history of race at Wellesley. His articles on medieval romance, religious conflict, and race have appeared in journals such as the JEGP and the Yearbook of Langland Studies. He is the editor of “Making Race Matter in the Middle Ages,” an acclaimed issue of postmedieval. Whitaker is currently completing a book project on race and rhetoric in late medieval English literature and beginning another on Harlem Renaissance medievalism. He blogs at, the Albright Institute’s The Spoke, and In the Middle.

Sierra Lomuto, University of Pennsylvania
Medievalist Otherness: The Stakes of the "Global" in Medieval Studies 
Sierra Lomuto is a PhD Candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently finishing her dissertation, Exotic Allies: Mongol Alterity in the Global Middle Ages, which traces the racial construction of Mongols within thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Latin Christian and Middle English texts, and its influence on early English colonialism. Her new research project will examine how contemporary humanitarian projects have engaged with the medieval past, particularly Chaucer, through which she hopes to reveal a counterpoint to the violent misappropriations within white supremacist movements. She co-organized the Whiteness in Medieval Studies workshop at ICMS last May and is an active member of the Medievalists of Color group.

Kim F. Hall, Barnard College
Invisible Blackness: What Does our Intersectionality Look Like?
Kim F. Hall is the Lucyle Hook Chair of English and a Professor of Africana Studies at Barnard College where she teaches courses in Early Modern/ Renaissance Literature, Black Feminist Studies, Critical Race Theory and Food Studies. She is the author of Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England, Othello: Texts and Contexts and The Sweet Taste of Empire: Sugar, Gender and Material Culture in Seventeenth Century England (in production with UPENN Press. Professor Hall was the Barnard Library’s inaugural “Faculty Partner of the Year (2014) and 2015 winner of the College’s Tow Award for Innovative Pedagogy for the Digital Shange Project. In 2016, Diverse Issues in Higher Education named her one of “25 Women Making a Difference in Higher Education and Beyond.” She is currently working on the book project, 'Othello Was My Grandfather': Shakespeare and Race in the African Diaspora, for which she has received grants from the NEH, the National Humanities Center and the Schomburg Center for Research in African-American Culture.

Erika T. Lin, CUNY Graduate Center
Institutional Structures and Cultural Change: Race, Affect, Community, and Performance
Erika T. Lin is an Associate Professor in the Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Performance at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of Shakespeare and the Materiality of Performance, which won the 2013 David Bevington Award for Best New Book in Early Drama Studies. She is currently writing a book on seasonal festivities and early modern commercial theatre, a project supported by a 2014-15 Andrew W. Mellon Long-Term Fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Association of America and is the Program Committee Chair for the SAA's 2019 meeting in Washington, DC.

Wan-Chuan Kao, Washington and Lee University
The Path of Totality: Precarity, Territoriality, and the Vitality Contour of Whiteness

Wan-Chuan Kao is Assistant Professor of English at Washington and Lee University. His research interests include Chaucer, gender and sexuality, affect, and whiteness studies. His articles have appeared in Studies in the Age of Chaucer, postmedieval, and Journal of Lesbian Studies. Wan-Chuan is currently working on a monograph titled White before Whiteness that examines late medieval representations of whiteness across somatic and non-somatic figurations.

Arthur L. Little, UCLA
Marginalia, In-citation, and the Theoretical Critical Future of Early Modern Race
Arthur L. Little, Jr. is Associate Professor of English at University of California, Los Angeles.  He is the author of Shakespeare Jungle Fever:  National Imperial Re-Visions of Race, Rape, and Sacrifice (Stanford) and Shakespeare and Race Theory (Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, forthcoming); he is also the editor of White People in Shakespeare (in progress).  Of relevant interest here, he recently published an essay on “Re-Historiczing White Melancholia” (Shakespeare Quarterly, 2016), and recently organized and presented on a Shakespeare Association of America plenary, “The Color of Membership” (2017).

