Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Now in Print: Inhuman Nature

(for the 2014-15 calendar click here)

We are happy to announce that through an ongoing partnership between Oliphaunt Books and punctum books, the new title Inhuman Nature has just been released. You can download the book or purchase it in hard copy at either site -- but if you do decide to secure the e-version, may I suggest that you make a donation to punctum along the way? If everyone who reads the book in electronic form pays five or ten dollars to support open access publishing, then the impact will be significant. Bear in mind that open access is not free, and a great deal of labor went into producing the volume.

Inhuman Nature is the third title published by Oliphant and would not have been possible without the unflagging support of Eileen Joy. A participant at the panels from which the book derives as well as a longtime forger of new worlds for humanities research, Eileen has both my abiding gratitude and admiration. Oliphant is sponsored by the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, a scholarly center funded by a collaboration of the GW Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Provost, and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. I am grateful to the twenty-faculty members in nine departments who belong to the center for making it all work, somehow.

This book had its genesis in “Ecologies of the Inhuman,” a roundtable at the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo. The event generated so much lively conversation that we reconstituted the gathering several months later in Washington DC, under the auspices of GW MEMSI. Ian Bogost joined us for that second event and astonished us with his passion for Marie de France … and his willingness to embrace this group of medievalists and early modernists interested in what happens when ecology is framed nonanthropocentrically. Carolyn Dinshaw participated in both the roundtable and the MEMSI symposium, and I thank her for her engagement. Creative presentations, camaraderie, and some late nights at the Venetian Room of the Hotel Lombardy ensured a shared sense of endeavor that culminated in this book. Here's the table of contents:

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen — Introduction: Ecostitial / Steve Mentz — Shipwreck / Anne Harris — Hewn / Alan Montroso — Human / Valerie Allen — Matter / Lowell Duckert — Recreation / Alfred Kentigern Siewers — Trees / James Smith — Fluid / Ian Bogost — Inhuman

Thursday, August 21, 2014

2014-15 Events: A Provisional Calendar


The first big MEMSI event of the year is the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Annual Lecture with Rebecca Bushnell, president of the Shakespeare Association of America. The talk is at 3 pm on Friday September 5 in Post Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus (free shuttle from multiple campus locations). Followed by a reception.

Also this year:

[October 24-25: Don't miss Knowing Nature at UMD College Park!]

November 14: Monstrous Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Marvin Center 307, 3 PM. The symposium will be preceded by a lunchtime seminar with work circulated in advance. More information shortly
  1. Monstrous Knowledge in Early Modern France: the Case of Hermaphrodites (Kathleen Perry Long, Romance Studies, Cornell University)
  2. Monstrous Knowledge in Medieval England: The Case of Race (Asa Simon Mittman, Art and Art History, California State University, Chico)
  3. Monstrous Knowledge in the Age of Exploration: The Case of 'Imaginary' Monsters (Surekha Davies, History, Western Connecticut State University)

Dec 5: Bruce Holsinger reads from his celebrated historical fiction A Burnable Book

Feb. 13: Ania Loomba, University of Pennsylvania, visiting scholar

March 20: Symposium on "Transition, Scale and Catastrophe" with Stacy Alaimo, Stephanie LeMenager, Steve Mentz, Karl Steel and more.

April 9-10: "Entangled Trajectories: Integrating European and Native American Histories" at GW and the Library of Congress.
We will also have a few more events along the way, including a works in progress breakfast series. Stay tuned to the blog!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rebecca Bushnell to Deliver Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Annual Lecture Sept. 5

The English Department is pleased to announce one of the very first events of the new academic year.  On Friday, September 5, at 3:00 PM, Professor Rebecca Bushnell will deliver the Dean's Scholars' in Shakespeare Annual Lecture.  The Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program is directed by Professor Holly Dugan.  This lecture will take place in the Academic Building (Post Hall) of GW's Mount Vernon Campus.

Professor Rebecca Bushnell is the President of the Shakespeare Association of America and professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of numerous books, including Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens (Cornell University Press, 2003) and Tragedy: A Short Introduction (Blackwell, 2005) and the editor of Companion to Tragedy (Blackwell, 2005)

Professor Rebecca Bushnell

Her talk is entitled  “What ist’ o’clock?”: Comic and Tragic Temporality in Shakespeare.

