Monday, September 21, 2015

Futures of the Past October 30

Futures of the Past

A symposium featuring groundbreaking books in medieval and early modern studies 
International Brotherhood of Teamsters Room [Gelman Library Room 702]
GW Foggy Bottom Campus

Friday October 30 10 AM - 5 PM

The symposium is free and welcomes all who wish to attend, but you must preregister (HERE)

9.30 Morning Coffee

10.00-11.30 Seeing and Moving

Introductions by Heidi Stoa

Kim F. HallBarnard College
Sweet Taste of Empire: Sugar, Race and Gender in Early Modern England (forthcoming). Presentation title: "'I didn’t think I would feel like this’: Early Modern Race Studies and its Discontents"
In 2014, Kara Walker, an African American artist known for her installations using paper silhouettes and drawings which grapple with sexuality, colonialism and slavery in American history, created the installation, A Subtlety: The Marvelous Sugar Baby. The installation purported to be an homage "to enslaved and unfree labor from the cane field to the kitchen,” but, as spectators interacted with the sculptures and posted images of themselves under the hash tag #karawalkerdomino, it became evidence of an ongoing divide in white and black America about the role of race and slavery in the US as well as the focus for discussions over the responsibility of (black) artists when dealing with race. This paper discusses the audience’s divergent responses to the enormous installation as a way of thinking about the current state of early modern race studies. I see in the black anger at the installation and in the oblivious responses by other spectators, a dynamic similar to that in the ongoing discussions of the presence and meanings of race in early modern literary studies. More broadly, the paper speaks to the different investments we bring to the archive and the ways Black lives matter differently for black scholars in archival and scholarly spaces often deemed “white.”

Coll Thrush, University of British Columbia
Indigenous London: Native Travellers at the Heart of Empire (forthcoming)
My book Indigenous London (Yale University Press, fall 2016) frames that city’s history through the experiences of Indigenous children, women, and men who travelled there, willingly or otherwise, from territories that became Canada, the US, New Zealand, and Australia, beginning in the early sixteenth century. This presentation focuses on the question of memory, one of the six “domains of entanglement” that serve as the book’s structure (the others are knowledge, disorder, reason, ritual, and discipline). I will examine the experiences of early modern visitations by Indigenous people, from Inuit captives to Powhatan emissaries and Mohegan missionaries, to show the ways in which these lives have been remembered in descendant communities, even as London has in many ways forgotten its own empire. In doing so, I hope to challenge the teleological apparatus and narrative estrangement that so often renders Indigenous and urban histories as mutually exclusive.

11.30-12.45 lunch (included for those who pre-register). 
Rome Hall 771 (Academic Center, directly across the street from Gelman)

12.45-2.15: Incorporating and Inscribing

Introductions by Abigail Gloria Robertson

Henry S. Turner, Rutgers University
The Corporate Commonwealth: Pluralism and Political Fictions in England, 1516-1651 (forthcoming)
I’ll be presenting arguments about the corporation in history and theory, illustrated with some key early modern examples, all focused on several problems: how to define the corporation, especially the limits of legal definitions and the points of intersection between law, philosophy, and literature; the nature of the corporation as a political entity: a “body politic,” as it was known: what makes it “political”? What definitions of the “political” does it suggest?; how to account for the ontology (the mode of being, agency, or substantive reality) that is attributed to corporations and to corporate persons; in general, the corporation as a problem of ontology, and especially of the ideas of the group and the group person; what literary ideas of personhood, personation, and personification can add to our understanding of the corporation as a fiction that is also at the same time real.

Julie Orlemanski, University of Chicago 
Symptomatic Subjects: Bodies, Signs, and Narratives in Late Medieval England (in progress)
The book I’m completing at present, Symptomatic Subjects: Bodies, Signs, and Narratives in Late Medieval England, takes as its starting point the explosion in English medical writing between 1375 and 1475. Widespread efforts to translate and compile medical knowledge produced new conditions of corporeal literacy, including keen speculation about the ways in which diverse causal forces (astrological, environmental, dietetic, hereditary, demonic, and divine, among others) affected how individuals appeared and behaved. Symptomatic Subjects examines the concatenations of embodiment, expressivity, and etiology set forth in medieval narratives. My remarks at “Futures of the Past” will introduce the book's project and then sketch three methodological conundrums I’ve encountered in writing it, conundrums organized under the rubrics, “Whose ‘symptom’?” “the proto-discourse of medicine,” and “the proto-discourse of literature.”

2.15-2.45 coffee and cookies

2.45-4.15 Inventing and Unfolding

Introductions by Corey Sparks
Patricia Clare Ingham, Indiana University
The Medieval New: Ambivalence in an Age of InnovationPresentation title: "Sustaining Ourselves in an Age of Innovation"
What might medieval culture of artistic copying offer us in today's age of unrelenting innovation? In this brief talk, developed from my recent book The Medieval New: Ambivalence in an Age of Innovation, I suggest some of the ways that an ethically-charged, medieval brand of newness might help us to claim a future for the Liberal Arts, past as well as present.

J. Allan Mitchell, University of Victoria
Because my book’s been out for a year I though I would use the occasion — as I am trying to do elsewhere — to broaden the argument and engage in some retrospection on the project of recovering a medieval humanness. It is perhaps to offer some counter-spin on “becoming human,” which can unfortunately read as a strong assurance of the inevitable eventuation of “being,” which is not my claim. My interest is in how fetal and infantile figures cause a kind of perpetual identity crisis for the human. It is about the past catching up with the future. I may also reflect on the particularity and generality of the “human” concept. The tricky part about writing about “becoming human" was to identify human matters without presupposing the category that my analysis was intended to unsettle. How to speak the “human” at all when the term is evidently so universalist, ungendered, under-specified? Here I might want to talk about the heuristic value of general concepts or abstractions, which are like other useful fictions capable of mobilizing thought or animating a problem. The intrigue inherent in the general concept suggests to me the possibility of abstracting without idealizing or reifying.

4:15-4:30 Closing remarks (presenters and audience)

4.30-5.30 Reception with wine and light fare
Gallery 102, Smith Hall of Art (Academic Center)

To register for this event, 
Registration ensures that we have enough food, coffee and wine for everyone who attends.

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