Wednesday, January 23, 2008


On Tuesday January 29, the Columbia Early Modern Seminar is delighted to welcome Elliott Visconsi (Yale), who will be speaking on Matthew Hale and the Invention of Criminal Blasphemy.

Elliott Visconsi specializes in the literature, law, and political thought of seventeenth- century England, with special emphasis on the Restoration period. He is concerned broadly with the nexus of literary and legal thinking, including the manner in which literary texts work as constitutional commentary and public political education in early modern England and the Americas. His first book, Lines of Equity: Literature and the Origins of Law in Later Stuart England (Cornell University Press, forthcoming) describes the later seventeenth-century literary transformation of equity from a principle of legal interpretation into an ethos of deliberative citizenship, in works by Hobbes, Milton, Dryden, Neville, Behn, and Defoe..

Currently Elliott is working on a second book?"The Invention of Civil Religion: The Literature of Church and State in Postrevolutionary England and America"?which describes the intellectual and cultural history of the principle of separation of church and state between 1649 and 1791. This study suggests that literary culture plays a deeply influential role in the development of a constitutional sensibility in which the robust separation of church and state is understood to be best for government and for religion. Moreover, the project argues that it is in the domains of the literary that the concept of "civil religion" emerges.

The Early Modern Seminar meets from 6.30 to 8pm: all are welcome. Please note our new venue: 411 Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University.

Our forthcoming speakers are:

February 12 ANN BAYNES COIRO (Rutgers) Milton's Actresses
February 26 HENRY TURNER (Rutgers) The Corporate Commonwealth: Artificial Persons and Political Bodies in Early Modern England and Beyond
March 11 ADAM ZUCKER (UMass-Amherst) Title TBA
April 1 JULIET FLEMING (Cambridge / NYU) Negative Capability and the Death of the Book
April 15 HEATHER HIRSCHFELD (Tennessee-Knoxville) Hell and the Problem of Satisfaction in the English Renaissance
May 6 MOLLY MURRAY (Columbia) Title TBA

Details: Alan Stewart,


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