2020 Faculty Research and Teaching Reports

Onesimo T. Almeida


During the Fall semester (2019) I taught my Freshman Seminar titled “On the Dawn of Modernity.” My book on science during the maritime Portuguese travels of the 15th and 16th century (O Século dos Prodígios. A ciência no Portugal da Expansão. Lisbon, 2018,) received a prize from the Academia Portuguesa de História, as well as three other prizes from various Portuguese cultural institutions. In 2019 I published the article From ‘Vera Cruz Island’ to ‘Brazil' — a critical revisitation of an old belief,” DOMINGUES, Francisco Contente e SILVA, Susana Serpa, coord. (2019), Navegação no Atlântico. XVIII Reunião Internacional de História da Náutica / Atlantic Navigation. XVIII International Reunion for the History of Nautical Science, Ponta Delgada, CHAM Açores - Universidade dos Açores. At the Ribeira Grande City Hall (Azores)  I gave a lecture on a native of that city, the 16th century author Gaspar Frutuoso. The theme was his critique of Plato’s Atlantis as another example of an author imbued with the emerging empirical mentality that was spreading among the Portuguese writings of the time.

Laura Bass

Frontispiece. La vida de soror Estefanía de la Encarnación, 1631 (Biblioteca Nacional Madrid, ms 7459)
Frontispiece. La vida de soror Estefanía de la Encarnación, 1631 (Biblioteca Nacional Madrid, ms 7459)

For all its challenges, this past year was immensely gratifying for me. Completing my second term as chair of Hispanic Studies (and anticipating a third one), I led the department through a very strong external review in which I was proud to present an excellent profile in early modern studies (as well as other fields), including four faculty members in the field: Stephanie Merrim, Andrew Laird, and Iris Montero, besides myself. Out of a cohort of five incoming graduate students, the department welcomed three exceptional early modernists: Ben Easton, David Pasard, and Mauricio Lepe Zepeda. At the same time, I shepherded my two fourth-year graduate students, Ana Garriga and Carmen Urbita, to ABD status. Beyond the department, I participated in a search, led by JCB director Neil Safier, for the Vasco da Gama Chair in the History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire, which culminated in the hire of Gabriel de Avilez Rocha, a specialist in the entanglement of social and environmental history in the Atlantic world. I also participated in dissertation examination committees, of Erika Valdivieso of Classics, who wrote a groundbreaking study of Virgilian imitation in Colonial Latin America, and of Julia Vázquez of Columbia’s art history program, who studied Diego Velázquez’s career as curator of Spain’s royal collections under Philip IV. Teaching was a joy. In the fall, I gave an advanced undergraduate course on Fashion and Fiction in the Early Modern Hispanic World, and in the spring I co-taught with Evie Lincoln a Cogut Institute Collaborative Humanities course: "Imagining Cities: Early Modern Urban Perspectives," whose twelve phenomenal students came from seven different departments.

View of Madrid. Aldert Myer in Carel Allard, Orbis habitabilis oppida et vestitus,  centenario numero complexa. Amsterdam, ca. 1685. KB > Nationale Bibliotheek. KW 374 A 19.
View of Madrid. Aldert Myer in Carel Allard, Orbis habitabilis oppida et vestitus, centenario numero complexa. Amsterdam, ca. 1685. Nationale Bibliotheek, KW 374 A 19

Collaborative work is something I thrive on, not just in teaching but also scholarship. I am currently collaborating with art historian Tanya Tiffany (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) on an edition and translation of the spiritual autobiography of the seventeenth-century painter-nun Estefanía de la Encarnación, the only known autobiography by a woman artist of the early modern period; our bilingual edition will appear in the series "The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe" (co-published by Iter Press and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies). We recently published an article on the important, yet ambivalent, place of images in Estefanía’s spiritual life, as well as the visual dimensions of her autobiography, in a special dossier of the French online journal e-Spania: Revue interdisciplinaire d’études hispaniques médiévales et modernes (the dossier itself developed from a colloquium on painting and poetry I participated in last year at the Collège d’Espagne in Paris). Fruit of additional collaborations was a special double-issue of the journal Bulletin of the Comediantes (dedicated to the study of theater in the early modern Hispanic world) in honor of the early modern Hispanist Margaret Greer. In addition to its eleven articles by scholars from Europe and the U.S., the double issue contained over forty book reviews—fruits of my recently assumed role as the journal’s reviews editor, with the invaluable assistance of Ana Garriga and Carmen Urbita. This past year, I also completed an article titled “Staging Madrid: Urban Comedy for a New Court City,” forthcoming in the Routledge Companion to Early Modern Spanish Literature and Culture (edited by Rodrigo Cacho and Caroline Egan of Cambridge University); the article is part of a book project on the cultural construction of Habsburg Madrid.

