Skip to main content
Scholarly Programs /

Current and Upcoming Folger Institute Scholarly Programs

Overhead view of audience in the Folger Reading Room

Schedule as of May 17, 2023

The Folger Shakespeare Library will reopen in 2024 after major renovations. Newly refurbished spaces for our Folger Researchers are among the improvements, which also include dedicated exhibition galleries, meeting spaces with enhanced audio-visual capabilities, and updated HVAC systems.

The Folger Institute relies on our Consortium university partners to plan, implement, and oversee our Scholarly Programs. We anticipate continuing our recent practice of partnering with them to convene scholarly conversations on their campuses that take advantage of unique, localized knowledge, underexplored archives, and diverse communities of inquiry and practice. A process to solicit proposals will be unveiled this summer.

Below are the descriptions for the programs on offer during 2023–2024. We have embraced a mix of in-person, hybrid, and fully virtual programming across a wide range of topics, with an eye on reducing or eliminating barriers to inclusion as often as possible. Many programs will offer virtual sessions, with participation available via open registration. Most will require applications from those hoping to participate fully, and the application deadlines are specified below. This ensures that those selected and funded to attend will be strong contributors to the conversation.

As always, participants are encouraged to pursue their individual research interests within a given program’s specific topic. Before submitting an application, applicants should read the description carefully so that they can tailor their statement of research plans to the program in question. Folger Institute Consortium affiliates should consult with their campus representatives to ensure that they make their strongest case for admission. Please visit Apply for Scholarly Programs for further details about the application process.

Additional programs will be added as the year progresses, and these programs, as well as any revisions and adjustments to previously announced ones, will be reflected on this page and promoted through our various channels, including the Folger’s bi-monthly newsletter, the Research Bulletin. Those not yet subscribed may do so here.

If you have any questions about these programs, or the logistics of applying, email us at

Yearlong 2023-2024

Intersectional Lives in Early Modernity (hybrid yearlong colloquium)

Directed by Bernadette Andrea

This yearlong colloquium will pursue theoretical, methodological, and critical questions about “a range of identity positions” in the context of “systems of power” — from Brittney Cooper’s definition of “intersectionality” — with attention to the emerging and established empires of early modernity. The emphasis will be on transcultural lives with transtemporal resonances, from Leo Africanus / al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wezzan to Pocahontas / Matoaka. Grounded in a series of case studies covering African, Asian, and Indigenous American migrants to early modern Europe, the ongoing discussions will support participants’ projects on translation, critical fabulation, biofiction, and related topics; comparative approaches across languages and geographies are encouraged. Invited speakers in the fall will serve as interlocutors and resources for participants, who will be able to suggest speakers in the spring to support their presentations and projects. The colloquium will conclude with an in-person symposium at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where participants will access the newly refurbished reading room, present works-in-progress, and dialogue with educators, librarians, and other thinkers.

Director: Bernadette Andrea is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also affiliated with the Center for Middle East Studies, the Comparative Literature Program, and the Department of Feminist Studies. Her books include The Lives of Girls and Women from the Islamic World in Early Modern British Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2017) and Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2007). She currently serves as co-editor, with Julie D. Campbell and Allyson M. Poska, of Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and was the President of the Shakespeare Association of America for 2022–2023.

Anticipated Schedule: Virtual monthly meetings on Friday afternoons, 2:00–4:30 p.m. (Eastern); 11–1:30 p.m. (Pacific): September 15, October 20, November 17, and December 15, 2023; January 19, February 16, and March 15, 2024. One in-person session will be scheduled at the Folger Shakespeare Library in the late spring.

Apply: July 10, 2023, for admission and grants-in-aid to support travel and lodging for the in-person session.

Next Gen Editing: Shakespeare (yearlong monthly seminar)

Directed by Emma Smith

This yearlong seminar has the modest aim of mobilizing the next generation of Shakespeare editors to take their place in the long history of textual scholarship stretching back to the eighteenth century. Our conversations, readings, expert guests, and practical exercises will develop confident ways of understanding and critiquing existing editorial practice and choices. Contemporary editing is an art not a science: it has its technocratic aspects, but it is also interpretative and imaginative. Although editors do need to have a working sense of certain histories and shared hypotheses about textual transmission, and of course they also need familiarity with a genealogy of editorial conversations, nevertheless, too often in the past these knowledge fields have been deployed as gatekeepers. Our next generation of editors will draw on a range of disciplines and fields to bring feminism, queer studies, trans studies, and pre-modern critical race studies into the traditional toolkit of source study, historicism, theatre and performance, and printing history. As major new publishing series – including Arden 4 and the Cambridge Shakespeare Editions – are launched, this is an opportune time to move the discipline of textual editing forward.

