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Contemporary Asian American Dance  

Yutian Wong

Contemporary Asian American dance includes a wide range of choreographic approaches, movement vocabularies, aesthetic traditions, and philosophies toward the body. Referencing either time or genre, the “contemporary” in contemporary Asian American dance can refer to work that includes high-art concert productions that utilize modern and postmodern movement vocabularies, reworkings of traditional Asian movement practices, or popular dance practices. Contemporary Asian American dance also encompasses work that is created by Asian American choreographers, choreography that addresses Asian American experiences or history, or work that is performed by Asian American dancers. As a field of study, Asian American dance studies is concerned with an analysis of how the critical reception of choreography by Asian American choreographers is entangled with the history of Orientalism in both American modern dance history and the racialization of Asian Americans in US history. Beginning in the early 20th century, choreographer Michio Ito (1892–1961) navigated his training in German expressionist dance with public expectations of performing recognizable Japaneseness in the face of growing anti-Japanese sentiments on the West Coast of the United States in the years before the United States officially entered World War II. In the later half of the 20th century, Mel Wong (1938–2003) faced similar issues after leaving the Merce Cunningham Dance Company to pursue his own choreography. While Merce Cunningham’s adoption of the Chinese text the I-Ching was considered a choreographic breakthrough in the development of chance procedure that would revolutionize the definition of what is considered dance, Mel Wong faced critics and funding organizations who found Wong’s own use of ritual and Asian philosophy to be incomprehensible or inauthentic. The question of authenticity in relationship to the use of traditional Asian vocabularies runs the gamut from the performance of depoliticized folk dance forms such as those performed by the San Francisco Chinese Folkdance Association to the purposeful invention of Japanese American taiko repertory by organizations such as San Jose Taiko during the 1960s Asian American movement. In contrast, choreographers such as Eiko (1952–present), Koma (1948–present), and Shen Wei (1968–present) are not concerned with the question of Asian American authenticity and have been creating work that stakes a claim in universal themes of humanity and the environment or the relationship between movement and visual art. Understanding the work of choreographers such as Eiko & Koma and Shen Wei as contemporary Asian American dance is enabled by the transnational turn in Asian American studies to include work by choreographers whose work does not directly represent traditional understandings of the Asian American experience rooted in themes such as the trauma of immigration, intergenerational conflict, or national belonging.


Tobacco, Cigarettes, and Women’s Status in Modern China  

Carol Benedict

Cigarette smoking in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a highly gendered practice. The vast majority of China’s three hundred million plus smokers are men: in 2016, about 48 percent of men over age 15 were current smokers, but less than 2 percent of women smoked. The stark difference in this pattern of men and women’s smoking behavior is often attributed to lingering cultural taboos against female smoking assumed to have been in place for centuries. In fact, the virtual exclusivity of male smoking in China is of relatively recent vintage, dating only from the mid-1900s. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, smoking was socially acceptable for Chinese women. Granted, there were gendered and class differences in the location of tobacco consumption. Chinese men could smoke in public, but well-mannered women smoked privately out of view. After cigarettes were introduced into China at the end of the 19th century, some women, especially those living in coastal cities, took to smoking them rather than pipe tobacco. In the opening decades of the 20th century, the number of women who smoked cigarettes increased, but this trend was reversed in the 1930s and 1940s. After the establishment of the PRC in 1949, the number of women who smoked diminished even further such that by the 1980s, only a small percentage of women consumed tobacco products of any kind. Many social, economic, and cultural factors contributed to the gendered pattern of smoking that emerged in China over the course of the 20th century. An essential aspect of this history was the transformation in social norms that made cigarette smoking less rather than more respectable for women as time went on. At the beginning of the century, many women were already accustomed to smoking pipe tobacco. Some women, including those who identified as forward-looking “New Women,” preferred cigarettes. However, by mid-century cigarettes came to be widely associated with a stigmatized type of New Woman known as the “Modern Girl.” Portrayed in popular culture and political rhetoric alike as extravagant and sexually promiscuous, the Modern Girl’s pursuit of luxury came to symbolize bourgeois decadence and insufficient national loyalty. These associations came forward into the PRC period and as a result, most women born after 1949 elected not to smoke at all. Major differences in male and female smoking prevalence rates persist because female smoking remains objectionable to many Chinese citizens in the 21st century.