Cynthia J. Brokaw

Cynthia J. Brokaw has a chapter in press, “Medieval and Early Modern East Asia,” in James Raven (ed.), Oxford Illustrated History of the Book (Oxford: OUP). Her current project "Book Culture in a Hinterland Province: Publishing in Sichuan, 17th-20th Centuries" examines the spread of commercial publishing and Chinese book culture to the southwestern borderland of China Proper during the Qing empire. This project has several goals. First, it maps the transmission of printing technologies and textual knowledge from the established publishing centers in the southeast coastal areas to the distant southwest. Second, it expands our understanding of the structure of publishing businesses and the variety in production forms in the late imperial period; and of the relationship between the older forms of printing and publishing (woodblock and movable type) and the modern printing technologies (lithography and letter-press) introduced in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Third, by analyzing the range of texts published (and the reading publics they attracted), it allows us to draw conclusions about the spread of literacy and the role that print had in cultural integration and the forging of a shared Chinese identity.

Prof. Brokaw taught two early modern history courses in 2019-20. Last fall, “Knowledge and Power: China's Examination Hell” investigated the rigorous system of examinations used to select government officials in imperial China, its profound impact, for better or worse, on Chinese society and government in the early modern period, and the role that its successor “examination hell”—the gaokao or university entrance examination—plays in society today.

“The History of the Book in the Early Modern World,” taught in the spring, examined how the production and dissemination of texts influenced conceptions and categorization of knowledge, reading practices, social access to knowledge, the development of political formations, etc. We first read some of the foundational works in the field, largely the work of European book historians. The remainder of the course investigated—through the reading of monographs on different book cultures and hands-on examination of books as material objects—the impact that books (especially print books) had on Western Europe, the Islamic world, and East Asian empires in the early modern period.

Caroline Castiglione

Venice’s fragile ecology threatens the city and its archives. Archivio di Stato of Venice, facing rising floodwaters.
Venice’s fragile ecology threatens the city and its archives. Archivio di Stato of Venice, facing rising floodwaters.

Caroline Castiglione concluded her term as Chair of Italian Studies in summer 2019, turning her focus to a book-length project, "Freedom and Justice in Moderata Fonte's The Worth of Women."

She recently won two external grant awards for her research on Fonte, a sixteenth-century Venetian writer who pondered why the conjuncture of being female and Venetian was often dangerous and sometimes deadly. With the support of the Social Science Research Institute Seed Funding Award and a Franklin Grant from the American Philosophical Society, she undertook research in Venetian archives in 2019. A Delmas Foundation grant awarded in spring 2020 will support additional archival work on this project next year.

Harold Cook

I saw through to publication an edited book on the world-wide movement of forms of Chinese medicine in the early modern period: Translation at Work: Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age (Leiden: Brill, 2020). Aspects of medicine arising in China began to be of interest to people beyond Asia, even in the Americas, despite its contested truths and the Celestial Empire’s lack of overseas empire in the period, developments that provide an important counter-example to many current arguments about the global circulation of European science due to its truth-value or to economic and political efforts at domination).

I taught two undergraduate courses in the fall of 2019, one of them a first-year seminar on "An Empire and Republic," on the Dutch Republic, the other on the history of foods and drugs, which also contained a few weeks on early modern developments. In the spring I co-taught a seminar with Tara Nummedal and two colleagues from the University of Minnesota on the intersection of new forms of material life and knowledge, offered through the Cogut Institute for the Humanities.

I am the US sponsor of an EU Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Fellowship project “MAT-MED in Transit,” held by Sabrina Minuzzi of Università Ca' Foscari Venezia. The project focuses on early botanical publications in the Mediterranean, using materials in the Hay Library, and has a strong digital humanities component that is supported by advice from others at Brown, especially Elli Mylonas.

