Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Folger is Getting Medieval

by J J Cohen

Seems that bastion of tea-swilling early modernists is starting to turn its gaze backwards towards the really fun periods of history. What started with this workshop (blogged about here) continues with a seminar given by ... the inimitable Paul Strohm. From the just released 2009-2010 program:

The Voice of Conscience, 1375-1613
Paul Strohm
Late-spring Seminar

The starting-point of this seminar will be the transition from medieval to early modern conscience. The former tends to speak in the voice of collective or general knowledge, declaring what is generally known; the latter in the more particularized and potentially even idiosyncratic voice of “my” or “your” conscience. Participants will consider this transition, and its implications, within literary history. They will begin with several key medieval works (most particularly, Langland’s Piers Plowman) and continue into texts of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, including More’s prison letters, writings of Luther and Calvin, excerpts from Foxe, and Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. The seminar’s reading will conclude with Hamlet, a text in which all previous meanings of conscience seem to wash up, jostle, and contend. Among questions to be posed are: In whose “voice” does conscience speak in a given literary work? Can, and should, scholars speak of a distinctive “Reformation Conscience”? If conscience dwells in the body, does it risk assimilation as an organ or body part? If conscience plays a role in founding the subject, is it to be blamed for the inauguration of an irremediably split subject? What are the implications of such a subject for voice in poetry and for character in drama?

Director: Paul Strohm is Anna Garbedian Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, and was formerly J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of Medieval Language and Literature at the University of Oxford. His books include: Social Chaucer (1989); Hochon’s Arrow: the Social Imagination of Medieval Texts (1992); England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation (1998); Theory and the Premodern Text (2000); Politique: Languages of Statecraft from Chaucer to Shakespeare (2005).

Schedule: Thursdays and Fridays, 1 – 4:30 p.m., 20 May through 18 June 2010.

Apply: 4 January 2010 for admission and grants-in-aid.

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