Ibero-Romance I: Portuguese and Galician  

Inês Duarte

Portuguese and Galician are spoken in the westernmost area of the Iberian Peninsula. They share a common origin, Galician-Portuguese, a language with both innovative and conservative traits with respect to Latin. Historical and political factors caused Galician-Portuguese to split into Galician and Portuguese. The status of Portuguese as a national language led to its early standardization and its path of linguistic change is well documented. Galician and Portuguese share grammatical features differentiating them from other Ibero-Romance languages, in spite of the influence of Spanish in the former and of the presence of innovative grammatical traits in the latter.


Japanese Proletarian Literature during the Red Decade, 1925–1935  

Heather Bowen-Struyk

Modern Japanese literature emerged as Japan asserted itself as a military-industrial power from the end of the 19th through the early 20th centuries. The subject of modern literature was worthy of a seat at the table of the world’s powers, or so goes the story of a literary canon all too often focused on the legitimacy of elites. But modern literature is not only about a male alienated intellectual failing to have a satisfying relationship. During the international “red decade” (1925–1935), proletarian writers in Japan as elsewhere sought to harness and transform the technology of modern literature in order to represent the hitherto un- or underrepresented women and men, peasants and factory workers, elderly and children in order to bring the masses into consciousness of their collective power. For a decade, nearly every writer in Japan engaged the energetic but often divided proletarian movement as they sought to grasp the challenges of a rapidly modernizing society, transformation in the family and gender, dual economy, worldwide depression, and escalating imperialism. Largely overlooked during the Cold War, this important decade of modern literature has experienced a well-deserved scholarly and popular revival in a period of 21st-century precarity, protests against privilege, and questioning of media and representation. Two exemplars from proletarian literature—Hayama Yoshiki’s “The Prostitute” (1925) and Miyamoto Yuriko’s “The Breast” (1935)—offer a frame to apprehend the richness of genre, voice, storytelling, experimentation, and ethics in proletarian literature, a vital part of modern literature.


Japanese Department Stores  

Rika Fujioka

Dry goods stores, the predecessors of Japanese department stores, were forced to modernize and change their business format after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, which led to the demise of their main customers. The largest dry goods store, Mitsukoshi, was the first to learn about modern retailing in the West, and it broke out of the mold of the traditional Japanese retailer in around 1900 in an effort to catch up with Western department stores. Other large dry goods stores were quick to follow its lead: they transformed into department stores and created their own “cathedrals of consumption” in the 1920s, to match those in the West. This new retail format strongly contributed to Japan’s economic growth and to the Westernization of the Japanese lifestyle. Despite numerous publications on the history of department stores, there has been little research on this transfer of Western department stores into a very different world: Japan. Although there are many studies on Japanese department stores in Japanese, focusing on how they were influenced by Western department stores, they are mostly subdivided on the basis of specific topics, such as levels of consumption in the interwar period or their economic impact during Japan’s period of high economic growth. The focus here is on the whole development process of department stores, bridging the gap between Western and Japanese studies on department stores. The first stage in the development of Japanese department stores was in the early 20th century, when Japanese retailers raced to catch up with Western department stores to become modern Western-style retailers themselves; the second stage was in the late 20th century, when these new Japanese stores continued developing along their own unique path in order to target the domestic market during the growth of the Japanese economy, introducing ready-to-wear clothing, luxury brands, and gift products. In this way, Japanese department stores succeeded in increasing their efficiency and establishing a more upmarket image. However, in exchange for this prosperity, department stores also gave up control of their sales floors to the wholesalers and reduced their own merchandising skills. After the economic bubble burst in 1991, Japanese department stores began to suffer from decreased sales and lack of control over the points of sale in their stores.