I also completed three papers for publication, two of them following up on the implications of the complications of the life of the young Descartes for his later published philosophical work. One of those focuses on how his relationship with the Princess Elizabeth arose from her patronage of to protect him during the Utrecht Crisis, when religious authorities were trying to have him arrested and his papers seized. Another is on the failure of the personal reputation of a Dutch artist and liefhebber, Cornelis de Bruyn, after the publication of his travels through Russia, Persia, and the Dutch East Indies around 1700.

Tim Harris

My publications this year included Politics, Religion and Ideas in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Britain: Essays in Honour of Mark Goldie, co-edited with Justin Champion, John Coffey and John Marshall (Boydell Press, 2019); "Constitutional Royalism Re-Considered: Myth or Reality?" (in the above); "Periodizing the Early Modern: The Historian's View," in Early Modern Histories of Time: The Periodizations of Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England, ed. Kristen Poole and Owen Williams  (UPenn Press, 2019); and "The Right to Bear Arms in English and Irish Historical Context," in A Right to Bear Arms? The Contested Role of History in Contemporary Debates on the Second Amendment, ed. Jennifer Tucker, Barton C. Hacker and Margaret Vining (Smithsonian Institute Scholarly Press, 2019).

The following articles are forthcoming:

  • "Anti-Catholicism and Anti-Popery in Seventeenth-Century England," in Against Popery: Britain, Empire, and Anti-Catholicism, ed. Evan Haefeli (University of Virginia Press) 
  • "Religious and National Stereotyping and Prejudice in Seventeenth-Century England," in Puritans, Papists and Projectors: Stereotypes and Stereotyping in Early Modern England, ed. Peter Lake and Koji Yamamoto (Manchester University Press)
  • "State Trials and the Rule of Law under the Later Stuarts" (with Stephen Taylor), in Rethinking the State Trials: The Politics of Justice in Later Stuart England, ed. Brian Cowan and Scott Sowerby (Boydell Press) 
  • "Scotophobia in Later Stuart England," in Scotland the Wider World: Essays in Honour of Allan I. Macinnes, ed. Neil McIntrye and Alison Cathcart (Boydell Press) 

I signed a contract for my books Restoration: Charles II and His Kingdoms 1660-1685 (Penguin, 2005), Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685-1720 (Penguin, 2006) and Rebellion: Britain’s First Stuart Kings, 1567-1642 (OUP, 2014) to be published in simplified Chinese by Folio (Beijing) Culture and Media Co. Ltd.

I spoke at and helped organize the following events in July 2019: Roundtable on History and Second Amendment Jurisprudence in America, Pembroke College, Oxford, sponsored by the Center for Firearms Law, Duke University; Symposium to Celebrate the Scholarship of Professor Mark Goldie, Trinity Hall, Cambridge University; Durham University Early Modern Conference. In the fall and winter I gave papers in Montreal, Vancouver, Leicester, and Sheffield.

I was a faculty fellow at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities in the fall and on leave this spring, working on a book for Oxford University Press on Britain’s Century of Revolutions, 1603-1691 — dealing with England, Scotland, Ireland and the empire. In November 2019 I was elected President of the American Friends of the Institute of Historical Research, London. I continue to serve as commissioning editor for the book series Studies in Early Modern Cultural, Political and Social History (Boydell Press), together with Professors Stephen Taylor and Andy Wood of Durham University. We have published 36 books, with more titles forthcoming.

Alani Hicks-Bartlett

During the course of 2019-20, Alani Hicks-Bartlett completed the following articles on Early Modern Literature and Culture:

  • on Petrarch and the Petrarchan Tradition (Fragments of Culture between Diaspora, Language and Semiotics in Honour of Paul A. Colilli, and “‘Amb[e] le chiavi del [s]uo cuor’: lo spargamos e il topos della distanza nel Rerum vulgarium fragmenta,” Rivista di Studi Italiani, vol. 37, no. 2)
  • on Early Modern theater (“War, Tyranny, and Political Sacrifice in Luis Vélez de Guevara’s Más pesar el rey que la sangre,” in Theatres of War: A Contemporary Perspective, Metheun Drama)
  • on questions of embodiment in Montaigne (“Unsettled Foundations and the Downward Pull: Intersections of Body and Text, Falling and Fragility in Montaigne’s Essais,” MLN, French Issue)
  • on speech acts and evidence in Cervantes’s Don Quijote, (“‘Confesar o morir’: Failed Promises and Ocular Proof in the Silk-Merchant Episode (I.4) of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha,Hispanic Review, vol. 87, no. 4)
  • on classical intertexts and Early Modern visual culture in Garcilaso’s “Con ansia estrema de mirar,” and the anonymous “Oh mudo despertador del apetito!” (“On Thresholds, Pygmalionesque Fantasies, and the ‘Lascivo Impulso’ in Spanish Early Modern Erotic Poetry,” in Pornographic Sensibilities: On the Culture of Sex and the Visceral in Imperial Modern Spain).

