Thursday, December 30, 2010

You still have time ...

You still have time to support our annual drive. Your support makes an immediate and lasting impact upon the study of the past. On behalf of our students and faculty, THANK YOU.

Monday, December 13, 2010

AVMEO Program

Registration is now open for our conference "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods," March 11-12, 2011. Please register immediately to avoid disappointment.

Friday sessions take place on the GW Campus, at the Marvin Center. Saturday's sessions will be held nearby, at the Hotel Lombardy. This hotel is also the best place to stay for the conference if you are coming in from out of town. Rooms are spacious and recently renovated, and the Venetian Room on its first floor is the Official Lounge of the conference. Rooms are available at the conference rate of $179 night when you call (202) 828-2600 and mention group number #2277.

For directions to the Hotel Lombardy from Union Station and nearby airports, please contact Lowell Duckert [].

To cover the costs of catering and room rentals, the conference will charge a registration fee of $45 ($25 for graduate students). All sessions of concurrent papers on Friday and Jane Bennett's keynote lecture are, however, free and welcome anyone who wishes to attend. You do NOT need to register if you are attending only the free events on Friday.

REGISTRATION: You must register to attend the conference (except for the Friday sessions that are open to the public). The registration fee covers coffee, snacks and a reception with drinks and food Friday, and breakfast, coffee, snacks and lunch Saturday. You are also invited to join us for the conference dinner on Saturday evening; the fee of $15 includes both food and beverages. Details of the dinner will be announced soon, but we expect to hold the feast at a nearby Indian restaurant. You should register using your credit card and the button below:

Registration Options


For abstracts of the plenary sessions, see this page.


All sessions at the GW Marvin Center



Marvin Center 309
Moderator and Opening Remarks: Jeffrey J. Cohen, GW

Karl Steel (Brooklyn College): "With the World, or Bound to Face the Sky: The Postures of the Wolf Child of Hesse"

Sharon Kinoshita (University of California, Santa Cruz): "Animals and the Medieval Culture of Empire"


Concurrent Sessions

I. Talking Animals

Marvin Center 404

Moderator: Sharon Kinoshita, University of California

1. Patricia Har (Cornell University): "More Life: Animal Encounters in the South English Legendary"

2. Eleonora Stoppino (University of Illinois): "Learning from Monkeys: A Feral Child in Fifteenth-Century Florence"

3. Sara Gutmann (University at Buffalo): "Chaucer’s Chicks: Ascetic Feminism in The Knight’s Tale and Parliament of Fowls "

II. Object Agency

Marvin Center 309

Moderator: Valerie Allen, John Jay College

1. Ben C. Tilghman (Independent Scholar): "The Object Speaks: Prosopopoeia and Objects as Actants in the Early Medieval Period"

2. Liz Angello (University of South Florida): "Tarquin's Prick"

3. Allan Mitchell (University of Victoria): "Toy Materialism"

III. Book Power

Marvin Center 310

Moderator: Julian Yates, University of Delaware

1. Whitney Anne Trettien (Duke University): "So that a Plant is, as it were, an Animal in Quires”: Nehemiah Grew's Biblio-botany"

2. Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University): "Creative Regeneration: Translingual Mediation, Organic Form, and Multilingual Merchant Miscellanies"

3. Myra Seaman (College of Charleston): "Objects of Forgiveness in MS Ashmole 61"

12:30-2 Lunch



Marvin Center 309
Moderator: Holly Dugan, GW

Kellie Robertson (University of Wisconsin-Madison): "Exemplary Rocks"

Valerie Allen (John Jay College of Criminal Justice): "Mineral Virtue"


Concurrent Sessions

I. Metals/Stone/Architecture

Marvin Center 404

Moderator: Carla Nappi, University of British Columbia

1. Cristina Pangilinan (Vanderbilt University): "Hoccleve and “Feoble Money”"

2. Shannon Meyer (University of California, Santa Barbara): "Tours, Bours, Linens and Ladies: Accessing the Female Body in the Clerical Imaginary of Medieval England"

3. Jaime Marroquín (George Washington University): "When Science and Literature Were One: The Historia General de las cosas de Nueva España by Bernardino de Sahagún"

II. Faith, Objects and Orientations (sponsored by GW MEMSI)

Marvin Center 309

Moderator: J. Gil Harris, GW

1. Haylie Swenson (George Washington University): "Marvelously Possessed: Human-Animal Interactions in Travel Narratives of the New World""

2. Mark Bychowski (George Washington University): "Christ on the Cross-dresser: Transgendered Images of God and Performativity as a Sign of Devotion”

3. Erica Carson (George Washington University): “The Sodomidical-Lesbian Kitchen: Subjects of Conversion in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament

4. Laura Feigin (George Washington University): "Paradise Peppered: The Spicy Search for the Path to Paradise in Milton's Paradise Lost and Early Modern Travel Narrative"

5. Theodora Danylevich (George Washington University): “Becoming-Eucharist and the (Homo)erotic Kitchen of Conversion: Exploring ‘Cokkys Peyn’ in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament and The Book of Margery Kempe

III. Ethics

Marvin Center 310

Moderator: Kellie Robertson, University of Wisconsin

1. Alex Brey (Bryn Mawr College): "Deconstructing Mshatta: A Case Study in the Ethics of Medieval and Modern Architectural Reuse"

2. Jessica Rosenberg (University of Pennsylvania): "Vegetable ethics and the work of instruction in Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Thomas Wilson’s ‘Epistle to Persuade a Young Gentleman to Marriage’"

3. Rob Wakeman (University of Maryland): “Ben Jonson in Lubberland: Slaughterhouse Ethics and Bartholomew Fair

6:00 Jane Bennett (Johns Hopkins University), keynote address: "Powers of the Hoard: Notes on Material Agency." Open to all who wish to attend.

Marvin Center 309

Introduction: Jeffrey J. Cohen, GW

Professor Bennett's keynote address is made possible through the generous support of the Wang Endowed Fund in English Literature and Literary Studies.

7:30 Reception (for registered conference participants)


(Hotel Lombardy)

Sessions open to registered conference participants.

8-9:30 Catered breakfast

Fortuny Room

9:30-11:00 Concurrent Sessions

I. Dark Materials

International Room

Moderator: Karl Steel, Brooklyn College CUNY

  1. Eleanor Kaufman (University of California, Los Angeles): "From Nutritive Souls to Mineral Souls"
  2. Denise Albanese (George Mason University): "From Natural History to Biography: The Social Life of the Early Modern Atom"
  3. Drew Daniel (Johns Hopkins University): "Black Bile: Object, “Quasi-Object”, or Assemblage?"