Civilization and Statehood  

Andrew Delatolla

The modern state is often discussed within the context of its domestic institutions and structures or as a product that is shaped by the international system. From these discussions, attempts to define and theorize statehood have led to assumptions that the modern state is a universal product, sharing structural and normative similarities across geographies and societies. However, many of these assumptions are developed from the unique histories of European state formation and statehood, from which an ideal type is produced. By looking at these histories in relation to the global transformations of the 19th century, it is possible to interrogate how conceptions of modern statehood—derived from European histories and experiences—have been consistently upheld as a civilizational benchmark for other, non-European and non-Western states, to achieve. Beginning with a discussion on European state formation, it is evident that the conceptions and frameworks of statehood—including the development of national identities, territorialization, institutions, and organizing and ordering mechanisms, often discussed in the abstract—are the products of particular historic normative, structural, and institutional developments. These histories lay the foundation for how the modern state has been conceived, theorized, and framed, affecting not just Europe but global politics. The article subsequently discusses how modern statehood, based on the European experience of state formation, became a benchmark of civilization. Upholding statehood as the pinnacle of social, political, and economic development and progress in comparison to the underdeveloped “nature” of societies and polities outside of Europe, imperialism, and colonialism was considered a justified practice. In the first instance, the uncivilized character of societies and polities outside of Europe became entangled in racial-biological explanations of social and political development, supposedly confirming scientific racist explanations of underdevelopment. In the second instance, imperialism and colonialism were tethered to 19th-century civilizing projects, a means to organize societies and polities in a manner that reflected or mimicked the European state. While the discourses related to imperialism and colonialism, along with scientific racism, became outmoded in the 20th century, they remained apparent in practices associated with the League of Nations mandate state system, development, and state building. In the context of these practices, the concept and framing of modern statehood, as an abstract and ideal type founded on European histories of state formation, continued to be used as a benchmark for international recognition and a measurement for progress and development. Charting the continued relationship between civilization and statehood, the case of Palestine is explored, examining the politics and discourses of civilization related to statehood and Palestinian nonrecognition.


Kees, Weldon  

Dana Gioia

A singular figure in the mid-20th century American arts, Kees did significant work in poetry, fiction, painting, film, and criticism. Although neglected in the years following his death, he is now recognized as one of the most influential poets of his generation. Focusing mainly on poetry and fiction, the article outlines the author’s development from the minimalism of his early naturalist fiction to the cosmopolitan innovation of his later poetry. Full of formal originality, musical brilliance, and technical skill, Kees’s poetry is most distinctive for its dark and apocalyptic vision. The poet’s restless and varied career had its heyday in 1940s New York and came to its tragic end in 1950s San Francisco, culminating in the poet’s mysterious disappearance and presumed suicide.


Khorezm and the Khanate of Khiva  

William Wood

The Khanate of Khiva, one of the Uzbek khanates of Central Asia, refers to a political entity in the region of Khorezm from the early 16th century until 1920. The term itself, which was not used by locals who instead used the name vilayet Khwārazm (“country of Khwārazm”), dates from 18th-century Russian usage. Khorezm is an ancient center of sedentary civilization with a distinct culture and history that came under Uzbek rule as the latter migrated southward from their pasturelands on the steppe beginning in the early 16th century. In contrast to the related dynasties in Transoxiana, the Khanate of Khiva retained a greater degree of pastoralism, though the state was still fundamentally built on sedentary agriculture. Though no doubt affected by historical variations in the volume and routes of the overland caravan trade, Khiva remained a key center for transregional trade throughout its history, especially with the growing Russia Empire to the north. Political structures in Khiva remained weak and decentralized until the 19th century, when the Qongrat dynasty succeeded in transforming the khanate into the most centralized state in the region. Among the legacies of the khanate is its promotion of a distinctive Turkic literary culture, which interacted fruitfully with the dominant Persian culture of neighboring regions. As with other states in Central Asia, by the second half of the 19th century Khiva became a target of the expanding Russian Empire, which conquered Khorezm in 1873. While the tsarist state initially preserved a portion of the khanate under Qongrat rule as a protectorate, after the Bolshevik Revolution this state was soon dissolved and absorbed into the Soviet Union.


