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2011-12 Long-term Fellows' Project Abstracts

David Como, Associate Professor of History, Stanford University (ACLS/Burkhardt Fellow)

Radical Parliamentarians and the English Civil War


This project seeks to illuminate the origins and nature of the most radical species of parliamentarian political and religious agitation that appeared during the English civil war of the 1640s. Drawing on a wide range of manuscript and print sources, and exploiting new digital technologies to unravel the complicated world of civil war underground print, the study aims to provide a new narrative of the civil-war period. In the process, it explores and explains the emergence of many of the more strikingly novel intellectual currents of the times, offering, for instance, a new analysis of the origins of the Leveller agitation (by some accounts the first democratic political movement in post-classical western history). More generally, it aims to help explain how and why the English civil war mutated into a revolution.


Kathryn Gucer, Independent Scholar, Chicago, IL (NEH Fellow)

Revolution across the Channel: Cross-Cultural Information Exchange between Early Modern England and Europe


This book project examines how information networks emerged between exiles and their contacts in England, France, Germany, and the Low Countries in the late sixteenth- and seventeenth- century. In this period, a series of social upheavals—including the Thirty Years War, the English Revolution, and the Fronde—uprooted groups of political and religious refugees and transplanted them across multiple borders. These far-flung communities of Huguenots, English Royalists, Recusants (Catholics), Quakers, and others cultivated complex webs of routes, strategies, and materials for transmitting information back home and abroad. They formed unexpected and unconventional bonds with writers, readers, translators, and information entrepreneurs usually relegated to the backstage of international politics. Joining together methods in book history, post-colonial studies, and the history of information, my project illuminates exile and exchange in texts marked by the multiple processes involved in creating and using them. These texts—including Denis Cailloué’s French translation of Eikon Basilike and Dutch editions of French polemical pamphlets from the Fronde—result from a strange mix of purposeful collaboration, haphazard alteration, and skewed reception. They are often fractured and self-conflicted, and their incoherence embodies the uneven process of formation by which the exile groups that created and shared them came into being. Specifically, each chapter investigates how two kinds of people came together in these exchange networks: exiles and expatriates with pre-existing group identities such as English royalists (including Thomas Hobbes and William Cavendish), on the one hand, and disparate people outside or only partially within these groups who served as the practical links to information resources in their host societies and abroad (including Marin Mersenne, William Dugard, a.k.a. Guillaume du Gard, and Jacques Cailloué), on the other.


David Loewenstein, Helen C. White Professor of English and the Humanities, University of Wisconsin, Madison (NEH Fellow)

Treacherous Faith: Heresy and Demonization in Early Modern English Literature


My project, entitled Treacherous Faith, is a large cross-disciplinary book about literature, religious fears, and the specter of heresy in England from the early Reformation to the English Revolution. The book explores the fears and representations of religious deviance in early modern writing from Thomas More and Anne Askew to John Milton and John Bunyan. It studies writers in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England who both demonized religious deviants as heretics and those who interrogated demonizing religious language and representations. How did writers in early modern England themselves contribute to and fuel the fantasy of the heretic and religious deviant? How and to what degree did they question the fear-mongering, the polarizing rhetoric, and the religious violence associated with it? My book draws upon the disciplines of literary study, history, and religion studies to examine these questions anew. Treacherous Faith is aimed at a wide range of scholars and students interested in early modern English literature and its cultural contexts, the politics and history of religious conflict, and the unstable and interconnected relations between orthodoxy and heresy. The book’s examination of the specter of heresy means that it will also contribute to new scholarship on literary culture, religious fear-mongering, and the struggle for religious toleration in the early modern period. In addition, it contributes to broader work in the humanities that seeks to illuminate the changing dynamics of religious fear, the rhetoric of religious demonization, and the ways the literary imagination represents and constructs religious difference.


Lena Cowen Orlin, Professor of English, Georgetown University (Mellon Fellow)

The Private Life of William Shakespeare


For a biography of William Shakespeare, I propose to focus on civic and ecclesiastical records to build fresh contexts for understanding his marriage to Anne Hathaway, his life in London, his retirement to Stratford, and his last will.   A projected first chapter will revisit the identity and age of Anne Hathaway.  A second chapter will discuss the couple’s working lives in Stratford and London.  A third chapter will emphasize that by living in lodgings in London but purchasing property in Stratford, Shakespeare demonstrated a life-long commitment to the town of his birth.  A fourth chapter will give a revisionist reading of the “second-best bed.”  Although the book will focus on new research, it will necessarily address some of the myths of Shakespeare’s biography.  To understand the development of these myths, the collections of the Folger Shakespeare Library are unrivalled.  A year at the Folger would enable me to consult such important materials as contemporary marriage settlements and property transfers in the Stratford area, the later seventeenth-century diaries of Stratford vicar John Ward, and the nineteenth-century scrapbooks of J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps.  My aim would be to complete the manuscript by the end of the fellowship year.


Jonathan Sheehan, Associate Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley (ACLS/Burkhardt Fellow)

Sacrifice: Theology and the Human Sciences in Early Modern Europe


For many years, historians have traced the origins of the human sciences to a gradual secularization of knowledge in the wake of the Scientific Revolution. This project entirely recasts this history. It argues that it was in the domain of theology that these disciplines first took form. Specifically, they took form in the unusual theology of the seventeenth century, when the engines of polemic drove scholars to mobilize arguments from (modern) disciplines as various as legal history, comparative anthropology, geography, and even natural history. The problem of sacrifice concentrated all these currents as a nucleus around which the intellectual, religious, and political problems of the day coalesced; through it, we can reveal anew the history of both the human sciences and theology.


William H. Sherman, Professor of English, University of York (Mellon Fellow)

Knowledge is Power: Renaissance Intelligence and Its Modern Legacies


This project offers a new account of intelligence in the English Renaissance, when the relationship between knowledge and power was closer and more complicated, perhaps, than at any time before or since. After all, it was Francis Bacon who coined the famous axiom, “Knowledge is power,” and his life and writings offer ample testimony to the connections between the difference spheres of intelligence—learning or wit on the one hand and espionage on the other. The first part will trace the connections between scholarship and spying in Renaissance texts, careers, and institutions, and the second will explore the surprising lives of modern scholars who combined intellectual expertise on Renaissance history and literature with work in the field of intelligence, including Conyers Read, William Friedman, and Rosalie Colie.


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