II. Wondrous Cosmology: Physics, Poetics, Biology (sponsored by postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies)

Board Room

Moderator: Peggy McCracken, University of Michigan

  1. Liza Blake (New York University): "Golding’s Metamorphic Physis and the Meaning of Matter"
  2. Anna Klosowska (University of Miami, Ohio): "Madeleine de l’Aubespine’s Baroque Metamorphoses after Post-Phenomenology"
  3. Daniel C. Remein (New York University): "Towards a Poetics of Ornamentality and Wonder: Things and Physis in the Old English Riddles at the Crux of Empiricism and Phenomenology"
  4. Ada Smailbegovic (New York University): "From Osmotic Crystallizations to the Folds of the Microvilli: The Poetics of Surface Elaboration as Affective Amplification"



International Room

Moderator: Jonathan Hsy, GW

Carla Nappi (University of British Columbia): "You Don’t Mess With The Yohan: Cotton, Objects, and Becoming Vegetal in Early Modern China"

Peggy McCracken (University of Michigan): "Flower Girls"

1-2 Catered lunch

Fortuny Room

2-3:30 Concurrent Sessions

I. Fuck Nature

International Room

Moderator: Eileen Joy, Southern Illinois University

  1. Joseph Campana (Rice University): "Animal, Vegetable, Child: Futures of the History of Sexuality"
  2. Holly Dugan (George Washington University): '"Rude, Raw, and Muddy': Playing Ape in Early Modern England'"
  3. Vin Nardizzi (University of British Columbia): "Tree Huggers and Other Philodendrists in Early Modern Poetry"

II. Consider the Creature

Board Room

Moderator: Julia Reinard Lupton, University of California, Irvine

  1. Rebecca Davis (University of California, Irvine): “‘Cristes creature’: The Exposed Soul in Piers Plowman
  2. Donovan Sherman (University of California, Irvine): “Anti-Memorials: Flesh and Soul in Coriolanus



International Room

Moderator: Madhavi Menon, American University

Eileen Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville): "The Middle Voice, Vicarious Causation, and Natality: A Manifesto"

Julian Yates (University of Delaware): "Sheep Tracks"


Objects and Endings

International Room

Moderator (and Concludor): J. Gil Harris, GW

Julia Reinard Lupton (University of California, Irvine): "Of Chairs, Stools and Trestle Tables: Scenes from the Renaissance Res Publica of Things"


Monday, November 29, 2010

Please Support GW MEMSI

[Donate Online Now]

Dear Friend,

The GW Medieval and Early Modern Institute institute was founded in 2008 by nine faculty members in English, History and Romance Languages. We have quickly grown to include sixteen professors and numerous students in five departments, making us the largest humanities initiative at the George Washington University.

Our mission is to bring fresh critical perspectives to the study of the literature and culture of early Europe. Appropriate to our location within a global city, we emphasize the international character of the period: the connections that entangled England and France with the North Sea, the Celtic world, the Mediterranean and the New World. We have a deep and abiding respect for well known authors such as Chaucer and Shakespeare, and we research and teach them alongside the texts that they read and loved: narratives of travel to China, India, Jerusalem; adventures on the seas and along pilgrimage routes; stories of magic, possibility, loss, and transformation.

Our goal is to ensure that the writings of the medieval and early modern periods are granted the same capaciousness and ambition as more contemporary texts. We never conduct this work in isolation, finding vital partners in programs like Africana Studies and Latino Studies. Thus our panel on Shakespeare’s Tempest included experts speaking about the ways in which the play has been re-written by Caribbean and African authors. We also ensure that our work is available to all, from undergraduates in introductory courses to the graduate students who will someday write field-changing books and teach the next generation of students. Every event we sponsor is free and open to all who wish to attend.

Through a partnership with the School Without Walls, our undergraduate course on "Myths of Britain" brings Shakespeare and Beowulf to Washington’s most ambitious high school students. GW undergraduates of all majors take courses with us, and attend our events. Our “Gateway Lecture” series has proven a popular entryway into the best research being done on the medieval and early modern periods. Examining topics as diverse as ecological approaches to early literature, postcolonial studies and epic, the Order of the Garter, and Shakespeare’s Tempest as a maritime text, these lectures have typically attracted between sixty and eighty undergraduate students, as well as interested persons from around the DC area. The speakers have then had the chance to have an informal dinner with our graduate students, contributing to their professional training. Through our advanced seminars, we train those who will become learned experts and passionate teachers. We are proud of our record of accomplishment in this our third year of being chartered.

We have also been able to support the research of our award-winning faculty, who have been extraordinarily successful in obtaining the grants and fellowships that boost our international ranking. Our published research fosters a deep and lasting regard for the texts and cultures of the past. We believe strongly that this kind of keen engagement with history can help to bring about a better future.

And yet there is so much more that we would like to be able to undertake: a lively program for bringing scholars to GW for long term residencies; an undergraduate course that enables our students to spend a portion of the class abroad visiting the locations that they study; mentored postdoctoral teaching opportunities for our graduate students as they hone their classroom skills and prepare themselves for the difficult humanities job market; a revitalized undergraduate major and minor; an expanded program of public lectures; better support for faculty in the final stages of completing book projects; the launching of a new line of electronic books with the Institute’s imprimatur that would make access to primary and secondary texts immediate and inexpensive; a deeper alliance with the Folger Shakespeare Library. And more. Please check out our website and judge our record – and our intended future -- for yourself. If you see an event that appeals to you, take this as your personal invitation to attend.

We would also ask that you keep us in mind as the year comes to its close and you think about your annual giving. Every penny of philanthropic support for GW MEMSI goes directly towards our programs. Contributing is easy. You may donate online here  (please check the box for “Other” and designate “GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute”). You may also donate by telephone (800-789-2611) or by mailing a check to The George Washington University, 2100 M Street, NW, Suite 310, Washington, D.C. 20052 (please designate the Institute on the memo line or in an accompanying note). As director of the Institute, I am happy to speak with you about any particular initiative that intrigues you. I can be reached easily by email ( or telephone (202 455-8157).

I am certain that you receive many requests for your time and support. I thank you for reading this note. It is, quite simply, a letter composed by someone who has been teaching medieval and early modern studies at GW for sixteen years, has seen the lives of his students deepened and sometimes even transformed by what they study, and whose passion is to ensure that this work flourishes at the George Washington University for a very long time.