She continues to work on larger projects on (dis)ability in Early Modern prose works (supported by a research fellowship from the Consortium for History of Science, Medicine, and Technology), and on Medieval and Early Modern representations of the Pygmalion myth.

Alani presented her work on Early Modern literature at various venues, among which were the MLA, where she gave the paper :“In un velo avolto”: Icons and Ambiguity in Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata”; the University of Toronto’s Fragments of Culture between Diaspora, Language and Semiotics Conference, where she spoke on Ovid and doubt in Petrarch and Early Modern Petrarchan poets: “‘Deteriora sequor’: l’incertezza epistemologica in “I’vo pensando’”; and Yale’s Renaissance Lunch Colloquium, where she gave a presentation on an upcoming major project investigating portraits and self-representation, titled “On Portraiture and the Lost Orbit: Petrarch, Montaigne, Cervantes.”

Virgina Krause

Prof. Krause offered an Early Modern World seminar in the Spring '20 semester (FREN 2110: "Savoirs et non-savoirs de la Renaissance") and will offer another in 2020-21 (FREN 2110: "Le roman renaissant''). She has also published "The will to know and the unknowable: Jean Bodin's De La Démonomania," in The Science of Demons: Early Modern Authors Facing Witchcraft and the Devil, edited by Jan Machielsen (Routledge, 2020).

Andrew Laird

Juan Correa, Las Artes liberales c. 1670, detail, Museo Franz Mayer, Mexico City. This image of Grammar, a panel from a painting of the Liberal Arts by Juan Correa (1646-1746) was a focus of discussionn at the Folger Seminar. The artist, who was of African and Moorish parentage, was a prolific painter in New Spain, where he was renowned during his lifetime.
Juan Correa, Las Artes liberales, c. 1670, detail, Museo Franz Mayer, Mexico City. This image of Grammar, a panel from a painting of the Liberal Arts by Juan Correa (1646-1746), was a focus of discussion at the Folger Seminar. The artist, who was of African and Moorish parentage, was a prolific painter in New Spain, where he was renowned during his lifetime.

This year I ran two seminars for graduates specializing in early modern history and literature: "The Latin of America," which focused on Latin texts produced in 16th-century Mexico; and Antiquity and Innovation in the Hispanic Renaissance, a survey of Spanish literature from the Americas as well as the Iberian peninsula.

In the early part of the summer of 2019, a Plumer Fellowship at St Anne’s College, Oxford enabled me to examine some works of Renaissance speculum literature in the Bodleian Library, in order to assess their influence on natural and ‘moral’ or ethnographic histories of the New World. I was also invited to lecture at a Leverhulme-funded colloquium, Colonial Legacies Revisited, held at King’s College London. Later in August, I gave a course at the Institute of Philological Investigations at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, ‘Los orígenes del humanismo clásico en Nueva España.’ An unexpected outcome of the trip to Mexico was Andrés Iñigo Silva’s discovery that a book in Spanish which was thought to have been lost (and which I had only read in a contemporary 16th-century translation) survives after all — in the library the Complutense University in Madrid: Fray Cristóbal Cabrera’s Flores de consolación (Valladolid, 1549). The volume contains translations of a large number of consolatory maxims extracted from classical and patristic authors, which Cabrera made for Doña Juana de Zúníga, wife of the conquistador Hernán Cortés. Last September I presented a paper on Angelo Poliziano’s history of time at an early modernists’ conference on ‘Temporalities, Ideologies Poetics’ held in Venice with the sponsorship of the British Academy. Last November I directed a Folger Institute Faculty Seminar, The Visual Art of Grammar, which the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World hosted at Brown University, and in February 2020 I delivered the Poultney Lecture at the Johns Hopkins University Department of Classics. I also presented a paper at the Columbia Classical Seminar.

