The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Announcement: 2017-2018 Long-Term Fellows

The Folger Institute is pleased to announce our 2017-18 cohort of Long-Term Fellows. This year we will welcome seven long-term scholars to the Folger: James Bromley, Urvashi Chakravarty, Surekha Davies, Nicholas Popper, Nigel Smith, Julianne Werlin, and Jessica Wolfe.

The Folger Institute awards two fellowships via the National Endowment for the Humanities and its Grants for Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions (FPIRI). This critical and important program, administered by independent centers for advanced study, libraries, and museums in the United States, sponsors fellowships that provide scholars with research time, a stimulating intellectual environment, and access to resources that might otherwise not be available to them. The Folger is proud to work with the NEH on these endeavors. Our 2017-18 NEH fellows are Dr. Nigel Smith (Princeton University) and Dr. Nicholas Popper (College of William and Mary).

Dr. Nigel Smith is William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature at Princeton University; previously he taught in the University of Oxford. His major work has been in the fields of seventeenth-century literary and historical studies: Marvell, Milton, British civil wars and revolution literature, radical and Dissenting culture. Dr. Smith’s NEH-Folger project, entitled “Polyglot Poetics: Transnational Early Modern Literature,” offers a major, field-changing study of the vernacular literatures of western, central and southern Europe from the late fifteenth to the late seventeenth centuries: a redefinition of the emergent area of transnational studies, and a recalibration of the literary relations of early modern Europe in order to integrate the crucial international staple of the Netherlands.

The project is concerned with the transit of poetry, prose fiction and drama, where transnational dissemination took place through diplomacy between regimes, exile, traveling theater companies, and war. The study shows how authors ‘felt’ the texture of literature in other languages even as they wrote in their own vernacular. In pursuit of these aims, Smith plans to explore the Folger’s unique and extensive collection of commonplace books, tracing instances of translation mingled with vernacular verse. Smith also plans to consult the Losely, Newdigate, and Strozzi manuscript collections.

Dr. Nicholas Popper is the Gale and Steven Kohlhagen Term Distinguished Associate Professor at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture Of the Late Renaissance (Chicago, 2012). He works on early modern intellectual history, history of science, political practice, and the history of the book. During his 2017-18 tenure as an NEH-Folger fellow, Dr. Popper will be working on “The Specter of the Archive: Paper and Political Practice in Early Modern Britain.”

This project argues that the emergence of collecting and manipulating texts as the dominant method of creating political expertise in early modern Britain drove the development of the modern information state and the formation of a modern temporality. This period witnessed a massive surge in the practice of amassing copies of statutes, charters, letters, and other materials concerning politics in sizable public and private archives. Popper shows that the emphasis placed on collection, rather than a symptom of political and epistemological transformations, constitutes a primary agent of them. Popper plans to consult early modern books of offices, calendars, and catalogues—including Edmund Tyllney’s manuscript c. 1597-1601 diplomatic manual, Topographical Descriptions—as well as lists produced by early modern individuals as they sought to assert organization over their collections, ephemeral notes taken from their excursions to record repositories, and fleeting marks of ownership and circulation on contemporary copies of letters and other documents.

Four scholars will hold Andrew W. Mellon Foundation fellowships at the Folger in 2017-18:

Dr. Urvashi Chakravarty is Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University. Her articles appear in English Literary Renaissance and Shakespeare Quarterly. While at the Folger she will undertake work on “Fictions of Consent: Slavery, Servitude and Free Service in Early Modern England.” This book project explores the central conceit that service in early modern England is founded not on compulsion or coercion but, crucially, on consent; that service is, paradoxically, free. Dr. Chakravarty argues that early modern writers adopt and adapt classical drama, particularly the Roman slave plays of Terence and Plautus, to articulate these fictions of consent and to resist teleological narratives of liberty, re-scripting freedom not as emancipatory but rather as deeply contingent and utterly revocable.

Through close readings of plays, poetry, and prose, indentures, legal cases, and letters, and pedagogical exercises, petitions, and political propaganda, this monograph locates the roots of Atlantic slavery in the fictions of English service. While at the Folger, Chakravarty will examine letters pertaining to domestic service and servitude in England and America in addition to accounts, receipts, household records, and indentured servant contracts from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Barbados. Chakravarty will study the conceptual and ideological presence of slavery via the Folger’s extensive printed and manuscript collections of contemporary accounts, narratives of, and drama and poetry about bondage and servitude, including William Cartwright’s manuscript copy of The Royal Slave (ca. 1636), as well as a letter concerning a slave death sent to the bankers Clayton and Morris (1688), and Emanuel d’Aranda’s The History of Algiers and its Slavery (1666).

Dr. Surekha Davies’ project, “Collecting Technology in the Age of Empire: Inventing Europe,” will also be supported by Mellon funds. Dr. Davies is the author of Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge UP, 2016). Her interests include cultural encounters (particularly between Europe and the Americas), history of collections, monster theory, and cartography. She is Assistant Professor of History at Western Connecticut State University. In her latest project, Davies argues that European identity is inextricable from Europe’s views about other peoples. During the early modern period, overseas artifacts entered princely and scholarly collections, to be displayed alongside natural and artificial curiosities from classical cameos to blowfish. Davies examines the central part played by these artifacts and collections in constituting new ideas about cultural hierarchy.