How do characters and audience experience time in Shakespeare's plays and why does it matter? This lecture will pursue a general theory of comic and tragic time in performance, in The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. The Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Annual Lecture is designed for a broad audience.  It is free and open to the public, and it will be followed by a reception. 

Information on the free shuttle between Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campus can be accessed here.

A Companion to Tragedy
Edited by Rebecca Bushnell

Part of the purpose of this event is to welcome the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare to GW.  Students in this two-year, 16-credit program will be residing in Cole Hall and taking courses on Mount Vernon.

The Shakespeare Annual Lecture series features distinguished Shakespearean scholars each year and brings cutting-edge work to GW's campus.

(cross posted from the GW English Blog)

Monday, April 14, 2014

From History to Science in the Early Modern Atlantic

Please join us Tuesday, April 29th for a one-day symposium: From History to Science in the Early Modern Atlantic. The symposium will explore the role of indigenous people, ethnographers, and naturalists in the Spanish Atlantic in the development of early modern science.  We will have a keynote by Jorge Cañizares Esguerra, two plenaries by José Pardo Tomás and Carlos Viesca Treviño and presentations by María Portuondo, Marcy Norton, Ralph Bauer and Jaime Marroquín Arredondo. Please see the flyer with a tentative schedule.

Mexican Institute of Culture
2829 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

The event is sponsored by the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI) at George Washington University, the Kislak Family Foundation, the Early Americas Working Group, the Mexican Institute of Culture, the Embassy of Spain and George Washington University.

Light breakfast, lunch and 'Mexican tapas' in the closing reception will be provided. Although this event is free and open to the public, we need accurate numbers and therefore ask you to RSVP here


9:00 AM            

9:30 AM           
Laura Ramírez Rasgado
Executive Director  
Mexican Cultural Institute

Jeffrey Cohen, 
Professor of English
Director, Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI)
George Washington University

9:45 AM            
A New World of Secrets: Curiosity and Natural History in the Sixteenth-Century Atlantic World
Ralph Bauer
University of Maryland

Dr. Bauer's talk will continue the ongoing critical reevaluation of sixteenth-century Spanish natural histories about the New World and its role in the history of science by focusing on the works of the royal chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés (1478–1557). His talk focuses specifically on the ideological legitimation of Christian curiosity in Oviedo’s works by synthesizing the Classical pagan tradition of natural history—especially as derived from Pliny—with the rhetorical tradition of the Christian martyr. This last tradition was inherited from thirteenth-century neo-Aristotelian (pseudo-) alchemists such as Arnald of Villanova and Raymond Lull. Oviedo's works form a crucial intellectual bridge between the thirteenth-century Aristotelian “scientific revolution” and the “scientific revolution” of the seventeenth century, translated into the English context by English alchemists such as Richard Eden and informing the natural histories written by such prominent English natural historians as Hans Sloane, president of the Royal Society of London.

10:30 AM           
Plenary Session
Francisco Hernández’s Historia natural de la Nueva España as an Unfinished Project
Jose Pardo Tomás
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

In recent years, Hernández's work seems to have finally caught the attention of the historiography that has elaborated a story of the history of science which strives to avoid a Eurocentric perspective. Nonetheless, it is our belief that much remains to be said on the long and unfinished Hernandian project to compile a Historia natural de la Nueva España. This presentation will explore three main issues in the Historia natural de la Nueva España: A) The empirical and scientific discourse and practices implemented by Hernandez and his collaborators during his stay in Mexico (1571-1577); B) American Indians' agency in the development of the work. C) The scope (and limits) of the Renaissance humanism influence in the intellectual conceptualization of a new, empirically-based historiography which characterizes Hernández's Historia natural de la Nueva España.

11:30 AM           
Mestizaje and The Ornithology of Francis Willughby
Marcy Norton
George Washington University

Despite the recent surge of interest in Iberian and colonial science, this paper will argue that we have still not sufficiently appreciated the degree to which early modern science was indebted to mestizaje and Amerindian cultural formations and actors. Dr. Norton's case study will investigate these themes through a close analysis of The Ornithology of Francis Willughby (London, 1678), a canonical text in the history of the biological sciences.  Moreover, she will argue that affective relationships between humans and animals were central to early modern natural history, as well as later zoology.

