Sunday, December 10, 2006


A Research Seminar for Dissertation-Stage PhD Students and Junior Faculty
July 18-August 13, 2007 at McGill University
Leaders: Lesley Cormack (Alberta) and Michael Bristol (McGill)

This summer school will focus on selected writing from the tumultuous decades of the interregnum, roughly 1640 - 1660, with particular attention to the fields of literature, public lfe, science and religion. The chief aim of the seminar will be to understand conditions for the possibility of engagement in public life during a time of intense polarization and social effervescence in England during The Commonwealth. We will be concerned with a number of specific questions: How were publics made and who made them in seventeenth-century England? How did authors imagine the target audiences reading their work? How were common interests, beliefs, or inquiries circulated and in what sense did this circulation create publics? How did the gradual shift away from manuscript to the printed book as the privileged medium for the dissemination of ideas affect the experience of public life. Were publics created in the marketplace? The seminar will examine the theory of publics through consideration of several case studies which may include:

1. The growing interest in mathematical and geographical instruments and information, especially focussed around the marketplace and growing imperial aspirations.

2. The circulation of idiosyncratic and perhaps heterodox religious ideas in the confessional texts of Sir Thomas Brown, the poetry of Andrew Marvel, and the studies of comparative religion of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury.

3. The public significance of melancholia and the melancholy temperament in prose writings of John Donne and Robert Burton

4. Robert Boyle's network of colleagues and publics, examining the question of how 'facts' are created and agreed upon, through public witnessing and acquiescence.

Participants will have an opportunity to workshop their own research projects, which may focus on any aspect of early modern publics in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We welcome both pre- and post-PhD scholars, working in English and continental history, literature, and cultural studies.

Sponsored by the MaPs Project (Making Publics: Media, markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe), headquartered at McGill University and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.. The "Making Publics" project will develop an innovative and potentially transformative approach to the history of early modernity. The project will illuminate the artistic, intellectual, religious, social, and political culture of Britain and Western Europe between 1500 and 1700, and it will also have a bearing on issues that confront modern society, especially questions about media, the culture market, and the possibilities of social agency on the part of cultural producers and consumers. At the heart of our work is the phenomenon that we are calling "making publics" - the creation of small-scale forms of association that represented a new way of connecting with others, a kind of connection not founded in family, rank or vocation, but rather a form of voluntary community built on the shared interests, tastes, and desires of individuals.

We have adopted the word "publics" to refer to the open-membership groups that coalesced around certain practices, areas of interest, and forms of publication and/or performance. Publics differed from traditional groupings such as guilds, universities, or parliaments, which were characteristically exclusive, institutionalized, highly credentialized, and hierarchical in their internal workings. Publics were loosely organized, more or less egalitarian in their internal workings, and open to anyone that had the interest, competence, money, and time to participate. They fostered and were fostered by new technologies of representation and dissemination-the printing press, new pictorial forms, new sites for and styles of theatrical and musical performance. They were encouraged by the development of a market in works of art and/or printed works such as plays, paintings, musical compositions, sermons, news pamphlets, maps, histories, and scientific reports.

Canadian and non-Canadian dissertation-stage students and junior faculty are invited to apply to take part in a research seminar focusing on the political, intellectual, and cultural ferment of mid-seventeenth-century England. We hope to recruit outstanding young scholars working on any topic related to the seminar's central concerns across the span of the century. The group's work on the interregnum will provide a background for discussion of key issues. As many as 12 successful applicants will participate in this seminar through mutual reading and discussion and by developing and presenting their own research. Participants will have access to McGill Library and important research collections such as the Redpath tracts, the Osler Library, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, microflim and electronic references such as EEBO, the Goldsmiths Library, and the Landsdowne manuscripts.

The travel and living expenses of the participants in the seminar will be covered by the MaPs project. The end of the seminar will coincide with the annual meeting of the MaPs research team. Members of the seminar will have the opportunity to participate in the annual team meeting of the MaPs project.

Please visit for application materials and details. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2007.


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