By analyzing travel and geographical literature, inventories, artifacts, and archives, Davies argues that there was a feedback loop between artifactual encounters and national identities; collections were forms of cultural memory that imagined communities, ideas of civilized and barbarous societies and, eventually, modern citizens and indigenous peoples. Davies plans to consult early printed books describing antiquities, collections, and artifacts, as well as those detailing the journeys that early modern people took in pursuit of these objects; these include Nicolas Barnaud’s Le Cabinet du Roy de France (Paris, 1581) and John Speed’s The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (London, 1616).

Chakravarty and Davies will be joined as Mellon fellows by Dr. James Bromley, Associate Professor of English at Miami University who specializes in early modern literature, the history of sexuality, and queer studies. He is the author of Intimacy and Sexuality in the Age of Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2012) and the co-editor of Sex before Sex: Figuring the Act in Early Modern England (Minnesota, 2013). While at the Folger, Dr. Bromley will pursue work on “Style, Subjectivity, and Male Sexuality in Early Modern English Drama,” a project examining early modern representations of male clothing in order to craft a new history of early modern sexuality.

Mapping the utopian fantasies around extravagantly dressed men in city comedies, Bromley argues that superficiality and affectation offered alternatives to dominant ideologies governing masculinity and sexuality. Focusing on the queer eroticism liberated by male sartorial display, even in plays that seek to contain that erotic charge through satire, Bromley revises recent approaches to early modern material culture by attending to the dissident uses to which clothing can be put. Bromley will examine a wide and rich range of Folger materials related to clothing and official culture, such as Queen Elizabeth’s proclamations on apparel, sartorial advice literature in both manuscript and print, the Folger’s customs books and warrants of the wardrobe, which will help Bromley to study the circulation of clothing within early modern culture, and the Folger’s papers related to the Office of the Revels, which will offer insight into the theatrical acquisition of clothes for costumes.

Our final 2017-18 Mellon fellow is Dr. Julianne Werlin, Assistant Professor of English literature at Duke University. Dr. Werlin is completing a book manuscript on literature and bureaucracy in early modern England, entitled “The Bureaucratic Foundations of Renaissance Literature.” This project reveals how the emergence of a centralized, bureaucratic state in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries transformed the conditions of literary production within its borders. In four case studies of writers who were also government employees—Francis Bacon, the Cavalier poets, John Milton, and Samuel Pepys—Werlin shows how early modern bureaucracy and literature were twinned forms of paperwork, drawing on shared methods of composition and disseminated through common channels of circulation.

Over the course of the fellowship, Werlin will read through Folger sources such as warrants and orders signed by Charles I and Samuel Pepys; the papers of Sir Julius Caesar, the judge, civil servant, and friend of Francis Bacon; the diary of Richard Stonley, a teller in the Exchequer; and the Drue Burton Collection of State Papers. Taken together, these sources will help Werlin to demonstrate that the rise of bureaucratic states was an enabling condition for the production and dissemination of early modern literature itself.

The Folger Institute is especially pleased to appoint Dr. Jessica Wolfe, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UNC Chapel Hill, as the Folger’s 2017-18 O.B. Hardison, Jr. Fellow. Dr. Wolfe’s two books and varied essays and articles reflect an eclectic and broad range of interests: the history of science and of scholarship, epic and romance, and the reception of classical literature and philosophy. She is currently editing Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica for Oxford University Press and is publishing on topics related to that text, from glow-worms and magnetism to biblical hermeneutics. In 2018 she will begin as articles editor of Renaissance Quarterly.

While at the Folger, Wolfe will be engaged in “Absolute Poet: The Life of George Chapman,” the first full-length biography in English of the Elizabethan and Jacobean poet, playwright, and translator George Chapman (c. 1559-1634). A purposefully obscure poet whose “strange” poems strive to perplex readers, a brilliant but eccentric translator who legitimates his authority by recounting how Homer‘s ghost visited him on a hill in Hitchin, and an accomplished, provocative playwright whose comedies and tragedies repeatedly aroused controversy, censorship, and even a stint in jail for their author, Chapman’s life was marked by legal disputes, quarrels with fellow poets, and repeated failures to secure dependable patronage. But Chapman also occupied a central place in the dramatic, poetic, and scholarly culture of late Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Caroline England, and his life and work are closely intertwined with major figures of the era, ranging from Marlowe and Ben Jonson to Francis Bacon. The Folger possesses the largest collection of first editions of Chapman’s plays and poems in the U.S., and Wolfe will consult these, as well as several manuscript letters attributed to Chapman himself, over the course of the fellowship year.

Taken together, the projects to be undertaken by the Folger’s 2017-18 Long-Term fellows represent exciting new directions for early modern studies. In this work we see a sustained engagement with the nature, scope, and character of early modern bureaucracies and the growth of state power; exploration of the ways that early modern Britons sought to communicate with, translate, and often to control people who seemed unlike themselves; and careful attention to the impact of optics, display, and “look” on early modern material cultures and literatures. The many common themes tying these projects together will engender good conversation as well as good study over the course of the year, and we very much look forward to the arrival of our new cohort of fellows this fall.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)