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School of English and Drama

Europe and the World: A Literary History, 1545-1659

SED Map of Europe, 1603 (in New York Public Library)

Europe and the World: A Literary History, 1545-1659

Project Lead and Editor: Professor Warren Boutcher, Professor of Renaissance Studies
Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. "Europa."


This project engages experts from many disciplines to produce the first literary history of early-modern Europe that integrates analysis of the multilingual and multiform textual heritage of multiple regions of Europe and their global connections. Using analytical and human-geographical criteria, it selects a wide and multilingual range of textual objects and forms both made and encountered by Europeans, in relation to spaces from Mexico to China, and events from the Church Council of Trent (1545) to the diplomatic Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659).. The Reformation had fragmented Christendom into differing religious identities. Europeans were multiplying encounters with peoples and cultures in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The textual corpora range from Mesoamerican codices and Jesuit neo-Latin plays, to Kongolese documents in Portuguese and Cervantes’ works. 

The objective is to understand how textual and sociocultural diversity inform one another in different contexts and regions of this multifarious world. The methodology is a historical anthropology of texts grouped into corpora assembled on four interrelated principles: works, forms, spaces, events. Planned outputs include a two-volume summa (Oxford University Press), a publicly accessible database of information and images relating to the corpora, and a series of seminars across the USA and Europe.

Each chapter in the published volumes will begin with a case-study locatable and datable to a place/ year between 1545 and 1659:  a close-reading of a passage of text, or of a sample textual object, or of a particular event in the social life of a textual object, selected from the corpus on which the chapter focuses. Each chapter moves to a more distant reading or synthetic treatment of the larger corpus, its significance for a literary history of this period, and its relevance to the overall theme of textuality and diversity. In the published volumes, chapters are ordered chronologically in four sections to be introduced by the editor as itineraries through works and forms (volume one), and spaces and events (volume two).

Please contact the project lead for more information:


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