12:15 PM           
Lunch Break

1:30 PM           
Plenary Session
Native Physicians and their Medicine in Sixteenth-Century New Spain
Carlos Viesca Treviño
Mexico National University (UNAM)

After the Spanish Conquest, Native physicians subsisted under a diversity of conditions. Some of them worked inside their indigenous communities, but some were incorporated in different ways to the new social structures. In Franciscan convents and in Vasco de Quiroga's foundations in Michoacán, they were recognized as health care professionals, and considered as the most convenient people to take care of indigenous patients, because of their knowledge of their nature. The medical activity and its subjacent knowledge were thus an important factor to health attention. In this lecture, Dr. Viesca will present some data about this indigenous physicians, their professional activity and their medical knowledge, with special emphasis on the processes of appropriation of elements from Spanish medicine, the change of significance of some of their diagnosis and therapeutic criteria, the medicinal products interchange between both cultural realms and the presence of that knowledge in texts like the De la Cruz-Badianus Codex, the Florentine Codex and Francisco Hernández's Natural History.

2:30 PM           
Early Americas' Ethnography and Early Modern Science
Jaime Marroquín Arredondo
George Washington University

Recent history of science has established that the European study of early American geography, nature and culture helped transform the Western conception of reality. However, the method for obtaining, verifying and experiencing early American knowledge has not been studied in detail. This talk will analyze the evolution of the Spanish ethnographic method of studying, conceptualizing and describing early Americas' knowledge and its development from new empirical practices, contemporary judiciary practices, and particularly from Renaissance humanism's grammatology. Dr. Marroquín will outline key conceptual moments in the evolution of the Spanish American ethnographic-naturalist method in the works of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Sebastián Ramírez de Fuenleal, Andrés de Olmos, Bernardino de Sahagún, and Francisco Hernández. He argues that these cross-cultural ethnographic histories developed in practice key components of the later Baconian new science.

3:15 PM           
Coffee Break

3:30 PM           
Like Pieces of a Vast Puzzle: Describing the New World to the Old
Maria Portuondo
Johns Hopkins University

The discovery and colonization of the American continent presented Europe with an avalanche of new knowledge about natural world which like scattered pieces of a huge puzzle had to be assembled into a cohesive image. This enterprise would test those in charge of assembling the puzzle—from ship pilots, to geographers, to agents of the state—who in Spain and the Indies alike, transformed the ways in which knowledge was created and compiled. Throughout the presentation we will see how Spanish cosmographers collected geographical information about the vast territory, how indigenous groups sought to have their perspectives represented and how old patters of thought fell away giving way to the empiricist approach that characterizes the modern scientific enterprise.

4:15 PM           
Keynote Lecture
The Changing Contexts of Knowledge: Jesuit Mission Science, from the 16th to the 18th Centuries
Jorge Cañizares Esguerra
The University of Texas at Austin

In this talk Dr. Cañizares-Esguerra follows three different examples of Jesuit mission science: one in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries characterized by the empirical collection of data to effectively save souls; another in the mid eighteenth century characterized by global geopolitical calculation and trans-imperial rivalries in the Pacific; and a third in the late eighteenth century, characterized by the micro empirical description, to battle innuendo and state marginalization. This lecture will highlight the importance of context for understanding the history of science in the early modern Iberian empires (and everywhere else for that matter).

5:30 PM           
Closing Remarks
Jaime Marroquín Arredondo

5:45 PM           

(A PDF of this flyer is available for download here)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dr. Vasileios Syros - April 24

We look forward to seeing you at this exciting event sponsored by GW's Department of History. 

"Delegation of Authority in Medieval and Early Modern Europe and the Islamic Empires"

Senior Research Fellow Academy of Finland 
Onassis Visiting Professor, McGill University

Thursday, April 24
801 22nd St. NW, Phillips Hall 411

Dr. Syros' research interests focus on the interaction among the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish traditions of political thought as well as on cross-cultural encounters in the early modern period.