My publications in 2019-20 included an essay on Latin and Amerindian languages for the Transactions of the American Philological Association (149.2), an article on the scholarship and writing of native Mexican Latinists in the 1500s for the second issue of an exciting new online periodical, the Journal of Latin Cosmopolitanism and European Literature, and a series of book chapters, each on the reception of a different classical author in colonial Mexico — Lucretius, Virgil, Ovid and Apuleius — are coming out this year.

Allison Levy

Allison Levy was appointed to the College Art Association's newly formed Committee on Research and Scholarship and will serve as co-chair through 2024. The paperback edition of her most recent book, House of Secrets: The Many Lives of a Florentine Palazzo, was published by Bloomsbury in March 2020.


Evelyn Lincoln

2019-20 has been a productive and exciting year. As incoming Department Chair, it was gratifying to be able to host a new Cogut Mellon post-doctoral fellow working on colonial Latin American Art, Professor Jessica Stair. This two-year joint appointment between the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture [HIAA] is making a substantial contribution to the Department’s early modern offerings, creating some exciting opportunities for innovative teaching in collaboration with the John Carter Brown Library.

In the Spring of 2020, Laura Bass (Hispanic Studies) and I led an interdisciplinary group of graduate students in a Cogut Institute Collaborative Humanities course: "Imagining Cities: Early Modern Urban Perspectives." Much like the Early Modern World/EMW graduate colloquium, the course attracted students from many different Humanities departments at Brown. Another exciting new hire in HIAA was Professor Gretel Rodriguez, whose work on the reception of triumphal arches in Rome’s provinces (such as Orange, France) also has bearing on early modern interpretations of the iconography of triumph.

In September I had the privilege of initiating Princeton’s core course for the Program in European Cultural Studies with a seminar “Rome, Rubble, Repurposing." This seminar conceived Rome as a place, an idea, and as a living palimpsest of memory and history. A diachronic narrative of the changing locales and identities of the equestrian sculpture of Marcus Aurelius offered an exciting paradigm, and gave Princeton students a chance to become acquainted with its 19-century avatar on Soldier’s Field.

Last summer, it was a pleasure to work with EMW graduate student Dominic Bate, Elli Mylonas of the Brown Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship, and a RISD dual degree student, on a digital humanities website, The Theater that was Rome. The platform has now been expanded to include the papers of the late Francesca Consagra on the history of De Rossi family printshops during the 17th and 18th centuries. I was able to present some of that work over the course of a week-long workshop in Copenhagen: "Digital-age approaches to early modern engraved, etched, and imprinted episteme. This was a genuinely collaborative event which brought graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, curators, conservators and senior researchers together in museums, archives and libraries for conversations in the histories of art and science. At a conference on microhistory at the University of Toronto in honor of Tom and Libby Cohen, I gave a paper on “Peopling the Book.” The presentation considered some ways in which 16th-century illustrated books narrate the circumstances of their own authorship and production. I have also been fortunate to participate in a field-changing doctoral project by Linda Stiber Morenus (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart), on the techniques, conservation and marketing of Italian chiaroscuro woodcuts in the 1500s. Through her knowledge of pigments, binders and papers, Morenus succeeded in demonstrating the significance of changes in printing technique over the life of the woodblocks, and of the degradation of the ink layers over the life of these prints. Both forms of transformation significantly alter our conception of the intentions of the original printers and of the publishers who reprinted the blocks over the course of a century.

Leonardo Parasole after Antonio Tempesta, woodblockWoodblock print. Christ Writes in the Dust on the Floor, illustration from the Biblia Arabica [Evangelium Sanctum Domini nostri Iesu Christi] ed. Giovanni Battista Raimondi. Rome: Tipografia Medicea Orientale, 1590-91.

Photos: Leonardo Parasole after Antonio Tempesta, woodblock.
Woodblock print,
Christ Writes in the Dust on the Floor, illustration from the Biblia Arabica [Evangelium Sanctum Domini nostri Iesu Christi] ed. Giovanni Battista Raimondi. Rome: Tipografia Medicea Orientale, 1590-91.

My own study of the abstract conception of image carving in late 16th-century Roman woodcuts — particularly those made at the Medici Oriental Press by the Parasole family — is in progress. A preliminary article heralding this full investigation will appear in the coming months: “The Parasole Family Enterprise and Book Illustration at the Medici Press,” in Eckhard Leuschner (ed.), Typographia Linguarum Externarum—the Medici Oriental Press, Rome: Vatican Publishing House. Another field article, "Printers and Publishers in Early Modern Rome," has been published in A Companion to Early Modern Rome, eds. S. Ditchfield, P. Jones and B. Wisch (Leiden: Brill, 2019).