Yours sincerely,

Jeffrey J. Cohen

Professor of English
Director, GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rereading The Tempest, or TemFest II

The GW Africana Studies Program, Latino Studies Program, and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute are proud to sponsor in partnership two events that focus upon William Shakespeare's The Tempest and its legacies. You may read some background here, and see the program for TemFest I here.

Rereading the Tempest
a panel discussion open to all
Friday December 3
3 PM 
1957 E Street Room B12

A panel of renowned scholars will speak about the afterlife of the play, sharing their own research and holding a lively public conversation. For a general audience; all are welcome. Featuring:

Anston Bosman, "Accident and Amazement in recent Tempests"
Anston Bosman is Associate Professor and Director of Studies in the English Department at Amherst College. His publications this year include a review essay in Shakespeare Quarterly on the British-South African production of The Tempest and the chapter on "Shakespeare and Globalization" in The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare.  He is completing a book on transnational theater in the early modern Germanic world and a collaborative project on "Intertheatricality" with Gina Bloom (UC Davis) and Will West (Northwestern).
Steve Mentz, "The Void in The Tempest"
Steve Mentz is Associate Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City.  His recent work on maritime literary culture includes the book At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean (Continuum, 2009) and a gallery exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, "Lost at Sea: The Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550 - 1750."  He has also written a study of Elizabethan prose fiction, Romance for Sale in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2006) and co-edited a collection about early modern criminality, Rogues and Early Modern English Culture (Michigan, 2004).  Works in progress include a study of shipwreck narratives and a co-edited collection on Thomas Nashe.
J Michael Dash"Ariel's Isle, Caribbean Rewritings of The Tempest" 
J. Michael Dash, Professor of French and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, is a leading scholar in the fields of Caribbean and Francophone literatures. Dash is the author of two of the most influential works of Caribbean cultural history, The Other America: Caribbean Literature in a New World Context (University Press of Virginia, 1998) and Literature and Ideology in Haiti: 1915-1961(MacMillan, 1981). He has also written many other notable works, including Haiti and the United States (MacMillan, 1997) and a study of the Martiniquan writer Edouard Glissant (Cambridge University Press, 1995). His most recent study, Culture and Customs of Haiti, appeared in 2001 (Greenwood Press).

Both events are free and welcome all who wish to attend. 
Please join us!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

AVMEO Update

Many thanks to the thirty seven scholar who submitted paper and panel proposals for the upcoming GW MEMSI conference Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods.

We are currently hard at wqork sorting through the proposals and attempting to create a cohesive conference program. We hope to notify all would-be participants by the middle of next week.

Thank you for your patience!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects" Plenary Session Abstracts

Our speakers' topics for the "AVMEO" conference next March are:


"With the World, or Bound to Face the Sky: The Postures of the Wolf Child of Hesse"

"Hic deprehensus lignis circumligatis erectus ire ad humanam similitudinem cogebatur"
(When he was captured, he was bound with wood and compelled to go upright in the manner of a human)

My paper follows a Hessian boy into the woods to witness a temporary posthuman alliance of human, lupine, and sylvan subject/objects. A fourteenth-century entry in the Chronicle of St Peter of Erfurt tell the story of the child, captured and raised by wolves, then captured again several years later, this time by humans, who displayed him at a noble court as a spectacle. The wolves had cherished the child, giving him the best food, excavating a den for him, sheltering him with their bodies in the winter, and teaching him to run on all fours and to jump; his human captors, scandalized by the child's posture, affixed wooded braces to him to compel him to walk upright. As the captured child himself tells it, he much preferred his time with the wolves.

Per medieval humanist interpretations of posture, the child had gone from being with the world and its mutability to looking upright, toward the sky and its eternal truths. One posture has child among the woods and the wolves, who learn from him too, the whole of them forming a sylvan network to offer a lived rethinking of facile oppositions between wolf and human and between sentient subject and worldly object; another, corrective posture dreams of an isolated body released from mutability, in which the child would be one of a set of sealed-off human subjects. Given over to the court, captured and disconnected, bound to a future that looks up and not around, it is no wonder that the child longs to be sylvan again.

"Animals and the Medieval Culture of Empire"

Most Animal Studies approaches to the Middle Ages have in some degree been concerned with the ways medieval texts put the category of “animal” in conversation with the category of “the human,” as in the case of the morphing protagonists of “Bisclavret” and “Yonec” in the Lais of Marie de France. My talk shifts the focus to animals as objects of exchange in the medieval culture of empire, considering historical examples and literary representations of how centrally animals such as camels or falcons figured in the construction of a courtly culture that, in the midst of the age of crusades, cut across political and confessional boundaries in the Mediterranean and beyond.


"Exemplary Rocks"

Rocks were good to think with in the later Middle Ages. They were regularly used as examples in scholastic philosophy for analyzing the limit conditions of cognition. The motion of rocks was often cited as evidence for the charisma of place in medieval physics, a doctrine that allowed inanimate objects the luxury of quasi-animate properties. In these ways, rocks played an exemplary role in helping to generate the epistemological systems that underwrote much scholastic thought about the material world. This paper charts a wandering itinerary between the rocks of natural philosophy and the hard places of late medieval poetry. Stops on this itinerary will (most likely) include Dorigen’s meditation on the “grisly black rocks” of the Franklin’s Tale and the climactic metaphor in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that compares Gawain himself to a rock. In exploring how the “exemplary rock” came to be seen as emblematic of relations between the material and immaterial worlds for both poets and natural philosophers, I’ll argue for a shared epistemology between late medieval fiction-writing and physics, one that, unlike post-Enlightenment systems of knowledge, did not of necessity cordon off the human from the natural nor see the human as the centripetal center around which the non-sentient converged. Such a historical imaginary does not see the rock-human assemblage as a nostalgic, narcissistic closeness to nature but rather suggests that a particular historical understanding can be recuperated through the transformative potential of feminist ecological thinking, a historical inquiry conditioned by “locational possibilities” (in the words of critic Lorraine Code) that allow us to follow the epistemic possibilities precipitating out of medieval rocks.

"Mineral Virtue"

When we speak of the virtues of a gemstone or mineral we use the word in an archaic sense drawn from vitalist thought, and mean something different from the current ethical usage of doing the right thing. We seem to stretch the language of moral philosophy too far to imply that inorganic matter can act, yet scholastic philosophy moves without changing register between discussions of the powers of stones and of souls. Drawing from scholastic philosophy on the one hand and late-medieval testamentary bequests on the other, I consider the “virtues” of medieval stones, amulets, and inscribed objects, asking how they participate in the daily acts of ordinary folk, devout and unlearned. In what ways do such objects participate in the ethical life of their medieval owners?


