Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spring 2013 Events

Mark your calendar for our spring semester events.

As always, all are free and welcome anyone who wishes to attend. More information about each will be posted on this blog as the date nears, and will be disseminated through our electronic mailing list as well (contact Emily Russell <> to subscribe).

And, if you have the resources, please consider supporting our 2012 Fund Drive.

Jan 25 & 26
Digital Humanities Symposium
Featuring, among many others: Elaine Treharne (Stanford), Will Noel (U Penn), Ryan Cordell (Northeastern), Candace Barrington (CCSU), Peter Donaldson (MIT), Dirksen Bauman (Gallaudet), Sheila Cavanagh (Emory), Katherine Rowe (Bryn Mawr), and Sarah Werner (Folger)

Feb. 19
Anthony Bale, guest lecturer at Jeffrey Cohen's graduate seminar to discuss his new translation of Mandeville and the work's cultural contexts. The class will be open to interested visitors. Readings will precirculate.

March 1
Will Stockton, "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Queerness, Presentism, and Romeo and Juliet."

April 5
Symposium: Ecology of the Inhuman

Monday, December 10, 2012

Digital Humanities Symposium at the George Washington University, Jan 25 and 26

This event is free and open to the public and all guests are encouraged to bring their laptops and smartphones.  Free internet access will be provided for all in attendance.  This symposium will include 15-minute presentations on topics ranging from digital scholarship best practices, challenges, and future trends to disability, culture, and linguistic studies.  Presentations are designed with a broad audience in mind and address multiple disciplines. In addition to the more traditional 15-minute presentations, there will be a Skype session and hands-on proof-of-concept sessions.  Books about the digital humanities and other related topics will be available for purchase at the event.

Please see the Digital Humanities Symposium website ( a schedule of each day's events, maps and area hotel information, presentation abstracts and participant bios.  

***There is a registration link at the top of the Digital Humanities Symposium website - please make sure to fill this out.  After you register, you should receive a confirmation email.*** 

The symposium will be held on the George Washington University campus; specific location information is forthcoming. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

MEMSI and the Past's Future

The George Washington University Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute was founded in 2008. During its four and a half years of existence (so far!) we have become the most successful humanities initiative launched at the university. We are now doing what we can to ensure that MEMSI not only continues to flourish but has the chance to burgeon. Our ambitions are high.

GW MEMSI has invigorated the study of medieval and Renaissance literature and culture in DC. Among our achievements: enabling our faculty to secure prestigious fellowships like the ACLS, Huntington, Folger and Guggenheim; founding Oliphaunt, a promising open access book publishing initiative, the first title of which has been downloaded almost two thousand times; facilitating undergraduate access to the primary source materials housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library through a "History of the Book" seminar; through a partnership with the School Without Walls, making it possible for DC high school students to take courses in early literature at GW and to attend performances at the Shakespeare Theatre and meet scholars publishing in the field; creating popular colloquia that welcome all who wish to attend on topics as varied as the digital humanities and early ecology; and founding a Deans Scholars in Shakespeare Lecture, launching each year with a big event (it was standing room only at the inaugural lecture, when Gail Paster spoke at Post Hall about the history of costuming Shylock and Othello).

GW MEMSI has in its first years of life created programs and projects that reach every level of the institution, from undergraduates to graduate students to junior and senior faculty. Our goal right now is to raise the funding necessary to allow MEMSI to thrive for the next ten years (a total of $200K: we accomplish a vast amount with very little) -- and, ideally, an endowment that would enable the Institute to carry on its work indefinitely ($500K). If you would consider assisting, more information on making a contribution may be accessed here:

I am always willing to speak with you as well.

With best wishes,

Jeffrey J. Cohen

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November events at The George Washington University

Join us in November for two exciting events at George Washington University Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute and Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program: 

On Monday, Nov. 12, from 1-2 pm, Dr. Dennis Kennedy will be presenting a lecture on “The Culture of the Spectator.” Currently Beckett Professor of Drama Emeritus in Trinity College Dublin, Dennis Kennedy will consider examples from sports, popular culture, and the theatre in order to open up a discussion about a ‘culture’ of the spectator in the present. 

You can view a larger version of the poster for Dr. Kennedy's visit here.

Erika Lin will be with us on Tuesday, Nov. 27, from 11:10 am-12:20 pm, to explore early modern theatre. Lin, an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University, takes a close look at Thomas Dekker’s play “The Shoemaker’s Holiday” as she explores the process by which festivity was transformed into commercial theatre through the act of performance in “Playing with Time: Pancakes and Bells in ‘The Shoemaker’s Holiday.’”

