Age of Impostors: Fraud, Identification, and the Self in Early Modern Europe

1978L [CRN: 15144]

Alchemists claiming to possess the philosophers' stone; basilisks for sale in the market; Jews pretending to be Catholics; women dressing as men: early modern Europe appeared to be an age of impostors. Officials responded to this perceived threat by hiring experts and creating courts, licenses, passports, and other new methods of surveillance in an era before reliable documentation, photography, and DNA. And yet one person's fraud was another's self-fashioning. We will examine instances of dissimulation, self-fashioning, and purported fraud, efforts to identify and stem deception, and debates about what was at stake when people and things were not what they seemed. Enrollment limited to 20.
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