"You Don’t Mess With The Yohan: Cotton, Objects, and Becoming Vegetal in Early Modern China"

As living objects go, plants seem relatively unproblematic: they tend to stay put, they seem easy to identify, and we create histories that trace their roles through vast cuts of time. Trees, fruits, herbs, and vegetables were the primary components of most medicinal drugs in early modern China, and the historical and literary work on Chinese food and medicine is lush with plant life.

Vitally important as an ingredient in pharmacy, an object of tribute and trade, a raw material for manufacture, and a curiosity of natural history, cotton has been identified and threaded through Chinese natural history from early accounts of vegetable lambs, to lists of tribute plants and fabrics in bilingual dictionaries, to early modern agricultural accounts, and through references to yohan and kubun armor in Manchu sources. My paper uses this case study to explore what it means to write with and of plants in early modern history. Addressing the challenges of writing a materially-informed diachronic narrative from a collection of names, descriptions, stories, texts, and materials that have been pieced together in different ways (and in multiple languages) over time, I will argue that the history of the vegetal is itself a process of objectification, creating the very concept that it purports to study. The paper will conclude by suggesting that we consider the early modern vegetable in terms of a history of sameness and identification, historicizing the notions of interchangeability and replaceability as manifest in plant knowledge in multilingual China.

“Flower girls”

This paper will focus on the Roman d’Alexandre (Alexandre de Paris version) and the stunning episode in which Alexander and his men enter a garden of plenitude and encounter the women who live there as flowers. Or as women who metamorphose into flowers. Or as women who are part flower and part human. Or as part-flower women who eagerly invite sex with Alexandre’s men and then become virgins (again?), since one of the virtues of the garden is to restore virginity. The difficulty of describing exactly what these beings are will be my starting point, and I will situate this human-vegetal being (but is that what it is?) in relation to the automata that guard the entrance to the garden, the conquerer who enters the garden, and the virtues of the plants in the garden in order to ask how embodiment matters in this episode, what kind of embodiment matters, and why.


"The Middle Voice, Vicarious Causation, and Natality: A Manifesto"

Drawing upon Jane Bennett's Birbeck Humanities Center lecture, "Walt Whitman's Solar Judgment," as well as Thomas Carlson's The Indiscrete Image: Infinitude and the Creation of the Human (Chicago, 2008), Claude Romano's "evential hermeneutics," and Graham Harman's "guerrilla metaphysics," my talk will attempt to address the ethical (or, poethical) role of the human in navigating and traveling along what Bennett has termed the "charged pathways" between the vibrant materiality of things and the materiality of emotional (and human) responsivity to these things. If, as Jeffrey Cohen has argued, following Bennett, that matter "possesses aesthetic, affective and practical agencies," and that the world "unfolds through our alliances with a lively materialism, where we are one actant among many within a turbulent identity network," then what sorts of ethical considerations might now come into play that do not assume the human as sovereign within this network, nor this network as orderly, fixed, or providentially designed? Further, what might be the role of aesthetic agency, or poetics (human and non/human), in crafting alliances across the synapses of this network in order to give better "voice" to what Bennett has called the "messily reciprocal coalescences of heterogeneous forces"? Finally, what might still be "special" about the human in this network, and why does that ultimately matter when the times comes, as Julian Yates has written, to determine the "nature" of the "call" of the post/human, especially when, as premodernists, we are "disseminating stories about the textual traces named past." My touchstone medieval text for my remarks will be the Old English Letter of Alexander to Aristotle.

"Sheep Auras: On Counting, Theft, and a Kine/Aesthetics that is not one"

This paper proceeds on the assumption that any engagement with questions of matter / materiality / or the lives of animals / plants / fungi / things ought to prove so unsettling that it will tend to jeopardize our ability to produce vendible narratives about past and present. For me the question of matter figures as one of discursive exposure and narrative risk, that will tend to play out as a re-grounding in questions of the archive, of genre, and rhetoric understood now as technologies for rendering things mobile. I read the turn to biography (Appadurai, Kopytoff) as the default genre for studies of things (and their social lives) and the assumption of life and its codes as the constitutive “as if” that enables analysis as the symptom of a retro-humanist impulse that renders matter infinitely malleable in human hands. I am concerned also, however, by the salvific lure (crypto-theology?) that the assimilation of actor network theory, speculative metaphysics, and the turn to “things” in literary and historical study more generally seems to offer (I’d dearly love to be wrong), modeling the world under the rubric of a figural human extinction that detonates issues of witness / testimony. This paper aims to slow things down and consider the genre and media-specificity of our engagements and to do so by investigating what the inventory (counting sheep) and theft (sheep – stealing), as genres whose orientation to a multiplicity (a life that is always many irreducible and incompatible lives) might have to offer us.


"Of Chairs, Stools and Trestle Tables: Scenes from the Renaissance Res Publica of Things"

In this paper, I will examine the social arrangements that obtained among Renaissance home furnishings. Why were chairs rare and stools common? How was the political theology of chairs challenged by new forms of artisanal production? Why were some tables called “dormant” (and what was required to wake them up)? Why and how was animal life mapped onto the design and social organization of furniture? In what sense were stools, chairs and tables “actants” on the scene of Renaissance housing, especially in the socio-religious scripts of hospitality, holiday and that daily drama called dinner? And what does the Renaissance menagerie of furniture have to teach us today about the way we live with things? My readings of Renaissance furniture will draw on affordance theory, as developed in environmental psychology (James J. Gibson, Harry Heft, Timothy Ingold) and repurposed in design research (Donald Norman, Janet Suri, Brenda Laurel). Using a variety of materials, including paintings and plays, I will distinguish between the inventory (the concrete poetry of the object list) and the taskscape (the micro-drama of affordances in action) in order to draw out the secret constitutions governing the res publica of things in Renaissance domestic and theatrical space.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CFP Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects (deadline nearing!)

Deadline approaching!

The GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI) is sponsoring a conference on "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects in the Early Modern and Medieval Periods." The conference will be held on Friday March 11 and Saturday March 12. The keynote lecture will be given by Jane Bennett. The five double plenary sessions include:
Karl Steel and Sharon Kinoshita
Kellie Robertson and Valerie Allen
Carla Nappi and Peggy McCracken
Eileen Joy and Julian Yates
Julia Reinhard Lupton 

We hope that you will join us ... and that you will consider proposing a presentation. The deadline to submit a paper abstract or to propose a panel or round table is Friday October 15. You may email your submission to

To maintain an intimate feel and to ensure that the conference conversations are coherent and sustained, participation in the event is limited to eighty. We hope to see you in Washington!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Summer Research Grants: The Results Are In

We announced here that we were able, through the generosity of a donor, to support modestly five of our dissertation writing graduate students over the summer (see also here). The experiment paid off well. Here's what they accomplished, in their own words.