Both of these events are open to the public and will be held on the George Washington University campus in Rome Hall, room 771 (801 22nd St. NW, Washington, D.C., one block from the GW/Foggy Bottom metro station). 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Playing with Time: Pancakes and Bells in "The Shoemaker's Holiday"

Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 27, from 11:10-12:20, ROME 771 for "Playing with Time: Pancakes and Bells in The Shoemaker's Holiday" - a presentation by Erika Lin.

Lin is an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University; she is the author of Shakespeare and the Materiality of Performance (Palgrave, 2012). It's sure to be a fantastic event!  

Playing with Time: Pancakes and Bells in The Shoemaker's Holiday

Early modern holidays were often celebrated with dancing, music, athletic combat, informal role-playing, and scripted drama. In the professional theatres, however, these same activities functioned not as communal rituals but as commodified entertainments. How did one-off experiences tied to the cyclical rhythms of the seasons come to be understood as performances that could be enacted year-round -- that is, rendered intelligible as theatre within linear models of historical time? Focusing in particular on Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker’s Holiday (first staged in 1599), this talk will explore the process by which festivity was transformed into commercial theatre through the act of performance itself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Corpus: a symposium

Please join us on Friday, Oct. 26, from 3-5 PM for 
Corpus: a symposium sponsored by The George Washington University Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute
Moderted by Gil Harris, The George Washington University
This event will be followed by a reception.
Symposium presenters:

Zeb Tortorici: "Surgeons, Medical Examinations, and Criminalized Sexuality in New Spain"
Zeb Tortorici is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature, NYU.  He recently co-edited, with Martha Few, Centering Animals in Latin American History (2013) and has published essays in Ethnohistory, the Journal of the History of SexualityHistory Compass, and Death and Dying in Colonial Spanish America. He is currently co-editing a special issue of Radical History Review on the topic of "Queering Archives," and is working on a book manuscript on desire, colonialism, and the "sins against nature" in New Spain. 

Henry S. Turner: "Universitas: On Corporations"
Henry S. Turner, an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University, has authored two books: Shakespeare’s Double Helix (2008) and The English Renaissance Stage: Geometry, Poetics, and the Practical Spatial Arts 1580-1630 (2006).   He is the editor of The Culture of Capital: Property, Cities, and Knowledge in Early Modern England (2002).  Turner is the recipient of the ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship and is spending the 2012-2013 academic year at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Marcy Norton: "Shape-shifting: Permeable Bodies in Native South America"

Marcy Norton is an Associate Professor of History at The George Washington University.  Her most recent work focuses on human-animal relationships.  She is the author of Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (2008).

Lara Farina: "The Disaggregate Body: Some Problems and Promise” 
Lara Farina, an Associate Professor in the Department of English at West Virginia University, is currently working on a book project about the sense of touch in medieval culture.  She is the author of Erotic Discourses and Early English Religious Writing (2006). Farina co-edited (with Holly Dugan) a special issue of Postmedieval entitled, The Intimate Senses: Taste, Touch, and Smell (Winter 2012). Her other research interests include medieval piety and histories of gender and sexuality. 

The symposium will take place from 3-5 PM on Friday, October 26, in Rome 771.  There will be a reception after this event.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Culture of the Spectator - a lecture by Dennis Kennedy

Join us on Monday, Nov. 12, from 1-2 for  an exciting talk about The Culture of the Spectator.

It is well recognized in theatre and performance studies that each spectator at an event is likely to have a unique physical and psychological encounter. This recognition, important as it is, has actually hindered full discussion of the spectator, since many scholars are reluctant to ascribe interior attitudes or responses to anyone other than themselves. Further, it is obvious that audiences as groups react outwardly in ways substantially determined by the type of performance, so that live spectators at a football match as a group behave differently than those at a tennis match or a classical concert or a Shakespeare performance. This lecture puts these two issues together to consider how (in the philosophic sense) spectators might react, inwardly and outwardly, as a result of the conditions of the performance itself. The examples, from sport, popular culture, and the theatre, open discussion about a ‘culture’ of the spectator in the present.


Dennis Kennedy, Beckett Professor of Drama Emeritus in Trinity College Dublin, is the author or editor of many award-winning books, notably The Spectator and the Spectacle, Looking at Shakespeare, Foreign Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Asia, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance, and its shorter version, The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. He lectures and gives acting workshops around the world, and has held distinguished visiting professorships at universities from Berlin to Beijing. A member of the Royal Irish Academy and Academia Europaea, he has also frequently works as a playwright and dramaturg in professional theatres internationally. In 2005 he directed Shakespeare’s As You Like It in Beijing in Chinese.

Monday, September 3, 2012

An Australian Interview with Alexa Huang about Global Shakespeares

During GW English professor Alexa Huang's recent visit to Australia to give a keynote speech at the Book:Logic 2012 conference, "Text Editing and Digital Culture," she was interviewed by Professor Jenni Harrison of iVEC (national supercomputing center) at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Alexa is the co-founder and co-director with Peter Donaldson of "Global Shakespeares" (, an open-access digital performance archive and research project that examines the global career of Shakespeare's plays. During the interview, Alexa discussed the significance of worldwide performances of Shakespeare and introduced several key features of the "Global Shakespeares" digital video archive.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don't miss the first MEMSI event of the semester!