Friday and Saturday, March 2 & 3
Touching the Past (Again)
This event celebrates ten years of the flourishing of GW MEMSI by rethinking and revisiting our very first event, the Inaugural Symposium called Touching the Past. Though in profound ways 2008 seems like a different world at this vantage, the Institute remains steadfast in its foundational belief that possible futures are to be found in encountering the past anew. With an emphasis on advent, adventure, and touch widely construed (physical, emotional, cross-species, intertemporal) the symposium hopes to engender some lively conversation that looks forward and back at once. The event includes some of the original presenters as well as many new voices:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Vin Nardizzi, Toward an Enviro-Philology March 2

March 2 2017
Toward an Enviro-Philology
Vin Nardizzi, University of British Columbia
4 PM
National Churchill Library & Center (Gelman Library 1st Floor: non-GW faculty and students will be asked to sign into the building and should bring ID)

Please join us as Vin Nardizzi gives an accessible and capacious lecture on ecocriticism and early archives. Professor Nardizzi is a renowned pioneer of early modern ecocriticism. His work focused upon English Renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare, and bridges ecotheory, plant studies, queer studies, and disability studies.

All are welcome!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Futures of the Past 2017: February 17

Please mark your calendar for the biggest GW MEMSI event of the spring, our annual symposium on important new books (some in progress, some just published) in medieval and early modern studies. This interdisciplinary conversation welcomes everyone who would like to attend. Please join us on Friday February 17 from 10-5 PM. 

If you are attending, would you please register here?

The symposium will be held in the beautiful International Brotherhood of Teamsters Room of GWU's Gelman Library (room 702). You will be asked to show an ID to enter the library but the event is open to the public. A short description of each presentation may be found at the bottom of this post.

9:30 Coffee

Word and World
Assistant Professor of Medical History and History of Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison
The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic
Professor of English and Chair of Comparative Literature, College of Wooster
Ben Jonson’s Head

Academic Center / Phillips Hall 629 (for all who pre-register)

Map and Home
Associate Professor of English, University of Iowa
“Wandering Christians” and Accommodated Jews: Domesticity, “the Jew,” and the Future of Early Modern England
Department of History and Non-Western Cultures, Western Connecticut State University
Why won’t we look images properly?  The Visual History of Monsters and its Discontents


Coffee and cookies

Metal and Water
Assistant Professor of English, West Virginia University
For All Waters: Finding Ourselves in Early Modern Wetscapes
Cultural Touchstones: Mining, Refining, and the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas


Reception in Gallery 102
Smith Hall, Academic Center (801 22nd St NW)

* * * * *


Allison Bigelow 
Cultural Touchstones: Mining, Refining, and the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas
Scholars of mining in colonial Latin America – the standard of early modern global trade, and the heart of the Black Legend – confront a central methodological tension in our attempt to read the remains of the past. Archival records indicate that indigenous miners composed the majority of the workforce in the silver industry, but without sources written in Quechua, Aymara, and Nahuatl, we struggle to recover their intellectual influences. By tracing Hispanized forms of Quechua and Aymara in colonial letters and their mistranslation into English, French, and German, my book converts the hybrid language of colonial science into an archive that reveals indigenous contributions to new technologies. This method also reveals how colonial mistranslations of Andean knowledge brought coherence to categories of “castas de metales” that included “cimarrones,” “pacos,” “mulatos,” and “negrillos” (García de Llanos 1609: 86-90; Barba 1640: 39v-41v). Underground, miners classified metals by depth, using color and location to understand elemental mixtures. Between top-level silver chlorides (“pacos”) and deep-level silver sulfides (“negrillos”), an intermediary group behaved like either group. Colonial miners translated the Andean concept of “intermediary” (“chaupi mitta”) into their own term for “in the middle” – “mulato,” which European translators interpreted differently. Montagu (1670: 9) and Lange (1676: 135) describe “Mulatos” as “a colour” (“ist eine Farbe”) that was between “pacos” and “negrillos,” and they translate Barba’s humoral concept of a splenetic hue (“de color baço”) into “a Brown colour” (“ist einer braunen Farbe”). Hautin de Villars (1730) and Lenglet du Fresnoy (1750) do not assign a color. Cultural Touchstones thus recovers the technical literacies of indigenous miners, reveals new insights in the study of race, color, and colonial science, and shows how translators conveyed different ideas about naming and classification.