Mike Smith

This summer, with the help of funding from MEMSI, I got a good start on my research for my  chapter on Mandeville and botanical vertu. I began by reading a wide variety of herbals (from Greek, Roman,
Arabic, and medieval sources), in order to get a grasp of the form,  conventions, and history of the herbal tradition. Yet, however hard I  tried to pin down the conventions of the herbal, I found that they  aren’t so self-contained. Treatises on the “virtues” and uses of plants  can be found alongside treatises on other subjects of natural history:  rocks and precious stones (lapidaries), animals, weather, and astrology (for example, the Vienna Dioscurides, a 6th Century manuscript celebrated for its illustrations of the plants described in Dioscurides’ De materia medica, also contains a substantial treatise on birds). I therefore had to adjust my understanding of herbals -- as well as the moments of
botanical vertu in Mandeville’s Travels -- as a component in a larger system, or “ecology,” of other
natural phenomena. This led me to ask more interesting questions about  the Travels and how it  participates in not only the tradition of herbals specifically but  natural history writing in general. From this research, a primary question emerged to help guide my chapter on Mandeville: What happens when we read Mandeville as a natural philosopher? How might this worldview “answer” to more constraining worldviews found in the Travels, such as Christianity? I also did some research on medieval European gardens and orchards and their place in culture. This research, along  with a re-reading of “Sir Orfeo,” has led me to begin with my chapter on the grafted tree in “Sir Orfeo,” instead of beginning with a chapter on Mandeville’s Travels. This summer research helped me sort through my ideas and dissertation plans in what is typically an off-period (because students aren’t typically funded for summer). It was a great kick-start to my dissertation and I’m now in the process of drafting my first chapter.

Jessica Frazier
The summer funding granted to the MEMSI PhD students afforded me the opportunity to conduct
sustained archival research into the correspondence and/or dissonance between early modern
fashion and “English” identity—an inquiry central not only to my ongoing dissertation project
but also to upcoming conference presentations. I benefited from the examination of three distinct
archives: the literary texts housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, DC); the Tudor
and Stuart portrait exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery (London, England); and the actual
sartorial collections at the Fashion Museum (Bath, England). All of these archives respectively
and distinctly furthered and complicated my approach to the engagement between fashion thing
and fashionable subject. Through my reading of Richard Hakluyt’s The principal navigations, voyages,
traffiques and discoveries of the English nation, made by sea or over-land, to the remote and farthest distant quartersof the earth (1598-1600) at the Folger Library, I began to develop a theorization of “trauell” that will provide the framework for much of my dissertation. Days spent at the National Portrait Gallery and the Fashion Museum not only materialized the fashion accessories that I hope to follow in my dissertation (diamonds, feathers, and lovelocks) but also brought me into contact with the past in a way that stirred questions about historicity itself. Indeed, I will present a paper at the 1st Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group later this fall that examines the relationship between history and objective agency within the East/West paradigm of Philip Massinger’s The Renegado. My experiences of looking and reading over the past few months have undoubtedly shaped my thinking and writing about fashion in unexpected and provocative ways. And it has underscored for me the
compelling possibilities of the kinds of interdisciplinary conversations encouraged by MEMSI—
conversations between texts, between archives, and between colleagues across specialties.

Nedda Mehdizadeh
The research grant awarded by GWMEMSI this summer gave me the opportunity to progress significantly on my dissertation project. At the beginning of the summer, I had a personal goal to research the local archives in Washington, DC and to compose a working draft of the first chapter of my project by summer’s end, leaving the month of September to revise. It is precisely because of the support given by GWMEMSI that I was able to accomplish this goal. I spent each day at the Folger Shakespeare Library, turning its wonderful work environment into my personal office and its congenial atmosphere into a space in which I could share my developing ideas with scholars from around the world. I was also able to think ahead to the Babel Working Group conference this November and the Shakespeare Association of America conference April 2011, for which the research I conducted at the Folger Shakespeare Library will be significant. I am now making the final changes to my first chapter, and looking forward to beginning my second dissertation chapter this October.

Jennifer Wood
The generous fellowship allowed me to achieve a great deal this summer – even more, perhaps, than I set out to do! Because of the funding, I was able to travel into the city, and pay parking and metro fares in order to study at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where I began to research instances where western sound travels to the east. Most exciting was my reading of a document that is not easily accessible: the travel narrative of Thomas Dallam, an organ maker in Queen Elizabeth’s service who ventured to Istanbul to craft a huge clockwork organ as a gift from Elizabeth to Mehmed III. His narrative is singular because it presents a westerner’s encounter with the east and Dallam is allowed access to certain areas of close proximity to the “Grand Signoir” because his musical abilities so charmed Mehmed. I was also able to spend time this summer performing research for my data dumps (a four week process, where I write questions I’m interested in researching and thinking through as my dissertation proceeds, then answer these questions) and taking my field exams, on which I am happy to report that I earned a “high pass.” Through my data dumps, I was able to carefully consider both terms in my title “Sounding Otherness”, and began to think more broadly about what these “othernesses” might include. In addition to the otherness of Indian sound (indicating both “Indians” in the east, as well as those in the west), I began to encounter sounds of gender/sexuality, witchcraft, death, and divinity, which, like Indian sounds, are not necessarily locatable to certain places or bodies. While I have not yet consolidated these various sounds of otherness into chapter headings, I was excited to come across these sounds of otherness, in great part because of the fellowship which allowed me to focus on my research. This summer was really the first chance I have had to focus solely on my dissertation project, which I found more exciting and intriguing as the summer (and my reading) progressed. Again, I am so grateful for this fellowship which allowed me the ability to finally pursue my dissertation research and begin an academic journey through early modern sounds of otherness.

