Center for the Study of the Early Modern World

Through the humanities and humanistic social sciences, the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World interrogates historical cultures around the world between the waning of feudalism and the arrival of global industrial capitalism, from the 1300s to the end of the 1800s. The Center emphasizes collaboration and discussion beyond individual areas of expertise, fostering an interdisciplinary approach to the period while also contributing to the historical understanding of the modern world. Read more.

Upcoming Events

  • India was the scene for the production of a vast, internally diverse chronicle literature in Persian during the period 1500–1900 C.E. During the 19th century, European scholars made selective use of this material to create the modern understanding of South Asian history that remains dominant to the present. Shahzad Bashir discusses concepts pertaining to time that undergird a variety of understandings of the past in the original literature, highlighting matters left out by 19th-century interpreters and their later followers invested in nationalist histories. The exploration is part of a larger project aimed at questioning the framework for ‘Islamic’ history in modern scholarship.

    Shahzad Bashir specializes in Islamic Studies with interests in the intellectual and social histories of the societies of Iran and Central and South Asia circa 14th century C.E. to the present. His published work is concerned with the study of Sufism and Shi’ism, messianic movements originating in Islamic contexts, representation of corporeality in hagiographic texts and Persian miniature paintings, religious developments during the Timurid and Safavid periods, and modern transformations of Islamic societies.

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

    Early Modern World, History, Cultural Studies, Languages, Humanities
  • Folger Shakespeare Library Weekend Seminar
    The Visual Art of Grammar: Iconographies of Language from Europe to the Americas”

    This event is by registration only, with priority in admission accorded to faculty members, postdoctoral scholars, and advanced graduate students. The deadline to enroll is September 3, 2019. Apply.

    Grammar was the cornerstone of Renaissance humanism. The design and decoration of manuscripts and books devoted to the discipline signaled its importance, while elaborate diagrams and allegorical illustrations gave a fuller impression of the vital role of grammar in education. Such visualizations could acquire deeper significance, given the connection in ancient Greek between gramma, “drawing” or “letter,” and grammatike, source of the Latin grammatica. Further depictions and emblems were devised by creole and native artists in the Americas, as missionary linguists applied the European art of grammar to the systematization of indigenous languages in the New World. This interdisciplinary seminar will welcome up to sixteen faculty and graduate student participants to consider the early modern iconography of grammar as a basis for exploring broader historical conceptions of the relation between language and the visual field. Participants will also have the opportunity to examine copies of relevant Renaissance texts from the John Hay Library as well as a number of grammars, artes (manuals), and vocabularies of American languages in the John Carter Brown Library.

    Director: Andrew Laird is John Rowe Workman Distinguished Professor of Classics and Humanities at Brown University. His books include Powers of Expression, Expressions of Power (Oxford University Press, 1999), The Epic of America (Bloomsbury, 2006) and Antiquities and Classical Traditions in Latin America (Wiley, 2018). His most recent publications treat the relation of Latin to Amerindian languages, and the influence of European humanism on missionaries and native scholars in post-conquest Mexico. The seminar will be joined by Ahuvia Kahane (Trinity College Dublin).

    This event is presented by the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World.

    Early Modern World, History, Cultural Studies, Languages, Humanities
  • What do a Chinese élite lady in Shanghai, a Portuguese duchess in Madrid, an Austrian queen in Lisbon, and a Bavarian countess in Augsburg all have in common? These women, in spite of distance in time and space, all became revered patronesses of the Jesuit missions in China in the early modern period.

    Candida Xu (許甘第大, 1607-1680), granddaughter of the most prominent Chinese Catholic convert of the late Ming period, the imperial Grand Secretary Xu Guangqi 徐光啓, once widowed at age forty-six poured her fortune and energies in religious endeavors within the Catholic mission, and became a paragon of patronage and holiness both for her compatriots and the European readers of her French (1688), Spanish (1691) and Dutch (1694) biographies.

    The Portuguese noblewoman and heiress Maria de Guadalupe de Lencastre y Cárdenas Manrique, Duchess of Aveiro (1630-1715), cultivated a sprawling epistolary network with Jesuit missionaries across the globe, including several in China, financially supporting them, and receiving in return spiritual blessings and information on their activities.

    Maria Anna Habsburg of Austria (1683-1754), Queen Consort of Portugal and Regent of Portugal from 1742 until 1750, through her Jesuit confessor, the Austrian astronomer of the China Portuguese mission Augustin Hallerstein, organized a lavish embassy to the Qianlong Emperor to save the Chinese church from annihilation.

    Finally, Countess Maria Theresia von Fugger-Wellenburg (1690-1762), a descendant of the Fugger banking dynasty in Swabia, through the Bavarian Jesuit Florian Bahr, supported Chinese abandoned infants and acted as a chain of communication between the Qing and the Wittelsbach courts.

    This presentation examines these prominent women’s interactions with, and patronage of, the Jesuit missionaries in China, and, how, through their correspondence, as well as their political and financial influence, they sustained a far-flung network of male ecclesiastical admirers and expressed feminine spirituality and influence across the continents.

    Eugenio Menegon teaches Chinese and world history at Boston University. His latest book, Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China (Harvard Asia Center and Harvard University Press, 2009) centers on the life of Catholic communities in Fujian province since the 1630s. His current book project is an examination of the daily life and political networking of European residents at the Qing court in Beijing in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    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
  • Feb
    20
    5:30pm

    Anne Dunlop, University of Melbourne

    List Art Building

    Anne Dunlop, Professor of Fine Arts, Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne will present the second lecture in the yearlong lecture series entitled “On Speculation.”

    The series is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture’s Margerie Cutler, Joseph Edinburgh, and Kenneth List funds.

    Additional support comes from the Center for Contemporary South Asia, and the C.V. Starr Foundation Lectureship Fund.

    Early Modern World, HIAA Annual Lecture Series, History, Cultural Studies, Languages, Humanities
  • EARLY MODERN ANNUAL LECTURE
    Writing History in the Sixteenth Century: Remarking the Boundaries of a Discipline in the New Spain

    After their conquest and colonization of Mexico in the 1500s, the Spaniards needed to understand the customs and the past of the native peoples in order to impose their own law and authority. But European ideas of time and history are not universal: how did Mesoamerican cosmology make sense in terms of Christian European chronology? And how did indigenous people retain or understand memory of the pre-Hispanic past? This lecture will show how both Spaniards and Indians began to produce a new form of world history.

    Serge Gruzinski has taught at the Écoles des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris, as well as in Brazil (Bélem) and the United States (Princeton). His work has been translated into numerous languages and he has authored more than twenty books including The Mestizo Mind: The Intellectual Dynamics of Colonization and Globalization (Routledge, 2002), What Time is it There? America and Islam at the Dawn of Modern Times (Polity Press, 2011) and The Eagle and the Dragon: Globalization and European Dreams of Conquest in China and America in the Sixteenth Century (Polity Press, 2014). He has received several honorary doctorates and awards, including the Howard F. Cline Memorial Prize 1991, Médaille d’argent of the CNRS 1996, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur 2000, and the First International Prize in History at the 22nd Congress of the International Committee of Historical Sciences (ICHS) in Jinan, China in 2015.

    This is the first of a series of prestigious public lectures instituted at Brown by the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World. The lectures will be held each year in the Spring semester.

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

    Early Modern World, History, Cultural Studies, Languages, Humanities, Identity, Culture, Inclusion, International, Global Engagement

Previous Events

  • Theatre Without Borders/Théâtre sans frontières
    Translating, Circulating and Performing Early Modern Drama

    The conference explores the work of Corneille in the context of European theatre and the circulation of early modern drama through both translation and performance, from the 17th to the 20th century.

    Friday, September 27, 2019
    Conveners: Karen Newman, Owen F. Walker ’33 Professor of Humanities, and Lewis Seifert, Professor of French Studies
    9:00 AM – 9:30 AM Coffee and Pastries
    9:30 AM – 9:45 AM Welcome
    9:45 AM – 10:45 AM Jennifer Row (University of Minnesota) • Corneille’s Queer Temporalities
    10:45AM – 11:45 AM Christian Biet (Université Paris Nanterre) • La Place Royale, ou l’urbanisme moderne : les lieux de la nouvelle comédie
    11:45 AM – 12:00 PM Break
    12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Katherine Ibbett (Trinity College, Oxford) • Andromaque in Translation: Foreignness and Refuge
    1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Lunch
    2:30 PM – 3:30 PM François Lecercle (Université de Paris-Sorbonne) • Corneille’s Comedies and the Rise of Theatrophobia
    3:30 PM – 4:00 PM Coffee Break
    4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Michael Moon (Emory University) • Corneille, Racine, Molière, and New York Queer Theater in the 1960s and After
    5:00 PM – 6:00 PM Reception

    The event is free and open to the public.

    This conference is presented by the French Center of Excellence and the Department of Comparative Literature with the support of the French Embassy’s Cultural Services, and is co-sponsored by the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, the Department of French Studies, and the Center for the Study of the Early Modern World.

    Center of Excellence, Conference, Early Modern World, Humanities
  • The U.S.-Mexico border and divided opinions about immigration have become a matter of acute national controversy, but buried far beneath these concerns is a centuries-long tie between the United States and the wider Hispanic world, reaching back to a time well before the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620. 

    Carrie Gibson received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2011, focusing on the Hispanic Caribbean in the era of the Haitian Revolution. Her latest work, El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America, was published in February 2019. She is also the author of Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day (Pan Macmillan, 2014). Before embarking on a career as a historian, Gibson was a journalist for the Guardian and Observer, and continues to contribute to media outlets. She was born and raised in the U.S., but has lived in London for more than two decades.

    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
  • The U.S.-Mexico border and divided opinions about immigration have become a matter of acute national controversy, but buried far beneath these concerns is a centuries-long tie between the United States and the wider Hispanic world, reaching back to a time well before the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620. This talk will outline that history, discussing the early attempts by the Spanish to place settlements in Florida in the 16th century and further efforts to extend Spain’s empire northward — until the early 19th century, when the wars for independence brought this era to an end. At the same time, this paper will situate these events in the context of the development of the United States, in order to consider the place of this largely forgotten early history in the larger vista of contemporary national memory.

    Carrie Gibson received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2011, focusing on the Hispanic Caribbean in the era of the Haitian Revolution. Her latest work, El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America, was published in February 2019. She is also the author of Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day (Pan Macmillan, 2014). Before embarking on a career as a historian, Gibson was a journalist for the Guardian and Observer, and continues to contribute to media outlets. She was born and raised in the U.S., but has lived in London for more than two decades.

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

    On 9/26, Carrie Gibson will participate in a book signing preceded by an informal talk for the general public at Books on the Square. Read more .

    Early Modern World, Humanities
  • 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