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Nodes, Networks, Names: Recovering, Understanding, Representing Them

For the past two years, the Renaissances Focal Group has sponsored a project that has brought into conversation new work on the persons, sites, and linkages that are central to our knowledge of the early modern world.  Originally slated as a two-year project, we have extended the series into a third and final year and have asked mostly local scholars to reflect on how their work engages with the three themes of our series.

Recent scholarship has often been concerned with places such as Lisbon and Venice that embody the connections among societies, religions, and world-views, or with the circulation of materials and ideas through and beyond these places.  The most valuable work on these nodes and networks rises above the brokering of information to reflect on the challenges of representing a city, a region, or a pattern of exchange.  In considering nodes and networks, we aim to encourage a dialogue among literary critics, historians, and others about how they render these facts of location and circulation vivid to their readers.

Of course, nodes and networks do not tell a complete story: early modern culture is also shaped by singular figures, not in isolation from crossroads and exchanges but in syncopation with them.  By names, we mean those writers from Petrarch to Vieira whose contributions engage with contemporaneous nodes and networks.  With what conditions do critics and historians undertake the single-author study, and how has this genre of scholarship changed in recent years?

This two-year program will bring to Stanford scholars whose work on nodes, networks, or names represents a reflective and articulate approach to the problems of showing the past in these terms.  Each visitor will present research in progress and discuss the challenges as well as the opportunities of this kind of work.

About the Renaissances Focal Group

The Renaissances Focal Group brings together faculty members and Ph.D. students from several departments to consider the present and future of early modern studies—a period spanning the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries—in literature. Taking seriously the plural form of the group’s name, we seek to explore the early modern period from a range of cultural, linguistic, and geographical perspectives.

Our emphasis is on identifying emerging questions and innovative work by scholars who are setting the agendas that will drive early modern studies for the next decade. We aim to bring these scholars—many of whom will be important figures in the field in the next generation—into close contact with our graduate students, with the goal of modeling new topics and approaches and establishing relationships. Our agenda from year to year is largely determined by the interests of our graduate student members.

The Focal Group works in collaboration with Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS), the graduate student workshop in medieval and early modern studies, and the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMEMS)