Previous Events

  • As an aesthetic form, lyric poetry has an intricate, jewel-like specificity: its linguistic play, formal innovations, and personal address have made it appear deeply rooted in particular, personal contexts, difficult to translate, its nuances perhaps near-impossible to grasp across deep cultural divides. And yet, at the same time, lyric also makes claims to the universal, speaking of timeless themes that defy historical contingencies, and seeking, ostensibly, to engage our most fundamental human feelings. This paradox — a staple of debates in studies of the lyric — takes on greater stakes when juxtaposed with the recent critical turn towards the Global Renaissance: can we speak of a “global lyric studies” of the early modern period, and why might we want to do so? What might such a thing look like? Can we usefully discuss lyric traditions in Europe and South Asia alongside each other, or are the particular literary and linguistic histories of these regions too disparate to make the comparison worthwhile? This talk explores some of the methodological, philosophical, and political challenges that plague cross-cultural studies of the lyric and suggests some avenues for future research. It considers why poetry (lyric in particular) has seemed resistant to historicism and asks how we might align aesthetic and historical considerations across geographies while studying distinctive artistic practices. In the process, Ramachandran explores a multifaceted understanding of the lyric — from the material cultures of lyric production and dissemination, its performance and transmission across different audiences, to its philosophic claims and ethical function.

    A literary critic and cultural historian of early modern Europe, Ayesha Ramachandran is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University. Her first book, The Worldmakers (University of Chicago Press, 2015), charts transnational encounters and the early mechanisms of globalization from the late fifteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. It was awarded the MLA’s Scaglione prize in Comparative Literary Studies (2017), the Milton Society of America’s Shawcross Prize for the best book chapter on Milton (2016), and the Sixteenth Century Studies Association’s Founder’s Prize for the best first book manuscript (2015). Her interests, beyond the English, French, and Italian literary traditions, extend to Portuguese, Spanish, and Neo-Latin materials and more recently, with the support of a Mellon New Directions Fellowship (2016), to Persian and early modern South Asia. Her current book project, Lyric Thinking: Humanism, Selfhood, Modernity, argues for the central importance of lyric form and language in shaping new intellectual possibilities for the self in the early modern period and beyond. Moving from Petrarch to Descartes, while also considering their afterlives in modernist writing, it draws together scholarship on theories of mind, cognition, and meditation with a complex literary history of lyric’s foundational encounters with other genres, particularly the epic.

    This event, presented by the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World , is free and open to the public. 

    Early Modern World, Humanities
  • Spenser, in his “Epithalamion,” invokes two figures from classical antiquity who bore children for Jove. Why Spenser invokes Maia and Alcmene, who lay with Jove against their will, is one question to be explored; another is why Spenser suggests that Jove has also lain with his own bride, Elizabeth. When we consider, however, that these unions produced Hermes and Hercules, the picture becomes clearer: Spenser is focused not on Elizabeth’s consent, but on her bearing an extraordinary heir. This de-emphasis on the erotics of love in favor of the exigency of procreation is the central legacy of Spenser’s poem for Donne’s “Epithalamion Made at Lincoln’s Inn” which dispenses altogether with the bride’s pleasure: she is a “pleasing sacrifice.” This paper will bring the myths of Maia and Alcmene into conversation with Spenser and Donne’s “Epithalamia” in order to reconsider the fate of this peculiar genre in Renaissance poetry.

    Ramie Targoff is Professor of English at Brandeis University. She teaches and studies Renaissance literature, with an emphasis on the relationship between literature and religion. She has written books on the invention of common prayer and its influence on Renaissance devotional poetry, on the works of the poet and preacher John Donne, and on Renaissance love poetry. Her newest book, Renaissance Woman: The Life of Vittoria Colonna (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), is a biography of the sixteenth-century Italian poet.

    Free and open to the public. This event, presented by the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World , is co-sponsored by the Department of English and the Marshall Woods Lectureship Foundation of the Arts.

    Early Modern World, Humanities
  • Naples possesses the relics of S. Gennaro, including his head, bones, and dried blood which melts and boils up to three times a year. The miraculous liquefaction drew visitors from all over Counter-Reformation Europe. In the seventeenth century, authors complained that even though Muley el-Hassan, the exiled king of Tunis, had seen the miracle in 1543, he still failed to convert. The example of his hard heart only enhanced the spectacular cases of those Muslims who did seek baptism, including some members of the king’s own family. 

    Free and open to the public. Please RSVP to [email protected] .

    Cristelle Baskins is Associate Professor at Tufts University where she has taught courses in Italian Renaissance Art History since 1997. Her articles on Turkmens, Syrian Christians, Armenians, and Baroque travelers have appeared in Muqarnas, Renaissance Studies, the Journal for the Society of Armenian Studies, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and the Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. She has held fellowships including a Fulbright-Hayes to Italy, a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship, an Aga Khan Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a Newhouse Center Fellowship at Wellesley College. In April 2019 she will participate in a day-long symposium in Tunis, co-sponsored by the University of Sfax, Tunisia, and the Spanish Embassy.

    This event, presented by the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World, is free and open to the public. 

    Early Modern World, Humanities