Iris Montero

Iris Montero is currently revising her first book What the Hummingbird Knows, a study of how knowledge about nature is produced as it travels. Taking the case of the hummingbird, an animal endemic to the Americas and therefore absent from the Western historical record before 1492, this study explores the transference of knowledges between indigenous communities in the Americas and communities of naturalists in Europe. Drawing from indigenous material culture and oral and visual histories, the book focuses on the specific forms linguistic and cultural translation give to these registers in early modern genres. Retracing these itineraries of transformation, What the Hummingbird Knows argues for the possibility of putting in dialogue the material, visual and oral evidence produced in the Americas from pre-Columbian times with the textual and experimental record of the Western sciences of animals.

Iris Montero is also starting work on two new projects. The first explores representatios of a powerful concept in the Medieval and early modern worlds: the scala naturae or great chain of being, a hierarchical organization of nature from lesser to higher beings. This project is anchored on the most well known version of the scala by Diego Valadés, a Franciscan inspired by his missionary experience in 16th-century New Spain. The second project looks at antiquarian literatures in the 18th-century Americas from a comparative perspective, and explores the role of antiquities as evidence to answer questions about indigenous populations in an hemispheric scale.

Iris Montero has also taught a course in Hispanic Studies, “Encounters: Latin America in Its Literature and Culture,” which provided an introduction to major authors, movements, and themes of Spanish American literature from the Discovery to the present.

Ourida Mostefai

Ourida Mostefai continues to serve as the Director of the Brown University French Center of Excellence. Her professional activities include her membership on the editorial boards of Eighteenth-Century Studies and of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, two refereed journals respectively of the American and British societies for 18th-century Studies. She served as the Chair of the Selection Committee for the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for the best book in French and Francophone Studies. After completing her second term as President of the Rousseau Association, she was elected to the Executive Board of the society.

She co-edited a volume on the question of silence in the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Silence, Implicite et Non-dit chez Rousseau / Silence, the Implicit and the Unspoken in Rousseau, Leiden: Brill/Rodopi, 2020) — in which she also authored a contribution — and published a chapter on “Exile, Displacement and Citizenship” for the recent MLA volume on pedagogical approaches to the French Revolution (Teaching Representations of the French Revolution, New York: Publications of the Modern Language Association, 2019).

She participated in a number of seminars on early modern topics, including Diderot and Catherine the Great, and Religious Toleration in Pierre Bayle. She lectured on Rousseau’s novel and theater at international conferences in Stockholm, Sweden, Edinburgh, Scotland and São Paulo, Brazil. During the past year, in which she began her service as Director of Undergraduate Studies in Comparative Literature, she taught a graduate seminar on 18th-century French theater and co-taught a Comparative Literature course on “Borders, Exiles, Language” with Prof. Marc Redfield.

Jeffrey Muller

Jeffrey Muller taught two courses in History of Art and Architecture with a focus on the Early Modern World. The first, “Arts Between Europe and the World: 1500-1700”, considered how arts and visual objects of all kinds mediate between Europe and regions of the world which were laid open to contact through trade, conquest, religious conversion, and the exchange of knowledge. This seminar sought to identify the major contexts of these exchanges and the best methods to understand their histories, considering the conditions which enabled or prevented mutual recognition. The course examined the ways in which foreign materials were imported and integrated, such as Chinese porcelain in the Netherlands or European glass in China. The balances of power which determined these exchanges, from the colonial extinction of Pre-Columbian art to the adaptation of western perspective in Japanese prints, were also considered.

The second, “Dutch and Flemish Art: Visual Culture of the Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century” surveyed the amazing art in Holland and Flanders that revolutionized all media. The class showed how paintings, sculpture, and architecture formed the historical environment of life in the 17th-century Netherlands. The work of such artists as Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Vermeer was  presented as part of this history of art in a "golden age."

Jeremy Mumford

Jeremy Mumford has published an article this year entitled ‘A Child Marriage in Early Colonial Cuzco’ in the Journal of Family History. This article examines an arranged marriage between a seven-year-old Inka girl and an adult Spanish man, and the prosecution that followed. Historians of marriage in the early modern Hispanic world have found broad support for the principle of free consent, which underlay Catholic marriage law and prohibited child marriage. Child marriage was legally invalid and rare. Yet, in this case none of the participants, whether Spanish or indigenous, in favor or opposed to the marriage, considered child marriage to be wrong in itself. The marriage of a child provided members of two ruling castes (colonial elites and colonized Inkas) a shared space for family alliance.

