Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Scholarly Programs
• Program Offerings

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

An Anglo-American History of the KJV

An Anglo-American History of the KJV


A Conference at the Folger Institute

Organized by Lori Anne Ferrell and Kathleen Lynch


The Elizabethan Theatre

At the Folger Shakespeare Library

29 September through 1 October 2011


This conference marked the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV). It raised issues that spoke directly to the influences of this most famous of all English-language translations of the scriptures, exploring them in the context of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s collections, shaping them to the converging interests of the Institute’s many constituencies, and taking direction from the symbolic location of the Library in the capital of the United States. The conference was scheduled in conjunction with an exhibition jointly organized by the Folger, the Bodleian Library, and the Harry Crowe Ransom Center at the University of Texas. A volume published in association with the exhibition, Manifold Greatness: The Making of the King James Bible, was edited by Helen Moore and Julian Reid. With plenary lectures, panels, and round tables, discussion explored the Bible’s role in provoking, defining, and then, in a sense, outlasting the English Reformation as an essential template for life, letters, art, politics, and culture. Speakers traced the paths the KJV took through the Enlightenment and across democratic movements. Rich case studies examined how the KJV has shaped the denominational as well as secular experience in Britain and America, touching on the larger worlds both nations encountered in their own imperial moments.


We will continue adding to the framework of the conference below as associated publications, videos, and comments become available. One suchitem is conference organizer Lori Anne Ferrell’s short video on "The Impact of the King James Bible on American culture." The podcast of Jill Lepore’s keynote lecture is linked from her title.




Thursday, 29 September


5:00 p.m.  Opening reception (Great Hall)


6:00 p.m.

Welcome: Kathleen Lynch, Executive Director, Folger Institute


Keynote address: “KJV in the USA: The King’s Bible in a Country without a King” 

Jill Lepore, David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History, Harvard University



Friday, 30 September:   Early Modern England


9:00-10:15 a.m.        

Overview: Lori Anne Ferrell, Professor of Early Modern History and Literature,
  Claremont Graduate University


Plenary: The Politics of Religion

Chair: David Como, Associate Professor of History, Stanford University


“Deep Context: The Political and Religious Setting of the Accession of James I”

Peter Lake, University Distinguished Professor of History, Vanderbilt University


10:15-10:45  Break


10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.         

Panel: The Politics of Religion

Chair: Sabrina Alcorn Baron, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, University of Maryland


“The King, the Bishops, the Parishes and the KJV”

Kenneth Fincham, Professor of Early Modern History, Head of the School of History,
  University of Kent


“‘Of necessity there must be some rules’: The Bible and Public  Worship in England, 1559-1660”                              

Judith Maltby, Chaplain and Fellow, Reader in Church History, Corpus Christi College,
  University of Oxford


“Much ado about Isaiah? Grotius’ Legacy, Laudianism, and Messianic Exegesis in the 1650s”

Paul Lim, Associate Professor of the History of  Christianity  and Religious Studies,
  Vanderbilt University


12:15-1:45  Lunch (on your own)        



Plenary: The Bible and Literature

Chair: Kristen Poole, Professor of English, University of Delaware


“Words and the Word: How the Bible became Literature”    

Brian Cummings, Professor of English, University of Sussex


2:45-3:15  Tea Break



Panel: The Bible and Literature

Chair: Daniel Gibbons, Assistant Professor of English, The Catholic University of America


“The Literal Sense of Scripture”

Debora Shuger, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles


“John Donne’s Bibles”                                
Peter McCullough
, Professor and Tutorial Fellow in English, Lincoln College, University of Oxford


“Nation and Narratives of Israel”

Achsah Guibbory, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of English, Barnard College




Saturday, 1 October: Crossing over to America


8:45-10:00 a.m.

Taking Stock: Lori Anne Ferrell


Plenary: Text and Image

Chair: William Sherman, Professor of English, University of York


“The Biblical in American Art and Visual Culture”

Ena Heller, Executive Director, Museum of Biblical Art


10:00-10:30  Break


10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.              

Panel: Denominations, Vernaculars, and American Identities

Chair: Sarah Rivett, Assistant Professor of English, Princeton University


“Shaping the American Idiom: the King James Version and Vernacular Rhetorics"                         

Jan Swearingen, Professor of English, Texas A&M University


“The Transatlantic Bible and Anglican Identity in Colonial North America”                 

Jeremy Gregory, Professor of the History of Christianity, University of Manchester


“From Monarchy to Democracy: the Dethroning the King James Bible in the United States”

Paul Gutjahr, Associate Professor of English and American Studies and Religious Studies,
Indiana University, Bloomington


12:00-1:00  Lunch (provided in the Great Hall)



Panel: Bible Culture and Discourses of Instruction

Chair: Michael P. Winship, E. Merton Coulter Professor of History, University of Georgia


“Translation, Indigenous Literacy, and the Bible in Indian Country from John Eliot to the Cherokee New Testament”

Hilary E. Wyss, Hargis Associate Professor of American Literature, Auburn University


“Anglo-Irish Roots of the American School Bible Controversy” 

Ellie Bagley, Assistant Professor of Religion, Middlebury College


“‘Exodus Piety’—and Beyond: African Americans and the Bible in the Antebellum United States”

David W. Wills, Winthrop H. Smith ’16 Professor of American History  and American Studies, Department of Religion, Amherst College 


2:30-3:00  Tea break



Roundtable: Questions of Originality, Authenticity, and Linguistic Legacies

Chair: Hannibal Hamlin, Associate Professor of English, The Ohio State University


Tammi J. Schneider (Professor of Religion, Claremont Graduate University), Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr. (Professor and William Suttles Chair of Religious Studies, Georgia State University), Lynne Magnusson (Professor of English, University of Toronto)


4:00-5:30  Concluding reception



Folger Consort

A NEW SONG: Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible 

(group tickets, optional)


English composers Thomas Thomkins and Orlando Gibbons, and later Henry Purcell and John Blow, were inspired by the visionary, world-changing translation of the Bible completed under the sponsorship of King James in 1611.  Musical settings of biblical verse and other sacred works from the reigns of James I and II are complemented by instrumental fantasies and lively dances by Coperario, Locke, and Purcell.

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623