Lowell Duckert
I spent most of my early summer drafting the first chapter of my dissertation "Water Ralegh's Hydrography of Desire" at the Folger Shakespeare Library. After finishing my draft and sending it to my committee for revision, I began researching my second chapter on early modern travel narratives related to the Northwest Passage: this involved reading historical documents, contemporary theoretical works on the post-human and the philosophy of science, and also recent studies of glaciers and icy bodies. I'm interested in early modern perspectives on living ice, icescapes, and glaciers for what they may teach us about the coconstituitiveness of humans and nonhumans in the present, a process I'm (tentatively) calling ecocompositionality: like glaciers, how do we de/recompose with the physical world, create shared narratives, and process towards new futures? I wrote nearly half of the chapter during the rest of the summer. In addition, I co-organized a panel with Alf Siewers called "Nature Post-Catastophe" for the upcoming BABEL Working Group conference in Austin, TX this November. With Professor Siewer's assistance, I wrote our panel proposal and invited four panelists from across the country to take part. Without the generous amount of summer money, I would not have been able to achieve half as much!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rereading the Tempest, AKA Temfest

The GW Africana Studies Program, Latino Studies Program, and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute are proud to sponsor in partnership two events that focus upon Shakespeare's The Tempest and its legacies. You can read some background here.

TemFest I
Friday October 1 at 2PM Rome Hall (801 22nd St NW) room 771
A panel of GW faculty and graduate students speaking about the play in its context, as a site for contemporary research, as a provocation to new literature, criticism, theory. This panel is especially for faculty and graduate students. Moderated by Jennifer James, and featuring:
  • Jonathan Gil Harris, "The Tempest and the Temporalities of Globalization"
  • Christopher Sten, "Leo Marx's "Shakespeare's American Fable'"
  • Jennifer Wood, "DisOrienting Soundscapes in The Tempest"
  • Robert McRuer, "Derek Jarman and Queer Tempests"
  • Antonio López, "Blackface Calibán and the Making of Americanists"
  • Holly Dugan, "Tempests: Rape in the Brave New World"

TemFest II
Friday December 3 at 3 PM 1957 E Street Room B12
A panel of scholars speaking about the afterlife of the play, sharing their own research and holding a lively public conversation. For a general audience; all are welcome. Featuring:

Anston Bosman, "Accident and Amazement in recent Tempests"
Anston Bosman is Associate Professor and Director of Studies in the English Department at Amherst College. His publications this year include a review essay in Shakespeare Quarterly on the British-South African production of The Tempest and the chapter on "Shakespeare and Globalization" in The New Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare.  He is completing a book on transnational theater in the early modern Germanic world and a collaborative project on "Intertheatricality" with Gina Bloom (UC Davis) and Will West (Northwestern).
Steve Mentz, "The Void in The Tempest"
Steve Mentz is Associate Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City.  His recent work on maritime literary culture includes the book At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean (Continuum, 2009) and a gallery exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library, "Lost at Sea: The Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550 - 1750."  He has also written a study of Elizabethan prose fiction, Romance for Sale in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2006) and co-edited a collection about early modern criminality, Rogues and Early Modern English Culture (Michigan, 2004).  Works in progress include a study of shipwreck narratives and a co-edited collection on Thomas Nashe.
J Michael Dash"Ariel's Isle, Caribbean Rewritings of The Tempest" 
J. Michael Dash, Professor of French and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, is a leading scholar in the fields of Caribbean and Francophone literatures. Dash is the author of two of the most influential works of Caribbean cultural history, The Other America: Caribbean Literature in a New World Context (University Press of Virginia, 1998) and Literature and Ideology in Haiti: 1915-1961(MacMillan, 1981). He has also written many other notable works, including Haiti and the United States (MacMillan, 1997) and a study of the Martiniquan writer Edouard Glissant (Cambridge University Press, 1995). His most recent study, Culture and Customs of Haiti, appeared in 2001 (Greenwood Press).

    Both events are free and welcome all who wish to attend. Please join us.

      Thursday, September 9, 2010

      Huw Griffiths @ GW 10/1

      You are invited to our second fall seminar on Friday, October 1 at 9 AM. The seminar takes place in Rome Hall 771 located at 801 22nd St. NW. Breakfast will be served.

      Huw Griffiths from the University of Sydney will discuss his precirculated paper "
      The Hands and Tongues of Sovereignty in Shakespeare's King John." The paper will be available at least a week ahead of time. Please contact Lowell Duckert [] if you would like to attend.

      Professor Griffiths's broad interest is
      sixteenth and seventeenth-century English literature and culture, with specific interests in constructions of the early modern nation; rhetoric, politics and the body; sovereignty; violence in Shakespeare’s history plays; Shakespeare and Wales; representations of the ruin. Other interests include eighteenth-century adaptations of Shakespeare, contemporary British poetry and contemporary gay fiction. He has a few books forthcoming -- Shakespearean Biopolitics and A Nation in Ruins: Space, Text and History in Early Modern England -- and has published several articles and book chapters. He is also the author of Hamlet: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism (Palgrave 2005).

      Join us on the 1st!

      Wednesday, September 8, 2010

      Roundtable on Objects, Networks and Materiality @ Kalamazoo

      scene from the Gundestrup cauldron

      GW MEMSI is happy to announce the participants for its 2011 roundtable on "Objects, Networks and Materiality" at 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo:
      • Laurie Finke, "A Parliament of Things?"
      • Julie Orlemanski, "Things without Faces"
      • Valerie Allen, "Medieval Nets"
      • Liza Blake, "Passionate Matter"
      • Kellie Robertson, "Remediating Matter"
      • Lowell Duckert, "The Ice Age is Never Over"
      We immodestly propose that this is the smartest, most radiant line-up of medievalists and early modernists ever assembled.

      Friday, August 20, 2010

      Gail Orgelfinger @ GW 9/10

      Please join us on Friday September 10 from 9-11 AM for Gail Orgelfinger, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

      Her paper "The Legacy of Joan of Arc to the English: 1431-1831" will be pre-circulated at least a week ahead of the meeting. Participants should come ready to discuss the work. The seminar takes place in the Academic Center of the George Washington University, 801 22nd St NW, Rome Hall 771. Breakfast will be served. Please RSVP to Lowell Duckert [] if you wish to attend.

      Professor Orgelfinger specializes in English and French medieval literature. Her dissertation, published by Garland Medieval Texts, was an edition of The Hystorye of Olyuer of Castylle (New York: Garland, 1988). She received an NEH grant to study "Lay Life in the Middle Ages" at Indiana University, developing an interest in chivalric narrative. She is a Founding Member of the International Joan of Arc Society.