Please join us on Friday, Sept. 7, at 3:30 p.m. for Dr. Gail Kern Paster’s talk: “Shylock, Othello, and the Theatrical Coding of Difference: Picturing Shakespeare at the Folger.”  Images of Shylock and Othello from the Folger Shakespeare Library image database show how these figures of the Jew and the Moor as Other have been represented since the eighteenth century. These images also show how they have been presented for consumption and display. Setting images side by side has great potential for understanding the theatrical coding of difference in an historical trajectory. The talk is designed for a broad audience.

This event is part of the Dean’s Lecture on Shakespeare series and is co-sponsored by the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare program.  The talk will be held in Post Hall on the Mt. Vernon campus and will be followed by a reception. 

Click here to see an enlarged version of this flier.

There is a free shuttle service available from the Foggy Bottom campus.
Hope to see you there! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare at GW

George Washington University Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English are pleased to announce the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare, a signature program for undergraduate students. The program offers a select group of students a unique opportunity to explore the works of William Shakespeare in a global and multimedia context. The first class of Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare will be arriving in Fall 2012. 

 Program Highlights

  • Take five courses during your freshmen and sophomore years
  • Enjoy small classes and intimate interaction with award-winning professors
  • Subsidized, faculty-led study tour of London and Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Meet the head of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and leading scholars and artists in London
  • Attend performances at the Folger Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C.
  • Participate in events at the Folger Shakespeare Library and on campus
  • Take advantage of undergraduate research fellowships
  • Use cutting-edge digital tools for the study of Shakespeare and for creative work
Program Website:

A series of events--free and open to the public--are being planned in conjunction with the Dean's Scholars program.

Alexa Huang's new book on Shakespeare and world literature

GW English professor Alexa Huang's new book on world literature and intercultural theater draws on theories of aesthetic humanism to explain the force of literature in globalization. The aestheticization of politics in the twentieth century has structured political life as an art form of expression.  As a secular investment in shared cultural values, aesthetic humanism has been deployed by artists to counter various practices of subjugation such as colonialism and cultural imperialism that have dominated the recent historical record of globalization. The phenomenon is notable in the translation and adaptation of Shakespearean comedies and sonnets, European reception of Asian performances of Shakespeare, French-Chinese playwright Gao Xingjian, and the satirical and humorous narratives of Lu Xun (whose "Madman's Diary" was used by the literary theorist Fredric Jameson as an example of "national allegory"), Mo Yan, and other writers. This is the case because aesthetic humanism promotes multiple perspectives on the continuously unfolding revolution of modernity.
The book is part of Alexa's effort to bridge far-flung loci of transnational scholarship, to reach out beyond the Anglo-American academy, and to examine the role of humanism in globalization. The book is available in paperback.
Have you fulfilled the language requirement by choosing to study German? 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Preliminary Schedule of MEMSI Events 2012-13

Please join us for the following events during the autumn 2012 and spring 2013 semesters. More will be added, so watch this space, subscribe to our electronic email list by emailing Em Russell, and friend us on Facebook.

Friday Sept. 7 
Gail Paster
Inaugural Deans Lecture in Shakespeare 
"Shylock, Othello, and the Theatrical Coding of Difference: Images from the Folger Picture Archive"
Former GW English professor and Director Emerita of the Folger Shakespeare Library Gail Kern Paster will deliver a lecture co-sponsored by the Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Program, directed by Alexa Huang, and the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute. A professor of English at GW from 1974 until 2002, Paster has held fellowships from the Guggenheim and Mellon Foundations. She is the author of three books, most recently Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage, as well as numerous other scholarly publications on early modern drama, with a focus on the cultural history of the body and its emotions. She is currently completing an electronic edition of Twelfth Night for the Norton Shakespeare. Her talk is entitled "Shylock, Othello, and the Theatrical Coding of Difference: Images from the Folger Picture Archive." Images of Shylock and Othello from the Folger image database show how these figures of the Jew and the Moor as Other have been represented since the eighteenth century have been presented for consumption and display. Setting images side by side has great heuristic potential for understanding the theatrical coding of difference in an historical trajectory.  The talk is designed for a broad audience and is free and open to the public. A reception follows. 3:30 PM in the Academic Building (Post Hall), GW Mount Vernon Campus

October 26
Corpus: A Symposium
A symposium on individual and collective bodies: embodiment, sexuality, individuality, universality, corporations, limitations, institutions, resistance. 3 PM, place TBA.
Confirmed speakers:

Tuesday November 13
Dennis Kennedy
World renowned scholar and director Dennis Kennedy (Trinity College Dublin) will be giving a talk on "The culture of the spectator." 

