University of Pittsburgh

News and Events

2014-2015 Research Theme:

"Medieval and Renaissance Globalisms"

In concert with the Pittsburgh Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, a set of talks and reading groups this year will focus on the theme of “Medieval and Renaissance Globalisms.” We will examine how today's globalization is part of a long and complex historical process that has roots in the cross-cultural interactions of the medieval and early modern periods. We invite students and faculty from area universities to join us as we explore topics such as the overlapping constructions of race and sexuality during Europe's early overseas expansion; mutually transformative encounters among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; the circulation of material objects in increasingly global markets; and textual, visual, and dramatic representations of cultural others.


Monday, November 10 at 4:30 pm

Carlos Cañete (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid)

“The Origins of Humanity: Cultural and Religious Polemics in Early Modern Times" Humanities Center, Cathedral of Learning 602 

Carlos Cañete is Juan de la Cierva Postdoctoral Researcher at the Center for Human and Social Sciences CSIC (Spanish National Research Council). He is also lecturer of the MA in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Málaga (Spain). He is currently a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies. His research focuses on the historiography of cultural representations of Africa and the Mediterranean, the intellectual history of debates concerning human origins, orientalist discourse and postcolonial theory. His numerous publications address a range of topics, including the archaeology and architecture of early Jesuit missions in Ethiopia and questions of domination and hybridity in Iron Age Morocco.

Abstract: The American philosopher Richard H. Popkin argued that Preadamite Theory—the idea that there were men before Adam—was “the real spectre haunting Western Thought.” He showed that before the 17th century there were several sources that, in one way or another, suggested the existence of humanity before Adam. However, the real turning point was French theologian Isaac La Peyrère’s 1655 book, Prae-Adamitae. According to Popkin, the Preadamite Theory caused a tremendous shock to European consciousness, a shock that would have great relevance to the emergence of modern thought. This talk reframes Popkin’s argument by placing Preadamite Theory in the context of a greater theological system proposed by La Peyrère, a system that combined human origins, millenarianism, nationalism and epistemology. It argues that the only way to determine the “real spectre haunting Preadamite Theory” is to explore the mechanisms of early modern cultural and religious interaction that made this idea thinkable in the first place. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate the transcultural nature of this process and hence of one of the main roots of modernity.


Thursday, November 6 at 4:30 pm

Valerie Forman (New York University)
"Governing Productivity: The Politics, Economics, and Aesthetics of Plantation Development in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean"
255B Baker Hall, Carnegie Mellon University

Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies:

Valerie Forman’s research and teaching interests lie in the literature and culture of 16th- and 17th-century England and Europe, the early modern Caribbean, early modern drama, early modern women writers, early modern economic history and political theory, and Marxist theory. Forman’s first book Tragicomic Redemptions:  Global Economics and the Early Modern English Stage (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008) explores the relationship between innovations in the theatre and new economic practices necessary to the beginnings of global trade, including that among England, the East Indies, and the Ottoman Empire.

This talk is part of a larger project that explores how new forms of trade and economic institutions begin to provide an ethical and ideological framework for non-economic domains. Focusing on seventeenth-century England and the English Caribbean, I show how shifting conceptions of property and labor on both sides of the Atlantic led to a proliferation of debates about what it meant to be a represented person, possibilities for freedom, and alternative forms of government. Through an analysis of economic, political, and literary documents, this talk will explore how economic and political freedom and claims to possession of property become entangled in one another in the simultaneous wake of England’s Revolution and the development of its West Indian sugar colonies based on slave labor. Moreover, I consider how these texts lay the groundwork for conversations about how labor comes to be valued in relation to emerging ideas and practices regarding forms of discipline, good management and ultimately good government based on a new aesthetics of productivity. In doing so, I hope begin to provide a genealogical account of the ideology by which the market and especially the free market dedicated to ever more productivity predominate as the sign of democracy and modernity associated with the division of north from south and east from west even as the capitalization of the periphery produces the modernity of the center.

Spring Events

Wednesday, January 29 at 12:00 pm

Shirin Fozi (University of Pittsburgh)

"Memory and Forgery in the Abbey Church of Drübeck, 850-1200"

Frick Fine Arts building, room TBA