Orbis

Orbis.2.jpgFROM THE DIRECTOR

Despite some challenges in the past months, 2019-20 has been a year of transition and dynamic transformation for the Center which has now grown to incorporate some 50 Faculty and Associate Members, making it one of the largest units in the Humanities at Brown. With the generous support of the Cogut Institute, it has been possible to pursue a range of interdisciplinary initiatives. Many activities have been organized in connection with our three-year program of lectures and events, Remarking Boundaries, which has involved scholars, writers and artists who have taken borders for their topic of inquiry, whether those borders seek to delimit territories, disciplines or more fundamental orientations.

The series was launched by the historian and author Carrie Gibson's lecture on the forgotten Hispanic history of the US. Other exciting contributions to date have included Shahzad Bashir's talk on the significance of Persian chronicles in early modern India; Eugenio Menegon's exploration of the role of women as sponsors of Jesuit missions in China; Anne Dunlop's investigation of the cultural transfer of gold from Gothic Italy to Cattelan’s America; Gary Cestaro's analysis of Same-Sex Desire in Dante; and Andrés Eichmann's rehabilitation of a lost literature from colonial Charcas, now Bolivia.

The Center is sustaining Brown's longstanding association with the Folger Institute and Library in Washington DC. Last November, a Folger Faculty Seminar, The Visual Art of Grammar, was hosted at Brown for the first time. We have also had successful collaborations with other local and national institutions including the John Carter Brown Library, the New England Renaissance Conference and RISD. In conjunction with the Department of History of Art and Architecture we are hosting Jessica Stair as a Cogut Institute Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. The Hay Library is generously continuing its partnership with the Center with the appointment of Kenneth Molloy as Hay Library Fellow for 2020-21.

Graduate students play a vital part in the intellectual life of the Center, bringing their talents and interests to a wide range of activities. The Early Modern World Graduate Colloquium, led last year by Dominic Bate, will continue in 2020-21, and another of our graduate members, Erika Valdivieso has won the 2020 Joukowsky Dissertation prize.

The past academic year has proved productive and fulfilling, and a number of activities, many exploring new media and formats, are now being scheduled for 2020-21. The fall program will open on September 23 with a lecture by Connie Scozzaro entitled Love is the Drug: Sex, Pharmacology, and Early Modern Feminism followed on October 7 by a talk from Nick Jones of Bucknell University: Staging "Habla de Negros" in the Iberian Early Modern. A special series of presentations aimed at graduate students and early career scholars will begin in 2021: The Early Modern World in United States Libraries and Collections: Orientations and Opportunities. 

Such programs of scheduled events are only a small part of what the Center has achieved: the past year has been one in which our members have been energetic in pioneering research, developing innovative courses and many other scholarly endeavors. The Center originally developed in 2017, from a longstanding undergraduate program at Brown. Now relaunched as Early Modern World Studies, this specialized cross-disciplinary program is attracting an unprecedented number of concentrators for 2020-21 and we are continuing to develop our provision of adventurous range of classes and seminars, better to reflect the diversity and complexity of early modern societies, histories and traditions.

It is a matter of pride that the pioneering, inclusive and interdisciplinary ethos of the Center for the Study for the Early Modern World is now gaining recognition beyond Brown, and it is a positive development that other institutions are now following our lead. Harvard University, for example, will be launching later this month an Early Modern World initiative which is consonant with our own. The exciting prospects for collaborations and competition in the future mean that there is much to be done, and much to look forward to in the years ahead.

Andrew Laird
September 2020