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2013-14 Long-term Fellows' Project Abstracts

Paul Cefalu, Associate Professor of English, Lafayette College (Mellon Fellow)

The Mind and Body of God: Divine Accommodation and Anthropomorphism in Early Modern English Culture


The Mind and Body of God aims to provide the first book-length account of the theory and practice of divine accommodation in early modern English culture. Accommodation, the notion that God deigns to lower himself to creaturely ability, derives from the Aristotelian concept of oikonomia, as well as the patristic concept of dispensatio. Introductory chapters track the etymological vicissitudes of the concept from the classical through early modern periods, giving particular attention to the Reformed account of accommodation which Jean Calvin famously described as a mode of divine “baby-talk.” Later chapters assess the appropriation of the term in early modern devotional poetry, Renaissance drama, negative theology, iconophobia, and antitrinitarian debates during the English Interregnum.


Pamela O. Long, Independent Historian, Washington, DC (NEH Fellow)>

Rebuilding Rome: Knowledge, Power, and Engineering, 1557-1590


[This study is] a cultural history of engineering and knowledge in Rome during the period between 1557 (the year of a catastrophic Tiber River flood) and the death of the “engineering” pope Sixtus V in 1590. It includes a study of flood control, aqueduct reconstruction, the redesign of streets, building construction, and obelisk transport. I attempt to see the city as a whole, and include a study of the maps and images of Rome, and of guidebooks and books on the antiquities of Rome. The Folger Library holds a significant number of sixteenth-century guidebooks and related materials on Roman antiquities. These books will be the focus of study in a Folger long-term grant. Engineering and construction projects were closely related and sometimes intrinsic to antiquarian studies, topography and issuea related to mapping, including surveying. The history of the ancient Romans as evidenced from ancient ruins (particularly a focus of the guidebooks) was key to the project of reconstructing Rome in the image of the ancient imperial city. Engineering and construction were closely tied to knowledge—humanist knowledge concerning history and antiquities, archaeological knowledge concerning Roman ruins, knowledge of topography, surveying, and mapping, and knowledge of practical mathematics.


Paul Menzer, Director, Shakespeare and Performance Graduate Program, Mary Baldwin College (NEH Fellow)

Shakespeare, Anecdotally


Performance history is largely a province of fact, a positivist place of verifiable data, to which anecdotes form an embarrassing suburb. Shakespeare’s four-hundred-year performance history is, however, full of anecdotes—gossipy, trivial, and but loosely allegiant to fact. “Shakespeare, Anecdotally” argues that such anecdotes are, nevertheless, a vital index to the ways that Shakespeare’s plays generate meaning across varied times and in varied places. Furthermore, particular plays have accreted peculiar anecdotes—stories of a real skull in Hamlet, superstitions about the name “Macbeth”—and therefore express something immanent in the plays they attend. Anecdotes constitute then not just a vital component of a play’s performance history but a form of vernacular criticism by the personnel intimately involved in their production. This history and these readings are every bit as responsive to and expressive of a play’s meanings across time as the equally rich history of Shakespearean criticism. The ambition of “Shakespeare, Anecdotally” is then to develop a historiography of the anecdote, expanding on anecdotal theories developed by Jane Gallop, Joel Fineman, and others. Secondly, the project limns particularly durable anecdotes and argues for them as demotic readings of Shakespeare’s plays. The project ultimately aspires to provide, both by example and through examples, a history of post-Renaissance Shakespeare and performance, one not based entirely in fact but nonetheless full of truth.


Julie Park, Assistant Professor of English, Vassar College (Folger Fellow)

Dark Rooms and Moving Objects: Mediating Interior Life in Eighteenth-Century England


This book tells the story of how eighteenth-century English subjects created interior worlds for themselves with things, spaces, and texts that simultaneously revealed and concealed their innermost states of being, the freshly conceived domains of thinking, feeling, and consciousness. Just as architectural theories of the period began to emphasize interior spaces as critical aspects of building design, eighteenth-century writers registered the importance of capturing interior experience as the object of narration for another new type of physical dwelling—the book object now known as the novel. In grottos, detachable pockets, ornamented cottages, and camera obscuras, as well as long poems, novels, and architectural treatises, this book finds new answers to enduring questions about what it means to have an inner life in a modern world of proliferating spaces and things.


Daniel Shore, Assistant Professor of English, Georgetown University (Mellon Fellow)

Cyberformalism: The History of Syntactic Forms in the Early Modern Period


Cyberformalism is a book project that uses searchable digital archives like Early English Books Online to trace the genesis, diffusion, and variation of syntactic forms in the early modern period. Humanities scholarship has long been flush with histories of words, concepts, contexts, and cultures, but it has so far overlooked syntactic forms—the forms that order and structure the verbal content of sentences. I aim to establish this new object of philological inquiry through four case studies, each of which aims to enrich and revise a key concept of literary inquiry—imitaion, fiction, influence, and style, respectively—through a comparative approach to the forms sentences take.


Even as it retells the histories of syntactic forms, Cyberformalism explores the technologies that make such histories possible. Instead of sequentially scanning the thousand sentences on the pages bound in a single book, digital archives allow us to compare the thousand analogous sentences scattered throughout the history of discourse. In the collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library I will explore the early modern technologies of the text—indexes, concordances, translation dictionaries, marginal commentaries, etc.—that humanist philologists used to recover, organize, and understand their linguistic past. Comparing old and new media will allow me to make visible the practices of knowledge production associated with different technologies of the text. By coupleing searchable digital archives with the indispensable resources of the Folger, Cyberformalism aims both to develop a new domain of philological inquiry and to reflect on the material conditions of such inquiry.


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