      Publications include "J.K. Rowling's Medieval Bestiary" in Studies in Medievalism XVII (2009). A review of Illustrating Camelot is forthcoming in the October issue of Speculum. Other publications include "Carl Dreyer's Passion Play in La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc and Jesus," (Film & History CD-ROM Annual, 2003), and with Robin Farabaugh, "Words of Conviction: Trial Narratives & Testimony of Anne Askew & Joan of Arc," in Margaret Mikesell, Adele F. Seeff, & Linda L. Lowery, eds., Culture & Change: Attending to Early Modern Women (Associated Universities Presses, 2003).

      We'll update you soon with the calendar of events for 2010-11.

      Tuesday, August 17, 2010

      Animal, Vegetable, Mineral Conference Poster

      GW MEMSI conference: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

      Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
      Ethics and Objects in the Early Modern and Medieval Periods
      An interdisciplinary conference sponsored by the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute

      March 11 and 12, 2011
      George Washington University
      Washington DC

      KEYNOTE LECTURE by Jane Bennett, Professor and Chair of Political Theory at Johns Hopkins University, author of Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things and The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings and Ethics

      The conference fosters a lively conversation structured around the keynote and
      five plenary sessions:

      We also invite paper, panel and roundtable proposals. Please send one paragraph abstracts or complete panel proposals to by October 15, 2010. To keep the proceedings intimate, conference participation is limited to eighty.

      Wednesday, July 7, 2010

      Getting Lost (At Sea)

      Currently on exhibit at the Folger Shakespeare Library is “Lost at Sea: The Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550-1750.” The exhibit not only displays a veritable trove of items – instruments, maps, paintings, and pamphlets – but also shows how these items flow around and within the oceanic imaginations of Humphrey Gilbert, John Smith, Daniel Defoe, William Shakespeare, and others. There is even a hands-on section for the more adventurous landlubber. My personal favorite is the panel describing the “hydrographic uncertainty” of life at sea; the first chapter of my dissertation thinks about how Walter Ralegh writes about water (hydrography) and the more theoretical ways in which water writes (hydrographesis) his narrative, even himself. Can water’s depths ever be fully known, its borders enlimned, or its touch avoided? What is certain about water? “We are reminded that everything is flowing,” John Muir says, when we contemplate water. What might happen when we drift with these flows? To find yourself “lost at sea,” then, might be both a condition of discovery and a desirable moment of (non)human creativity.

      The curator, in fact, is someone who has recently completed an intriguing book on the subject of water and early modernity: Steve Mentz, author of At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean (Continuum, 2009). On Tuesday, July 13th he will deliver a free lecture at the Folger: “Stories from the Sea: At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean.” You may also watch his interview on DC’s Let’s Talk Live from June 23rd.

      Michel Serres describes the “visit” in nautical terms: “Voyaging begins when one burns one’s boats, adventures begin with a shipwreck.” Inhabiting and traveling simultaneously. That being said, a visit to the Folger this summer is highly recommended.

      “Lost at Sea” runs until September 4th and is free to the public.

      Kalamazoo 2011: Objects, Networks, and Materiality (A Roundtable)

      The GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute is sponsoring a roundtable on Objects, Networks and Materiality at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI (May 12-15, 2011).

      We welcome short papers on any aspect of medieval, early modern or contemporary theories of matter, especially those that posit materiality as something other than inert: agental, networked, catalytic, vibrant. Contact Jeffrey Cohen ( with questions or proposals.

      Get Lost (at Sea)

      If you are in DC this summer, don't miss the exhibit Lost at Sea at the Folger Shakespeare Library (free; no tickets required). This well curated collection of artifacts and illustrations emphasizes the uncertainties of watery horizons, and the possibilities they offer for creativity. Steve Mentz, author of At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean and the curator of the exhibition, will be lecturing on Stories from the Sea: At the Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean on Tuesday July 13. The event is free.

      If you're not in DC, the digital exhibit is quite good as well. Just follow the link above. You may also be interested in this review from the Washington Post.

      Tuesday, June 8, 2010

      GW MEMSI funds field-shaping summer dissertation research

      The GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute is happy to announce that we have been able to fund modestly five dissertation research projects this summer. This research is being conducted by our graduate students who have already completed their coursework and are now working in the archive and composing their theses. We believe that their projects, each of which will some day become a published book, will change the shape of medieval and early modern studies. We believe, in other words, that supporting these projects supports the future of the field.

      A longterm study conducted by the Mellon Foundation found that summer support is integral to the timely completion of dissertations in the humanities: an intuitive discovery, perhaps (what scholar can dedicate summer months to doctoral research when he or she must work a summer job to pay for rent and food?), but scarcity of resources makes supporting graduate students in the summer impossible at many institutions.

      Access to the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library (where many of our funded students will be spending their summers) and an internationally renowned faculty give GW's graduate program the potential to be the best in the United States. That's not hyperbole: the only thing we're missing is sufficient longterm funding for the excellent graduate students who enroll here.

      Here are our five such students and their projects.

      Nedda Mehdizadeh
      I have begun the process of composing the first chapter of my dissertation entitled Translating Persia: Safavid Iran and Early Modern English Writing. The chapter to which I plan to devote my summer research centers on the travels of the historical Sherley brothers – adventurers from England who go to Persia in the early Seventeenth Century. Though the Sherleys are a popular and famous family, scholarship has yet to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography about these figures. My intention is to foreground their narrative by creating a comprehensive bibliography and providing an analysis that interrogates the ways in which they have been discussed in scholarship to date. Because these figures are so crucial to English literature and history, I believe my work is necessary and relevant to current conversations circulating within scholarship about early modern travel. I will spend my time this summer at the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library, both of which contain rich archives to study travel to Persia in the early modern period.