Why won’t we look images properly? The Visual History of Monsters and its Discontents

Despite abundant work in monster studies, early modern images of monstrous peoples and animals at the edges of the earth are usually dismissed by historians of cartography as imaginative misapprehensions. Scholars continue to attach loaded terms such as ‘legendary’, without justification, to images of humans and animals on maps, as if this constitutes explanation and a reason to halt further analysis. They measure iconographic accuracy in relation to an unarticulated set of conventions, rarely applying the numerous historiographical tools developed in the past half-century in the histories of art, science, mentalities, literary studies or cultural studies. At best, monsters and other unparseable features are perceived by mainstream history of cartography as appendages to the study of more “central” historical questions about maps and politics, or cartographic accuracy. This paper contends that the notion of the imaginary nature of these representations, which exoticizes pre-modern mentalities, does cultural work for us moderns: it constructs the identity of modernity through a particular notion of ‘objective’ science and is in fact a myth that one might call temporal Orientalism.

For All Waters: Finding Ourselves in Early Modern Wetscapes

“I am for all waters,” says the clown Feste in William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night (1601). Figuratively, he is simply claiming to be up for anything. But what if the preposition for signals a material interaction with water and not just an elemental metaphor about it? This presentation will ask the following fluid questions: what might it mean to be a watery “I” (“I am for all waters”)? How might water help us not just move beyond the human but redefine it as well? Can an inorganic substance like water have a life, and if so, how can its liveliness challenge our epistemological frameworks for authorship, voice, and the living? Can water lead us to alternate futures for both humans and nonhumans in our era of climate change – a period of water wars, droughts, and floods? How can examining the laminar as well as vortical currents of early modern wetscapes help us inhabit our world always caught within catastrophe?

Pablo Gómez 

The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic
Seventeenth century Caribeños lived at a time when the contents of the world, and how people thought it could be known, were being re-imagined. In this presentation, I will discuss some of the main themes I explore in my forthcoming book. In particular, I will examine the development throughout this period of novel strategies that black Caribbean ritual specialists used to exercise power over the natural world—strategies that included a compound of spiritual, analytical, experiential, descriptive and classificatory practices. These revolutionary creative strategies were highly successful and made black ritual practitioners the intellectual leaders of a region saturated with ideas from all over the globe. Black Caribbean ritual practitioner’s power-creating strategies were grounded on innovative experiential phenomena that they manufactured on the basis of localized circumstances in different Caribbean locales. In my talk, I will emphasize how the physical, social, and spiritual, as well as the natural and moral orders, manifested themselves in physically evident experiences through sensorial landscapes that black Caribbean practitioners helped construct. The new experiential Caribbean allowed Black Caribbean ritual practitioners to claim access to ultimate truths about the nature of the world and allege morally superior knowledge in communities composed of ragtag groups of Atlantic people coming from a diverse number of cultural backgrounds.

“Wandering Christians” and Accommodated Jews: Domesticity, “the Jew,” and the Future of Early Modern England
1640 witnessed the publication of an anonymous—and brilliantly satirical—chapbook, The Wandering Jew Telling Fortunes to Englishmen. The title of the pamphlet suggests its interest in the Wandering Jew, a stereotype that had currency in England since the turn of the century. But in fact, the booklet concerns the journeying of a motley group of dissolute and notably greedy Londoners to the cozy abode of a homey Jew. Located on the outskirts of the city, the Jew’s home draws Christians who seek to learn their futures. My presentation takes this chapbook as a heuristic for major issues covered in my book, The Accommodated Jew: Antisemitism from Bede to Milton. The chapbook makes explicit a trend that, I argue, forms a major component of the long history of medieval and Early Modern English antisemitic writing: a tendency of the English to imagine accommodated Jews (that is, Jews in houses) in order to accommodate themselves to an emerging urban, bourgeois and profit-driven society. Understood broadly, this presentation speaks to ongoing debates about the way imaginative writing responds to historical problems, the supposed alterity of medieval to Early Modern culture, and “the Jew” as a charged object of cross-identification.

Ben Jonson’s Head
In many ways Ben Jonson might be called the foster-father of Poets’ Corner. For though his famous elegy to Shakespeare from the First Folio appears to resist the idea that poets should be buried together in the South Transept (especially Shakespeare), it was his resistance to this idea that actually codified a transcendent poetic space within the Abbey. This place provided a means by which the nation could recollect the cultural genealogy of England and thus conceive of the Abbey as the “hearth of our commonwealth and national religion.” Yet this heimisch national space was troubled by the scandalous nineteenth-century stories of Jonson’s own burial and partial disinterment. What became clear was that the quiet hierarchies that supposedly governed cultural production, and were meant to provide a beautiful model for the polis, were about to be challenged by a public more invested in new media, marketing and the idea of literary celebrity.