Director: Emma Smith is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College Oxford, and author of works on the First Folio and on Shakespeare’s print reception. She is currently General Editor for the Oxford Worlds Classics Shakespeare and completing Twelfth Night for Arden 4.

Anticipated Schedule: Virtual monthly meetings on Thursday afternoons, 3:00–5:00 p.m. Eastern: September 7October 12, and November 9, 2023January 4February 1, and March 72024. One in-person session will be scheduled at the Folger Shakespeare Library in the late spring.

Apply: July 10, 2023, for admission and grants-in-aid to support travel and lodging for the in-person session. Please note that applicants need not be working on commissioned editorial projects; anyone who is interested in the texts used in scholarship and teaching, or in the ways future editing will be informed by current critical priorities, is encouraged to apply.

Researching and Writing the Early Modern Dissertation (hybrid yearlong dissertation seminar)

Co-directed by Herman L. BennettJulie Crawford, and Jenny C. Mann

This program focuses on the use of primary materials available for the study of the history, culture, society, and literature of early modern Britain, Europe, and the Atlantic World, broadly conceived. The goal throughout will be to foster interdisciplinary scholarship while considering broad methodological and theoretical problems relevant to current work in early modern studies, especially when working in fields that contain deliberate elisions and silences in their historical archives. Participants will visit the Folger and other DC-area special collections in the spring to explore a variety of printed and manuscript sources relevant to Ph.D. candidates in history and literature, and they will learn (with the support and assistance of Folger librarian and curatorial staff) essential research skills as well as strategies for working with digital resources and remediated rare materials. Preference will be given to applicants who have completed course work and preliminary exams; they should be preparing a prospectus or beginning to write chapters. Applicants should consult with their dissertation directors before applying to ensure that their work is at a stage that would benefit from the seminar, and their directors should certify that this is the case in their recommendation letters. Those whose dissertations are substantially complete will not be competitive applicants.

Directors: Herman L. Bennett is Professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and Director of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC). Among his monographs are Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity, and Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570–1640 (2003); Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-Mexico (2009); and African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty & Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic (2019). Julie Crawford is the Mark van Doren Professor of Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is the author of Marvelous Protestantism (2004), Mediatrix (2014), and numerous essays on authors ranging from Shakespeare to Anne Clifford and on topics ranging from the history of reading to the history of sexuality. She is currently completing a book manuscript entitled “Margaret Cavendish’s Political Career” and editing the Oxford Handbook of Margaret CavendishJenny C. Mann is an Associate Professor of English at New York University with a joint appointment with NYU Gallatin. She has followed her first book, Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare’s England (2012), with The Trials of Orpheus: Poetry, Science, and the Early Modern Sublime (2021). Her current research project explores problems of self-reference in utopian literature from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century.

Anticipated Schedule: Participants will meet virtually over a Friday and Saturday, October 13-14, and early December 2023. In the spring, participants will travel to Washington, DC, on the following dates to conduct research at the Folger and other DC-area special collections that are relevant to their dissertation projects: February 16-17, April 19-20, and June 21-22, 2024.

Apply: July 10, 2023. This program is only open to Folger Institute Consortium affiliates.

Spring 2024

Race, Place, and the Nonhuman in Early Modernity (spring weekend workshop)

Organized by Hillary Eklund and Debapriya Sarkar

How can early modern literature, art, and philosophy help us expand the range of available models for just, situated creation? How might we rethink entanglements of mastery, power structures, and exceptionalism? What methods must we envision to engage ethically with intertwined formulations of race, place, and the nonhuman? This workshop invites scholars, teachers, artists, and activists to explore and interrupt the legacies of early modern racial and environmental injustice. Early modern ideas of racial and cultural difference were often linked to geography and climate. At the same time, categories of animality and monstrosity were used to dehumanize colonized people and inscribe upon their bodies the alienness of foreign geographies. To examine these intersections, we aim to bring the environmental humanities – with its tendency to focus on the physical world and center the nonhuman – into conversation with work on race and empire that exposes why the “human” is still too fraught a category for many kinds of decentering and reveals why considerations of place must attend to modes of habitation.