      Jennifer Wood
      The working title for my dissertation is “Sounding Otherness in Early Modern Writing” and I am considering various early modern travel narratives (specifically Smith, Scott, and Jean de Lery) that describe this New World in terms of its soundscape. What is of particular interest to me is what this soundscape does to these English or European adventurers, whether they experience terror or fear, or even rapture at the sounds of “New Worlds” located both in the east and the west. The term “Indian” is a fascinating one which can apply to the native peoples of the Americas, or the inhabitants of the eastern country India, and it is notable that Columbus died believing that he had reached eastern India. This spatial confusion is recapitulated in the musics of various non-Europeans or non-English peoples; just as the Indians of the Americas are conflated with the Indians of India, European reactions to “other-worldly” music display confusion about the space of these encounters which then becomes replicated on the stage. One example of this is Shakespeare’s Tempest, which is ostensibly a New World play, yet eastern or oriental sounds continually leak into it as well. A specific song within a play that also “sounds otherness” in both the Americas and the East is Ben Jonson’s “The Triumph” which appears in The Devil is an Ass, and mentions “the wool of beaver” (a novel New World commodity) and “the nard in the fire” (nard is a root of Himalayan origin) in the same breath. Another example of “otherness” that I hope to examine in greater depth over the summer is the otherness of the afterlife that gets represented sonically. Death is the anamorphic sound in all of Feste’s songs in Twelfth Night, while there were also many contemporary pieces of music that either mention death in the lyrics or were meant to sound like devils or witches through manipulation of the voice or instruments. I am fascinated by the fact that music or sound is the chief medium to express these representations of otherness, and plan to research collections of early modern ballads. Much of my research will be at the Folger Shakespeare Library.
      Lowell Duckert
      My dissertation maps new ways of thinking about landscape, materiality, and ecology in early modern travel literature and drama. Picking up on the theories of actor-networks and non-linear dynamics outlined by Bruno Latour, Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, and Manuel De Landa, I argue that landscape is a thriving meshwork of living matter -- places of constant connectivity, interminable possibilities, and creative desires between human and nonhuman actants. By reconceiving landscape as a place of ever-burgeoning activity, I depart from traditional modes of ecocriticism that cultivate an exclusively human interface with the environment, anthropocentric readings that tend to foster more negative ideas of "catastrophe" or "prevention." I hope that in reconsidering early modern landscapes as networks of coconstituitive things -- nature-cultures, (non)humans -- I offer new ways of thinking about our own complex ecological present and future, and, most importantly, provide positive means for reveling in our shared vibrancy with the natural world. Works included are Walter's Ralegh's voyage to Guiana (living rivers); Martin Frobisher's expedition to Newfoundland (moving land/glaciers); William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (enfolding wool/Golden Fleece); and Mandeville's medieval Travels (wandering islands). I am currently completing the first chapter of my dissertation, "Hydrography of Desire: Wa(l)ter Ralegh's Discoverie of Guiana and the Early Modern Aquascape," highlighting the ways Ralegh desires to touch and be touched by the waters of Guiana, a powerful example of the desirable material connections -- and endless possibilities of being -- made available to us by aquascapes past and present. I am also planning an essay collection on ecomaterialism for the journal postmedieval. Much of my research will be conducted at the Folger.
      Mike Smith
      I'm starting my dissertation, tentatively titled "Vegetable Love: Desiring Plants in the Middle Ages." I'll be looking at human-plant encounters from the perspective of what Jane Bennett calls, in her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, "vital materialism," in which inhuman matter has a "vitality," or independent agency, that runs in and alongside human bodies. From this vital-materialist perspective, I explore how medieval writers such as Chaucer, Marie de France, and Mandeville might understand human desires as "vitally" connected, in some way, to plantlife. To do so, I'll organize each of the four chapters of my dissertation around a botanical concept -- chapters on vertu, poison, grafting, and quickening -- and will look at how these concepts might offer us ways of seeing human desire as (at least partly) tethered to the same inhuman forces that animate plantlife, as well as the larger world ("network") of non-human things. Chaucer expresses this vital connection between plant and human desires in the opening lines of the General Prologue, as the he traces the human desire to "goon on pilgrimages" to the same force ("Nature") that encourages the flowers to bloom, the crops to grow, and the birds to sing and build nests. In the Middle English Breton lay Sir Ofeo, the complicated (and often hybrid) identities and desires of Sir Orfeo's "Inglish" community is figured through the most important space in the narrative, under a "ympe-tree," a grafted tree, that serves as portal to the Underworld. And in Marie de France's Lais, human and plant desires are even burred, as she weaves romances about entwined human lovers, such as Tristan and Isolde, with the the similar romance between honeysuckle and hazel tree ("Chevrefoil")... With this grant, I will be able to begin my dissertation this summer; I'll start by researching and writing my first chapter on botanical vertu in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, titled "The Vertu of Travel: Mandeville's Vegetal Approach to Difference." During this time, I'll be reading medieval pharmacological texts, which are treatises on the "vertus ("virtues") of plants and herbs -- or, in short, the efficacy that plant matter has on human (and sometimes non-human) bodies. As Mandeville often taps into this tradition of pharmacological vertu, reading the Travels from a pharmacological perspective will offer a unique approach to understanding how Mandeville might express human desire (for travel, for connection, for difference, etc.) as part of a much larger inhuman system.

      Jessica Frazier
      The working title of my dissertation is “Object-ionable Fashion: Material Agency, Hybridity, and Temporality in Transnational Early Modern Networks.” Drawing upon the Deleuzian assemblage and the Latourian actor network, this project investigates the way in which fashionable novelties—particularly those from the Orient and the New World—challenge the notion of the English subject as the consummate consumer and therefore the assertion of a singular national identity. In recent years, early modern studies has suggested the English proto-imperialism staged in the theater, pamphlets, and travel narratives as little more than the fantasy of Marlovian overreachers. Nevertheless, even those scholars to whom we can credit the dissipation of the myth of English supremacy continue to posit the consumption of foreign objects as a kind of proto-imperialism. In his important work Turning Turk, Daniel Vitkus writes, “Instead, the alternative path to power [for England] was through the acquisition of valuable commodities: gold, silver, and pearls taken from newly ‘discovered’ lands, luxury goods obtained through trade in Asia or the Mediterranean, or booty taken by privateers from Spanish ships in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, or elsewhere.” Such assertions, however, occlude objects’ fashionable forwardness. By following what Jane Bennett might term specific fashion “things” through the early modern archive, my project will suggest the consuming “English” subject and consumed “foreign” object as a dichotomy worth troubling. Indeed, an examination of feathers, diamonds, and hair gestures toward the stylistic possibilities of the (non)human ensemble. Each of the above objects will occupy separate chapters of my dissertation. Summer funding would enable me to pursue the whims of feathers, diamonds, and hair (and for these objects to, in turn, direct me) through the early modern archive housed in the Folger Shakespeare Library: I am particularly interested in the Folger’s extensive collection of Richard Hakluyt’s travel narratives. By the end of the summer, I hope to have identified works from a variety of genres in which feathers, diamonds, and hair present themselves. I will then be able with greater certainty to select the texts that I will explore in each dissertation chapter. As a result, I could more fully enter into early modern intellectual conversations by presenting portions of these chapters next year at the conferences for the Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies (GEMCS) and the Shakespeare Association of American (SAA). Summer funding would grant the time needed for rigorous scholarship—a privilege that would prove an impossibility should I need to seek nonacademic employment to support myself during the summer lapse of my graduate stipend.