Please RSVP to Professor Dina Khoury

Derrick Higginbotham - April 8

Please join us for Derrick Higginbotham's upcoming paper at GW.    

"On Wasting Wealth:  Conceptions of Consumption on Early Modern Stages."  
April 8, 2014
Marvin Center 402
800 21st St. NW
Washington, DC 20052

Derrick Higginbotham is a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Cape Town, South Africa as well as a co-director of the graduate program. He publishes chiefly on late medieval and early modern theatre, including a recent article on the representation of rape in Cardenio.  Currently, he is finishing a book entitled Commercial Passions: Economic Practice and Self-Control on Late Medieval and Early Modern English Stages, which examines dramatic depictions of economic activity from the fifteenth to early seventeenth centuries. His research interests include literary history, the ‘new’ economic criticism, as well as gender and sexuality studies.  This paper on early modern stage depictions of consumption comes from his book in progress.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Julian Yates - March 28

"Invisible Ink; or, The Allure of Orange"

Friday, March 28th * 3pm
Rome 771
801 22nd St NW
Washington, DC 20052

Please join us next Friday as Julian Yates gives a talk drawn from his project on the lives and agency of oranges, sheep and yeast:

In 2002, I published an essay titled “Towards A Theory of Agentive Drift: Or, A Particular Fondness for Oranges circa 1597” that developed a way of modeling the event of a prison escape from the Tower of London that adapted philosopher Michel Serres and sociologist Bruno Latour’s understanding of agency as the product of a network of actors or actants. In this paper, taken from the section on oranges in my current book project, The Multispecies Impression, I return to this story as I read it now as part of an attempt to write “with” and “for” oranges, treating the texts authored by human persons as a strange kind of archive or impression left by the serial iterability or multiplicity that is orange and oranges. Ultimately, I am interested in the way this multiplicity or “orange-being” registers in the media specific forms that attach to or derive from the perceptual and cognitive limits of the human, and so in treating our discourses as a substrate on which oranges write—hence my title: “Invisible Ink: Or, the Allure of Orange.” 

Julian Yates is Associate Professor of English and Material Culture Studies at University of Delaware. He is the author of Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), which was a finalist for the MLA Best First Book Prize and What’s the Worst Thing You Can Do To Shakespeare? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), co-authored with Richard Burt. He is currently writing The Multispecies Impression, a book that imagines our archives as the plastic, tropic remains of an on-going anthropo-zoo-genesis, the co-making of humans, other animals, plants, fungi and minerals. Research for this project has been funded, in part, by grants from the NEH, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the American Philosophical Society. He and Richard Burt are also hatching plots for a follow up Shakespeare book with the working title, Shakespeare’s Unread “Letters.”

A pdf of this poster is available for download here

Monday, February 24, 2014

Crush with Will Stockton and D Gilson

GW MEMSI and the GW Creative Writing Program invite you to
attend a reading by GW's own D. Gilson and Will Stockton of Clemson University.  They will be reading from their new book of poetry, Crush, published by punctum books

Thursday, March 6th
Honors Townhouse * 7:30pm

714 21st Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
Free and open to the public

In Crush, a stunning collection of erotic poems and queer meditations delineating Stockton’ and Gilson’s mutual crushing on each other, but also all of the ways in which, sweetly and also sadly, affection ameliorates the anguishes that, despite our deepest devotions, are never constant, Stockton and Gilson write,
In Aranye Fradenburg’s words, Shakespeare’s sonnets describe “the love you feel for inappropriate objects: for someone thirty years older, thirty years younger. The kind of love that makes a fool, a pervert, a stalker out of you.” Let’s start here, for much of this description applies to Petrarchan conventions as well. Let’s start here, with this affective entrance into the poems and the impossibility of dispossessing the other’s voice in the manufacture of one’s own machine. Let’s start here, with a vision of poems as indexes of crushes rendered inappropriate, unhealthy by some gradation of difference and level of intensity. With the question of what distinguishes a crush from love if both turn you into a different self.
Will Stockton is Associate Professor of English at Clemson University. He has written a lot about about how people in the Renaissance had sex. D. Gilson is a PhD candidate in English at The George Washington University. He has written a lot about how hipsters have sex and are always disappointed.

Download a pdf of the event poster here