Jeremy Mumford has also taught two courses in the department of History with a partial or total focus on the early modern world:  “History of the Andes from Incas to Evo Morales”  and “Colonial Latin America.”

Tara Nummedal


Tara Nummedal and her colleague Donna Bilak completed their co-edited exploration of the German physician Michael Maier’s musical, alchemical emblem book, Atalanta fugiens (1618). A pilot project of Brown’s Mellon-funded Digital Scholarship Initiative, Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens, with Scholarly Commentary appeared in July 2020 with the University of Virginia's Studies in Early Modern German History series. The born-digital publication makes the multimedia and multilingual book accessible to modern readers, advances scholarship about both Atalanta fugiens and the shifting anxieties around the early modern disciplines that bridged sense and intellect, theory and practice, scholarship and craft, and explores the possibilities of digital tools and technologies available today.

While bringing this project to a close, Nummedal also continued to experiment with collaboration for teaching and research this year. In addition to her two lecture courses on early modern Europe and the history of science in the Renaissance, she co-taught two seminars with her History colleagues. In the fall, she and modern Latin Americanist Daniel Rodriguez teamed up again to teach “The Theory and Practice of History” to a wonderfully diverse cohort of new Ph.D. students in History, English, and American Studies. In the spring, Nummedal and fellow early modernist Hal Cook co-taught a graduate seminar examining premodern ways of knowing through the entangled histories of art, craft, science, and medicine in the premodern world. The  course was a Cogut Institute Collaborative Humanities seminar taught in tandem with two colleagues at the University of Minnesota, J.B. Shank and Michael Gaudio, and their students. The two planned joint meetings in Providence and the Twin Cities were to have included historical reconstructions of a 16th-century recipe for casting sulfur in a bread matrix, as well as a symposium of graduate research in May. Unfortunately, both were cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. Nevertheless, the two scholarly communities were able to come together virtually in ways that were both challenging and enriching to pursue an interdisciplinary exploration of tangibility, picturability, transformability, mobility, and (in)corporeality. Getting to know this interdisciplinary group of graduate students from both Brown and the University of Minnesota was a highlight of the class.

Melinda Rabb


My new book, Miniature and the English Imagination: Literature, Cognition, and Small-Scale Culture 1650-1765 (Cambridge University Press, 2019), came out from Cambridge University Press in 2019, along with two more publications: an essay about Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, and the English Civil Wars in Reading Swift (Hans Verlag, 2019) and a chapter on satire and the domestic sphere in The Oxford Companion of Eighteenth-Century Satire (Oxford University Press, 2020). I was an invited speaker at two events: the Dublin Swift Symposium in Ireland in November, 2019 and at the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies in England in January, 2020.

New articles include: "'Little snarling lapdogs': Satire and Domesticity" in The Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth-Century Satire, edited by Paddy Bullard (Oxford University Press, 2020) and "Swift, Defoe, and the Meaning of (Bare) Life" in Reading Swift, edited by Hermann Real (Hans Verlag, 2019.)

Guest lectures and talks: "Swift and the Pursuit of Happiness"—Invited speaker at the Swift Symposium, Marsh's Library, Dublin, Ireland (November, 2019) I was also invited to participate in a roundtable on The Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth-Century Satire, BSECS annual meeting (British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies), Oxford, England (January 2020.)

Richard Rambuss

In Fall 2019 I taught a graduate seminar in the English Department, "Lyric and Ecstasy", on three 17th-century poets: John Donne, Richard Crashaw, and John Milton. It drew ten graduate students. This past November I also delivered the annual Paul Gottschalk Memorial Lecture at Cornell. My lecture was titled: "Milton, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Carnival New Orleans Style."