Friday January 25
Symposium on Digital Humanities

Friday April 5

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

For your calendar

Some dates to save for the 2012-13 year:
  • Sept. 7: Gail Paster gives the inaugural GW MEMSI / Deans Scholars in Shakespeare Lecture
  • October 26: "Corpus" (a symposium with Marcy Norton, Henry Turner, and two other speakers to be confirmed)
  • November 13: World renowned scholar and director Dennis Kennedy (Trinity College Dublin) on Shakespeare and performance studies
  • January 25: Symposium on Digital Humanities
  • April 5: Symposium on Ecologies with Ian Bogost
Those are our Big Events. Look for some guest speakers and seminars to be added in the weeks ahead as details become firm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects now in print

GW MEMSI is very happy to announce the publication of the first book in its Oliphaunt series. Originating in a conference we sponsored in Washington in 2011, this volume brings together the plenaries and keynote expanded into essays as well as three response pieces.

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects examines what happens when we cease to assume that only humans exert agency. Through a careful examination of medieval, early modern and contemporary lifeworlds, these essays collectively argue against ecological anthropocentricity. Sheep, wolves, camels, flowers, chairs, magnets, landscapes, refuse and gems are more than mere objects. They act; they withdraw; they make demands; they connect within lively networks that might foster a new humanism, or that might proceed with indifference towards human affairs. Through what ethics do we respond to these activities and forces? To what futures do these creatures and objects invite us, especially when they appear within the texts and cultures of the “distant” past?
Contents: Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington University): “Introduction: All Things” – 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” – Peggy McCracken (University of Michigan): “The Floral and the Human” – Kellie Robertson (University of Wisconsin-Madison): “Exemplary Rocks” – Valerie Allen (John Jay College of Criminal Justice): “Mineral Virtue”  – Eileen Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville): “You Are Here: A Manifesto” – Julian Yates (University of Delaware): “Sheep Tracks: Multi-Species Impressions” – Julia Reinhard Lupton (University of California, Irvine): “The Renaissance Res Publica of Things” – Jane Bennett (Johns Hopkins University): “Powers of the Hoard: Further Notes on Material Agency”
Response essays: Lowell Duckert, “Speaking Stones, John Muir, and a Slower (Non)humanities” –  Nedda Mehdizadeh, “‘Ruinous Monument’: Transporting Objects in Herbert’s Persepolis” – Jonathan Gil Harris,“Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Twenty Questions” 
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI) at the George Washington University. His research explores what monsters promise; how postcolonial studies, queer theory, postmodernism and posthumanism might help us to better understand the literatures and cultures of the Middle Ages (and might be transformed by that encounter); the limits and the creativity of our taxonomic impulses; the complexities of time when thought outside of progress narratives; and ecotheory. He is the author of three books: Of Giants: Sex, Monsters and the Middle AgesMedieval Identity Machines; and Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: On Difficult Middles and the editor of four more. He blogs at In the Middle.
Published: 2012-05-07

The book is available as a free, open access download. Even if you read the volume electronically, please consider purchasing a copy of the paperback ($17) to support future Oliphaunt / punctum projects.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Ecologies: A Roundtable (Kalamazoo 2012)

GW MEMSI is proud to be sponsoring a roundtable on "Ecologies" at the impending International Congress on Medieval Studies (Session 215, Friday May 11 at 10 am in Schneider 1280). 

By exploring how environment and the nonhuman (with an emphasis on that which seems utterly nonhuman) matter in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period, we hope to map out new ways of thinking about bodies, elements, agency, and place. The forum consists of short, provocative papers followed by lively discussion.

You don't have to wait for Kalamazoo for a preview, though. Anne Harris has posted some thoughts about her project, and Alan Montroso has offered a draft of his talk. The full list is below. We hope to see you at the roundtable!


Presider:  Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, George Washington Univ.

Fluid (James Smith, Univ. of Western Australia)

Trees (Alfred Siewers, Bucknell Univ.)

Human (Alan Montroso, Independent Scholar)

Post/apocalyptic (Eileen A. Joy, Southern Illinois Univ.–Edwardsville)

Hewn (Anne F. Harris, DePauw Univ.)

Recreation (Lowell Duckert, George Washington Univ.)

Green (Carolyn Dinshaw, New York Univ.)

Matter (Valerie Allen, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alexa Huang: The BBC Sessions

Alexa Huang, Director of Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare and Associate Professor of English at GW, made two guest appearances on BBC World Services. In the two radio programs he discussed Shakespeare and globalization in the context of the upcoming London Olympics. 
BBC The Strand: Shakespeare Special   (51 minutes), podcast available online:

BBC The Strand: Alexa Huang on Shakespeare (18 minutes), podcast available online: