Current Program Offerings

The Folger’s Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama invites applications to an NEH summer workshop on digital play texts in the classroom.

For more information, see the full workshop description on Folgerpedia.

Applications due March 1, 2016.

Below are the descriptions for the programs on offer during the 2015–2016 academic year. Program formats vary, but each program is oriented around a specific topic or scholarly approach. Participants are encouraged to pursue their individual research interests within that topic. Before you submit an application, please read the description carefully so that you can tailor your statement of research plans to that description. If you have any questions about these programs, or how to apply, please email

Application deadlines are specific to each program and are listed beneath its description. Please visit our application information page for further details about the application process. The first deadline for the year-long and fall programs is June 5, 2015.

2015–2016 scholarly programs


Cervantes’ Fictions and the Early Modern Historical Imagination
Mary Malcolm Gaylord
Fall Semester Seminar

For scholars and imitators alike, the character Don Quixote’s “true history” continues to fascinate as meta-fictional puzzle. In the work that propelled the book about the writing of the book into international circulation, Cervantes has often been credited with inventing the modern novel. Yet Cervantes’ rehearsals of the rhetorical conventions and epistemological challenges of historiography, along with keen attention to his own historical present, suggest that much is lost by reducing this fascination to burlesque or mimetic realism. Along with the romances, pseudo-histories, spurious chronicles, and epics often cited as inspiration for Cervantes’ writings, seminar participants will look to Old and New World histories the author surreptitiously devoured and mimicked. By taking the novelist’s engagement with history seriously, the seminar will reconsider the provenance of his “inventions,” his parodic and satiric agendas, and the relation of novels to the writing of history. Readings, both in Spanish and in translation, will focus primarily on Don Quixote I and II, the Novelas Ejemplares, and Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda as meta-historical fictions.

Director: Mary Malcolm Gaylord is Sosland Family Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. Beginning with The Historical Prose of Fernando de Herrera, she has written widely on early modern Hispanic literature, poetics and historiography. Her current projects explore transatlantic intersections of historical and literary imagination in Cervantes and Renaissance and Baroque poetry.

Schedule: Fridays, 1 pm – 4:30 pm, October 2 through December 18, 2015, excluding October 16 and November 27.

Apply: September 4, 2015 for admission and grants-in-aid.


Theatres of Learning: Education in Early Modern England (1500-1750)
Fall Conference

Scholars of early modern English literature and history tend to think of education and learning in light of its effects on a particular mind, trend, or event. This conference takes education itself as its primary object of study. It invites scholars to reconsider the transmission of knowledge and expertise in formal and informal settings, between and among institutions and pedagogical practices, and across a wide range of intellectual communities as they investigate the traditional and innovative approaches to learning that co-existed at the time. Invited speakers will renew the historical study of pedagogy in a number of fields: classical rhetorical training, self-improvement, social mobility and advancement, individual and collective educational settings, non-traditional and gendered literacies, the theory and reality of pedagogical practice, extra-institutional learning, learned culture in England and abroad, and the emergence of academic and professional disciplines.

OrganizersLynn Enterline (Vanderbilt University), Margaret J.M. Ezell (Texas A&M University), Mordechai Feingold (California Institute of Technology), and Nicholas Tyacke (University College London), each a former director of an Institute faculty weekend seminar on a learning institution or aspect of education, and Owen Williams (The Folger Institute).

Invited Speakers: The conference opens with a plenary lecture on Thursday evening by Sir Keith Thomas (All Souls College, Oxford). A second plenary on Saturday morning welcomes Peter Mack (University of Warwick). Other invited speakers include Ian W. Archer (Keble College, Oxford), Heidi Brayman Hackel (University of California, Riverside), Carol Pal (Bennington College), Elizabeth Hanson (Queen’s University, Canada), Lorna Hutson (University of St. Andrews), Lisa Jardine (University College London), Elizabeth Mazzola (City College, CUNY), Nicholas Popper (College of William and Mary), Ursula Potter (University of Sydney), Jean-Louis Quantin (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne, Paris), and Richard Serjeantson (Trinity College, Cambridge).

Dedicated to the memory of Christopher Brooks (Durham University), this conference is offered in conjunction with a Folger exhibition on the practice of law in early modern England.

Schedule: Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday, October 15–17, 2015.

Registration is open until September 30, 2015.


Periodization 2.0
Kristen Poole
Fall Weekend Symposium

This symposium will interrogate the intellectual consequences of the habits and practices of periodization. It seeks to push the discussion of periodization beyond first-wave debates (such as “Renaissance” versus “Early Modern”) to consider various modes of temporal organization. Scholars from a variety of disciplines will discuss how period categories function in their respective academic homes, and how trans-disciplinary intellectual conversations are affected by diverse epistemologies of periodization. Sessions will explore the constructive intellectual framework that periodization provides to scholars, what historical study might look like without traditional period divisions, emergent models of temporal organization, the ways material culture allows scholars to rethink temporal categories, how period categories are deployed in the study of the fine arts, the notion of historical period in the context of literary forms, and, as a case study, to what extent Shakespeare’s plays themselves may shape notions of historical periodization.

Organizer: Kristen Poole is Professor of English at the University of Delaware. She is author of, most recently, Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare’s England: Spaces of Demonism, Divinity, and Drama (2011). Her current work focuses on the place of allegory in seventeenth-century scientific thought.

Invited speakers: Ethan Shagan (University of California, Berkeley) will deliver a plenary lecture on Thursday evening. Panelists representing a number of different disciplines and perspectives have been invited to begin discussion. They include: Heather Dubrow (Fordham University), Kate Giles (University of York), Tim Harris (Brown University), Wendy Heller (Princeton University), Natasha Korda (Wesleyan University), Julia Reinhard Lupton (University of California, Irvine), Keith Moxey (Barnard College/Columbia University), James Simpson (Harvard University), Mihoko Suzuki (University of Miami), Gordon Teskey (Harvard University), Julian Yates (University of Delaware), and Steven Zwicker (Washington University in St. Louis). David Wallace (University of Pennsylvania) to co-moderate the culminating session with Kristen Poole.

Schedule: Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday, November 5–7, 2015.

Apply: September 4, 2015 for admission and grants-in-aid.


Researching the Archive
Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker
Year-long Dissertation Seminar

Designed for advanced doctoral candidates in History and English, this monthly seminar seeks to interrogate and to focus participants’ dissertation projects through discussion and debate. It will encourage members of the seminar to consider their work in the context of current preoccupations in early modern—and especially interdisciplinary—scholarship. The seminar will also foster the use of the Folger’s rich archives, primary resources, and scholarly community, but our main concern will be to bring research questions into sharp and productive focus. Applicants should consult with their dissertation directors before applying to ensure that their work is at a stage that would benefit from the seminar. Admission will depend in part on the dissertation director’s written certification of that fact, with preference given to candidates who have completed course work and preliminary exams or the equivalent. Applicants should be preparing a prospectus or beginning to draft chapters. Those whose dissertations are substantially complete will not be competitive applicants. Preference will also be given to those who will make significant use of the Library’s collections as part of each monthly visit. The grant-in-aid allows for an average of two nights’ stay per session.

Co-Directors: Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker both hold endowed chairs in the humanities at Washington University in St. Louis where they have taught early modern studies separately and together for some time. Their most recent collaborative endeavors were The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell (2011) and Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurricane (2012). As a solo production, Hirst’s most recent work was Dominion: England and Its Island Neighbors, 1500-1707 (2012); his current research focuses on responses to empire in Restoration England and on the culture of voting. Zwicker’s most recent collaboration is Lord Rochester in the Restoration World (with Matthew Augustine, 2015), and his current projects include the 21st-Century Oxford Authors edition of John Dryden.

Schedule: Fridays, 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm, September 25, October 23, November 20, December 18, 2015; January 22, February 19, March 11, April 15, 2016.

Apply: June 5, 2015 for admission and grants-in-aid. Please note that eligibility is restricted to consortium affiliates only.


Advanced Early Modern English Paleography
Heather Wolfe
December Weeklong Workshop

This workshop provides intermediate and advanced paleographers with the opportunity to sharpen their transcription skills by tackling some of the Folger’s most challenging manuscripts in a collaborative environment. As part of the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project, it is funded by a major grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Twelve to sixteen participants will transcribe and encode a group of Folger manuscripts with user-friendly online tools (no previous experience in XML encoding is necessary). Sessions will be devoted to group, individual, and team transcription, describing and dating hands, discussing participants’ research questions, and vetting transcriptions for inclusion in the EMMO corpus. In their application materials, applicants should describe their paleography experience and training. Applicants should also indicate which previously unedited Folger manuscript or manuscripts they would like to include in the week’s selections.

Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Dr. Wolfe has published widely on manuscripts in early modern England and is currently thinking about hybrid books, early modern writing paper, and filing systems. She is also Principal Investigator of the EMMO Project.

Schedule: Monday through Friday, 10:00 am – 4:45 pm, December 14–18, 2015.

Apply: September 4, 2015 for admission and funding. IMLS funding extends travel and lodging to admitted faculty and graduate student participants from US institutions and independent scholars who are US citizens. Others may apply for discretionary funding.


The Reformation of the Generations: Age, Ancestry, and Memory in England 1500-1700
Alexandra Walsham
Spring Semester Seminar

The origins, impact, and repercussions of the English Reformation have been the subject of lively debate. Although it is now widely recognized as a protracted process that extended over many decades and generations, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the links between the life cycle and religious change. Did age and ancestry matter during the English Reformation? To what extent did bonds of blood and kinship catalyze and complicate its path? And how did remembrance of these events evolve with the passage of time? This seminar will investigate the connections between the histories of the family, the perception of the past, and England’s plural and fractious Reformations. It invites participants from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to explore how the religious revolutions and movements of the period shaped, and were shaped by, the horizontal relationships that early modern people formed with their siblings, relatives, and peers, as well as the vertical ones that tied them to their dead ancestors and future heirs. It will also consider the role of the Reformation in reconfiguring conceptions of memory, history, and time itself.

Director: Alexandra Walsham, FBA, is Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. Her most recent books are The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland (2011) and Catholic Reformation in Protestant Britain (2014). Her current research on the relationship between religious and generational change is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship for 2015-18.

Schedule: Fridays, 1 pm – 4:30 pm, February 5 through April 29, 2016, excluding March 18, April 1, and April 15.

Apply: September 4, 2015 for admission and grants-in-aid; January 11, 2016 for admission only.


Shakespeare’s Theatrical Documents
Tiffany Stern
Spring Symposium

As well as being called “play-makers” and “poets,” playwrights in early modern England were sometimes known as “play-patchers.” This is because plays themselves could be viewed as a collection of odds and ends rather than a whole entity. This symposium, sponsored by the Institute’s Center for Shakespeare Studies as part of its triennial anniversary programming, will bring together panels of major scholars to explore the “patches” that made up Shakespeare’s texts before, during, and after performance. Participants will consider the documents from which a play was constructed (including plot-scenarios and snatches of co-authored text); the documents from which a play was performed (including actors’ parts, stage scrolls, prologues and epilogues, backstage plots, and arguments); and the documents into which a play resolved after performance (including ballads, chapbooks, and passages in miscellanies and commonplace books). Investigating the way documents inform and complicate our ideas about play-construction, performance, revision, and reception, the symposium will ask participants to consider whether plays themselves were ever whole entities: what is a play?

Organizer: Tiffany Stern is Professor of Early Modern Drama at Oxford University and a General Editor of Arden 4 Shakespeare. Her books include Shakespeare in Parts (co-written with Simon Palfrey, 2007) and Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (2009). She is currently writing a book about theaters and fairs, and another about documents after performance

Schedule: The symposium opens Thursday evening, March 17, 2016, when Professor Stern will deliver a public lecture, “From Script to Stage to Script,” the first in a series of 2016 anniversary lectures. The symposium will continue on Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19, 2016. Invited session leaders will pose framing questions that invite general discussion. 

Apply: January 11, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid.


More’s Utopia: Humanist Literature and Political Thought
Cathy Curtis
Late-Spring Seminar

On the quincentenary of the publication of Utopia, this seminar offered by the Folger Institute Center for the History of British Political Thought investigates Thomas More’s innovative text from the multiple perspectives of genre and rhetoric, international relations and diplomacy, and humanist political thought and action. While Utopia has been much studied, there remain crucial issues which warrant fresh attention: war and peace-making, liberty and tyranny, and freedom of speech and its limits. These conceptions are not confined to viewing “England” and “Europe” in opposition to Utopia, but necessitate an examination across global boundaries, between the Old  and New Worlds, and Christian Europe and the Islamic world in the light of More’s other writings and those of his humanist associates. The seminar will also be concerned with the early modern reception of Utopia, and participants are invited to bring their own research topics in this interdisciplinary field into the conversation. Contextual sources will range across genres and from the canonical to the more ephemeral. They will include poetry, dialogue, satire, political treatises, treaties, and diplomatic dispatches.

Director: Cathy Curtis is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland. She is the co-editor (with David Martin Jones) of the Parergon Special Issue Reason of State, Natural Law, and Early Modern Statecraft (2011) and is completing a book project on More’s political thought and diplomacy. She is also researching discourses of liberty, security, and reason of state in early modern political thought.

Schedule: Thursdays and Fridays, 1:00 pm – 4:30 pm, May 19 through June 17, 2016. The session on Friday,  May 27, will consist of a panel discussion with Bradin Cormack (Princeton University), Stephen Duncombe (Gallatin School at New York University), and David Norbrook (University of Oxford) that is open to all.

Apply: January 11, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid.


A Folger Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas
Late-Spring Intensive Skills Course

The best research is inquiry based and allows for serendipity. A scholar needs to sharpen research questions and search skills simultaneously and with sensitivity to the ways questions and sources affect each other. The available evidence may invite a new thesis, require a revised approach, or even suggest a new field of exploration. This intensive week is not designed to advance participants’ individual research projects. Rather, it aims to cultivate a habit of curiosity into primary sources with exercises that engage participants’ research interests. It is offered to help early-stage graduate students develop a set of research-oriented literacies as they explore the Folger’s rich collections. With the guidance of visiting faculty and Folger staff, up to two dozen participants will examine bibliographical tools and their logics, hone their early modern book description skills, and improve their understanding of the cultural and technological histories of texts. Participants will ask reflexive questions about the nature of primary sources, the collections that house them, and the tools whereby one can access them.

Schedule: Monday through Friday, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm, May 23–27, 2016.

ApplyJanuary 11, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid. This skills course is intended for students in the early years of graduate work. In addition to following the general application guidelines, applicants for this course should describe a research question, the motivating reason to look to primary sources to answer this question, and any previous experience with early modern materials. This skills course may be taken for one credit of independent graduate study; if a participant is able to arrange for one graduate credit on the home campus under the direction of an on-campus advisor, the Institute will certify participation. 


Introduction to English Paleography
Heather Wolfe
Late-Spring Intensive Skills Course
Supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

This weeklong course provides an intensive introduction to handwriting in early modern England, with a particular emphasis on the English secretary hand of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries. Working from manuscripts in the Folger collection, up to fifteen participants will be trained in the accurate reading and transcription of secretary, italic, and mixed hands. They will also experiment with contemporary writing materials (quills, iron gall ink, and paper), learn the terminology for describing and comparing letterforms, and become skillful decipherers of abbreviations, numbers, and dates. All transcriptions made by participants will become part of the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) database.

Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Dr. Wolfe has published widely on manuscripts in early modern England and is currently thinking about hybrid books, early modern writing paper, and filing systems. She is also Principal Investigator of the EMMO Project.

Schedule: Monday through Friday, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm, June 6–10, 2016.

Apply: January 11, 2016 for admission and grants-in-aid. Grants-in-aid are available by request for affiliates of the Institute’s Consortium, and Mellon funding extends eligibility for grants-in-aid to advanced PhD students and junior faculty at US colleges and universities, to advanced PhD students and junior faculty at Canadian institutions, to professional staff of US and Canadian libraries and museums, and to qualified independent scholars. Mellon funding also provides modest stipends to all admitted participants.


Cultural Histories of the Material World: Early Modern Books and Objects
Spring Workshop

In collaboration with the Bard Graduate Center, the Folger Institute will host a day-long workshop on early modern material studies. Topics to be discussed may include books-as-artifacts, relations of texts and practices as exemplified by food knowledge, collecting practices and institutions, craft and design, and natural historical objects. The different perspectives on material culture of the anthropologist, art historian, archaeologist, literary critic, and historian will be highlighted. 

Schedule: All day Thursday, April 21, 2016.

Apply: March 12016 for admission and grants-in-aid.

The Folger’s Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama invites applications to an NEH summer workshop on digital play texts in the classroom.

For more information, see the full workshop description on Folgerpedia.

Applications due March 1, 2016.