Organizers: Hillary Eklund is Associate Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans. She is the author of Literature and Moral Economy in the Early Modern Atlantic (2015), editor of Ground-Work: English Renaissance Literature and Soil Science (2017), and co-editor of Teaching Social Justice Through Shakespeare (2019). Recent work on the environmental humanities and empire appears in SEL, Criticism, and ELR. Debapriya Sarkar is Assistant Professor of English and Maritime Studies at University of Connecticut. She is the co-editor of “Imagining Early Modern Scientific Forms” (special issue, Philological Quarterly, 2019) and author of Possible Knowledge: The Literary Forms of Early Modern Science (2023). Her current research engages PCRS, ecocriticism, and postcolonial theory to examine the “disposable forms” pervading early modern writing.

Program and Presenters:  To be announced in early fall.

Schedule: Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, 2024.

Apply: November 13, 2023. Please note that scholars, teachers, artists, and activists are welcome to apply.

The Futures of Early Modern Literatures, Philosophies, and Sciences (spring symposium)

Organized by Liza Blake

This symposium invites participants to take stock of the study of various literary forms as they intersect with the histories of natural philosophy and science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries before those fields were reified in the academy. Decades of work in this field have advanced beyond locating figurative language in “scientific” texts, or finding references to scientific ideas in, say, poetry, and are now investigating, for instance, how the question of form might cut across both literary and non-literary texts. Participants will be invited to present polemical manifestos sketching their visions for futures of the intersections of these three fields in the study of early modernity, especially as those fields take up questions of race, empire, gender, and sexuality. How, this symposium will ask, might the boundaries of all three modes of thinking and writing stretch, bend, or break when different voices and approaches are included in the “canon” of literature-science-and-philosophy?

Organizer: Liza Blake is Associate Professor of English at the University of Toronto, with research interests and publications in the intersections of early modern literature, philosophy, and science. She is currently completing a monograph entitled Early Modern Literary Physics, and she is one of three General Editors (with Jacob Tootalian and Shawn Moore) of The Complete Works of Margaret Cavendish.

Program and Presenters:  To be announced in early fall.

Anticipated Schedule: Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday, May 30-June 1, 2024.

Apply: November 13, 2023

Late-Spring 2024

Introduction to English Paleography (spring skills course)

Directed by Heather Wolfe

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 digitized and physical manuscripts, participants will be trained in the accurate reading and transcription of secretary, italic, and mixed hands. The workshop’s focus will include recipe books, personal correspondence, and poetry miscellanies drawn from the Folger collection. Participants will 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. Transcriptions made by participants will become part of the Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) corpus.

Director: Heather Wolfe is Curator of Manuscripts and Associate Librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She was formerly the co-director of the multi-year research project Before ‘Farm to Table’: Early Modern Foodways and Cultures and principal investigator of Early Modern Manuscripts Online. Author of numerous articles on early modern manuscripts, Dr. Wolfe has edited The Literary Career and Legacy of Elizabeth Cary, 1613–1680 (2007), The Trevelyon Miscellany of 1608: A Facsimile Edition of Folger Shakespeare Library MS V.b.232 (2007), Letterwriting in Renaissance England (2004) (with Alan Stewart), and Elizabeth Cary, Lady Falkland: Life and Letters (2001). She is currently working on a book on early modern writing paper in England.

Anticipated Schedule: Monday through Friday, June 3-7, 2024.

 Apply: March 4, 2024 for admission and grants-in-aid for Folger Institute Consortium affiliates.

A Folger Orientation to Research Methods and Agendas (spring skills course)

Directed by Patricia Akhimie, Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Heather Wolfe, and Owen Williams

The best research is based on inquiry 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 the participants’ curiosity about primary resources by using exercises that engage their research interests. It is offered to help early-stage graduate students develop a set of research-oriented literacies as they explore the Folger Collections in ways that will be useful for navigating other collections. With the guidance of visiting faculty and curatorial staff from the Folger, twelve to fourteen participants will examine bibliographical tools and their logics, hone their early modern book description skills, learn best practices for organizing and working with digital images, 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.

Invited Presenters:  To be announced in early fall.

Anticipated Schedule: Monday through Friday, June 10-14, 2024.

Apply: March 4, 2024 for admission and grants-in-aid for Folger Institute Consortium affiliates.