Massimo Riva


Massimo Riva has a project in progress: Italian Shadows. A Curious History of Virtual Reality (Digital Monograph). A Pilot Project of the Brown Digital Publications Initiative. This is an archaeological exploration of virtual reality revolving around eight optical-enhancing devices from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as a magic lantern, moving panorama, or stereoscope. Readers will have two navigation options: They can move through this digital monograph horizontally, following the text with its embedded simulations and illustrations as well as its many links to networked multimedia; or they can proceed modularly, choosing to engage immediately with any one of the interactive simulations. The horizontal method may be preferable for scholarly readers interested in all the nuances of the argument developed in the long-form narrative. The modular approach may be more attractive for readers who prefer to chart their own path—the excitement of curiosity is also a main facet of the devices discussed in this work — yet it will also be useful for scholars wishing to drill down on the simulations to evaluate the author’s argument. The objective is to establish a reciprocal relationship between the text and the simulations, with each making the critical goals of the other not only more accessible and clear but also more compelling. Italian Shadows is forthcoming with Stanford University Press.

Prof. Riva's courses are linked to web projects to which students and other scholars can actively contribute. These are The Decameron Web, Progetto Pico, and Garibaldi & the Risorgimento.

Holly Shaffer

Holly Shaffer taught two courses cross-listed by the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World. The first, “Food and Art in the Early Modern World” looked at the relation between the taste for food and for art in the early modern world. From the movement of spices, scents, chocolate, and sugar to the vessels that were invented to contain them, the class investigated the trade and circulation of foods and objects, before turning to cities that flourished in the wake of such consumption across the globe and their dedication to pleasure and devotion. Finally, participants considered the significance of memory and migration through cookbooks, metaphors, and dinner parties.

Secondly, the Cogut Institute Collaborative Humanities seminar “Tracing Translations: Artistic Migrations and Reinventions in the Early Modern World” considered what happens when arts and ideas move. It examined processes of artistic and literary translation, from the repetition and reuse of narratives to the uncanny meeting of pictorial conventions to the tweaks, adjustments, and inventions that propelled arts across the early modern world. The seminar addressed theories of translation and imitation, and focused on problems of style, language, impostors, dictionaries, media, and ethnography, especially in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The class also provided training in artistic practices of replication and a collaborative project with special collections.

Jessica Stair

Members of the undergraduate seminar HIAA 1151: Painting Indigenous Histories in Colonial Mexico examine books and manuscripts from the JCB collection. Pictured from left to right: Jessica Stair, Parker Zane, Andres O’Sullivan-Comparan, and Grace Wilkins.

Jessica Stair is a Mellon Postdoctoral Research Associate, affiliated with the Cogut Institute for the Humanities and the Department of History of Art and Architecture.

She teaches courses on the visual culture of colonial Latin America. During the fall semester, she participated in a roundtable at the John Carter Brown Library, Mexico 1519: 5 Centuries, 5 Objects, 5 Approaches, and also taught an undergraduate seminar, Authority, Identity, and Visual Culture in Colonial Latin America. During the spring semester she taught an undergraduate seminar that focused on indigenous manuscripts from the John Carter Brown Library’s collection. The course culminated with students creating an online exhibition hosted on the JCB web site titled Picturing the Past: Indigenous Expressions in Colonial Mexico. Jessica also presented a new paper, Inscribing the Hand: Mapping and Memory in Colonial Mexico, in the Cogut Institute for the Humanities seminar in April. During the fall semester she finalized her article, Invoking Body and Voice: Deixis and Multivalency in the Techialoyan Manuscripts, which will be published in the journal, Word & Image, later this year.

Adam Teller

Teller-book image.jpg

Without a question, the most important thing for me in the last year, academically speaking, was the publication of my new book, Rescue the Surviving Souls: The Great Jewish Refugee Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (Princeton University Press, 2020) the culmination of more than a decade’s research. A revised version of one of the chapters was published in the journal, "Jewish History". In addition, my Hebrew-language article on Jewish military activity during the 1648 Khmelnytsky uprising in Ukraine was published in the Festschrift for Prof. Israel Bartal of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The work on the project on the digitization of early modern Jewish communal records (pinkassim) of whose academic committee I was a member, was completed, and over 200 mss. in Hebrew and Judaeo-German have been published on-line at the website of the National Library of Israel.  I also continued to work on a new project in co-operation with colleagues at the Charles University in Prague: entitled "Transregional Contacts and Connections in the Early Modern Ashkenazi World," it will involve a number of preparatory workshops to be held in the fall of 2020, an international conference in Prague in 2021, and the publication of a volume of research thereafter.

This year, I delivered the annual Aron Freimann Lecture in Jewish Culture at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany and spoke on my research at Birkbeck College of the University of London in the UK and the Polin Museum for the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.