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.