Past event

English workshop --- Professor Nigel Smith (Princeton University) A Global Early Modern Literature (For staff and Postgraduates)

A Global Early Modern Literature?

How is it possible to describe a global early modern literature beyond the simple aggregation of literary products from many different places? In working on my recently completed study of transnational early modern European literature, I began to see that in some urban centres, groups of often heterodox lay figures began to produce cross-cultural literary pictures of the entire world against the grain of the orthodoxies that prevailed. This may have involved knowledge produced in universities, or by the traveling orders of the Roman Catholic church, or in south and east Asian courts, but the perspective was fundamentally non-academic and anti-clerical in nature, belonging to merchants in large trading cities.

We usually assume that poetry in any language that was also a response to all poetry across the globe, and the universal history of poetry, was a feature of the Romantic period, exemplified in the ‘Indo-European' interests of the philologist and political radical Sir William Jones (1746-94). There is however an earlier beginning of a ‘global poetics' in the seventeenth century, developed in part in the cities of Holland, especially Amsterdam, as the relatively open Dutch Republic gathered people from different parts of Europe and from further afield, and knowledgeable of the meeting of vastly different cultures within the Portuguese and Spanish global empires. These axes of interaction produced a cross-cultural human awareness, a cross-faith appreciation of sacred texts, and a series of works of literature that presumed trans-ethnic and global relevance.

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