Early Modern European Encounters with Buddhism  

Thomas Calobrisi

Historians Urs App and Martino Dibeltulo Concu have argued that the European “discovery” of Buddhism as a “religion” can be dated to the 16th century rather than the 19th, and that the presentation of the Buddha as a philosopher by the likes of Eugène Burnouf is a secularized holdover from the Jesuit accounts of the 16th century. These claims have a tenuous basis, and Burnouf’s portrayal of the Buddha as a philosopher was a radical break from earlier Jesuit accounts. Unlike the Asian Buddhists who preceded him, Burnouf separated the facts from beliefs and concluded the Buddha was a human philosopher. The essay explores the 16th-century Jesuit encounter with Buddhists in Japan and the accounts that were generated therefrom, with particular attention to the notion that the Buddha taught both an inner materialist doctrine and an outer moral one; it looks to the dissemination and development of these ideas in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a focus on the “African hypothesis” as it is found in various European savants; it turns to the 19th-century “discovery” of Buddhism by the likes of Ozeray, Abel-Rémusat, Hodgson, and Burnouf. it then draws out the implications of the defense of Masuzawa and Droit’s position given in this article for the field of Buddhist studies, particularly with regard to methodological issues.



Nicholas Taylor

The Lupemban is an industry of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) that is found across the Congo Basin and on its plateau margins in central Africa. It takes its name from the site of Lupemba that was discovered in 1944 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, then the Belgian Congo). The Lupemban’s distinctive toolkit of elongated lanceolate bifaces, core-axes, points, blades, and other small tools coincides with the equatorial forest belt and is suitable for constructing hafted implements, which has led to speculation it was a special and specific prehistoric adaptation to rainforest foraging. Although poorly dated across most of its geographic range, radiometric dates for the Lupemban at Twin Rivers (Zambia) show it is at least ~265 ka years old, placing it among the oldest known expressions of the regional MSA. As such, the Lupemban bears on 21st-century debates about the evolution of complex cognitive abilities and behaviors that characterize the emergence of Homo sapiens at or before 300 ka bp. In spite of the Lupemban’s potential importance for understanding the evolution of technology, human–environment interactions, and cognition in early Homo sapiens, the industry remains enigmatic and poorly understood. Logistical, ecological, and political challenges continue to impede fieldwork in central Africa. Moreover, at sites including Gombe Point (DRC), severe soil bioturbation by tree roots has caused the vertical displacement of buried artifacts, which corrupts the basic integrity of stratigraphic sequences. This problem is known to be widespread and means that after 100 years of research, central Africa still lacks a refined Stone Age cultural sequence. Consequently, very little is known about spatiotemporal variability within the Lupemban, or its specific environmental or cultural adaptations. At the site of Kalambo Falls (Zambia), the industry is found in secondary but stratified context, which, as of the early 21st century, offers the best glimpse into Lupemban technology and its potential evolutionary significance.


Southern African Middle Stone Age  

Sarah Wurz

Currently the concept of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) denotes the period between c. 300 and 25 ka. It is a phase marked by prepared core reduction methods used to knap predetermined flakes and blades that are occasionally retouched into various types of tools. Denticulates, notches, and scrapers occur regularly, and bifacial and unifacial points and backed geometrics are sometimes linked to time-restricted regional patterns, especially for the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort technocomplexes. An uneven geographical representation of data and insufficient dating resolution preclude a coherent consensus chrono-culture stratigraphic framework for the southern African region, the area south of the Kunene and Zambezi Rivers encompassing the modern political entities of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique, Swaziland (eSwatini), Lesotho, and South Africa. Therefore many assemblages are described in relation to the marine isotope stages and local industries. Perhaps the most radical development in MSA research during the 20th century relates to the characterization of culture and behavior. In the formation years, when mostly surface collections of stone tools, organized into industries and variants were available, MSA “cultures” of the region were seen as the product of waves of immigrants that entered dark Africa from Europe, in increasingly “advanced” forms. In the latter part of the 20th century, the prevailing Eurocentric paradigm suggested that it was only with the Upper Paleolithic–like Later Stone Age that “modern” culture developed in southern Africa. Although Eurocentric thinking prevails, “modernity” is now linked to the MSA especially after 100 ka. Fluctuating complexity in behavior may relate to various degrees of social interaction within dynamic landscapes. Paleoenvironmental data is growing and, combined with cutting-edge geoarchaeological and digital methods, allow a deeper understanding of past habitats and ecological contexts. Studies on the MSA from southern Africa are expanding rapidly. This growth would be most productive and ethical if research is integrated with African socio-political realities, engaging with decoloniality and inclusivity.


Geography and Early Modern English Drama  

Laurence Publicover

The first purpose-built theater in England opened in 1576, the year before Francis Drake embarked on his circumnavigation of the globe (1577–1580).Early modern England’s most important theater was called the Globe, and English plays of this period consistently invoked the theatrum mundi (world-as-stage) motif. These basic facts indicate a strong relationship between geography and early modern English drama—that is, the plays performed in commercial theaters from the late-Elizabethan period until their closure at the outbreak of Civil War in 1642. English playwrights were alive to the far-reaching commercial and colonial projects contemporary with them, and they also engaged in various ways with developments in cartography at home and on the continent. The geography of early modern drama was also, however, determined by the specific design and practices of the theaters in which it was presented. This was a theatrical culture that created location not through scenic backdrops but instead through actors’ movements, costumes, and speeches, and which brought into productive dialogue the fictional world performed and the site of performance. Other theatrical traditions also shaped these plays’ geographies: drama of the period was indebted to that of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as to the conventions of native religious theater, and early modern plays inherited, to some extent, these traditions’ place-making strategies and their wider geographical imaginaries. While interested in real-world locations and in the realities of English geographical expansion in this period, then, early modern drama established a markedly fluid geography; and while geographical meanings often structured the action of these plays, those meanings derived from multiple (and often conflicting) sources. Early modern English drama asked its audiences to see in a variety of ways, and its combination of representational strategies enhanced its geographical scope.


Animal Studies and the Early Modern Period  

Nicole Mennell

The burgeoning field of animal studies has facilitated the exploration of human-animal relations across a variety of disciplines. Following the animal turn in humanities scholarship, a number of studies published in the late 20th and early 21st centuries have demonstrated that animals reflected the social, cultural, and political concerns of the early modern period in a unique manner due to a shift in the ways in which animals were viewed and valued. This shift was largely caused by the increasing commodification of animals, the discovery of new creatures through global exploration, a renewed interest in investigating and documenting all earthly beings, and an enhanced concern for animal welfare. A range of early modern texts reflect this shift in the perception of animals through engaged interaction with conceptions of the human-animal divide and interrogation of human exceptionalism. Animals also inhabit a multitude of early modern texts in a less prominent manner because, as is the case in the modern world, animals lived alongside humans and were a fundamental part of everyday life. While these texts may not at first seem to reveal much detail about the lives of animals and how they were viewed in the early modern period, the field of animal studies has provided a method of bringing nonhuman beings to the fore. When analyzing the representation of nonhuman beings in early modern texts through the lens of animal studies a thorough consideration of the context in which such texts were written and investigation of the lived experience of the animals they seek to portray is required in order to capture, what leading animal studies scholar Erica Fudge terms, a holistic history of animals.



Eric Goodell

The Chinese Buddhist monk Taixu 太虛 (1890–1947) has been called a reformer, missionary, modernizer, mystic, failure, visionary, ethical pietist, public intellectual, great religious leader, and media personality. He is best known as the modernizer of Chinese Buddhism and the creator of Humanistic Buddhism, which emphasizes rational knowledge and ethical behavior. Taixu devoted his life to two activities: spreading Buddhism throughout society and reforming Buddhist monastic and lay institutions. A dynamic between reform and propagation is evident in all of his projects, including Humanistic Buddhism, establishing a pure land in the human realm, his Maitreya School, and his Buddhist academies. Although these projects are all “modern” in important ways, they represent Taixu’s vision for the continuity of Buddhism’s rich heritage as China moved beyond its imperial past.


Renaissance Literature and the Environment  

Todd Andrew Borlik

As the environmental humanities have gained traction, its practitioners have ventured beyond a predictable canon of modern nature writers and Romantic poets into earlier eras to better fathom the origins of our ecological predicament. It has become abundantly clear that the Renaissance (c. 1340–1660), often reframed as the early modern era (c. 1500–1800), marks a pivotal epoch in the history of the earth. Spurred by the rediscovery of classical learning to rival the grandeur of Ancient Rome and by Columbus’s plundering of the West Indies, European powers studied and exploited the environment with unprecedented zeal, while investing in resource extraction, overseas colonization, and technoscience. These developments left an indelible imprint on both the planet and the period’s literature. In tandem with the invention of landscape by Renaissance painters, writers in the generations between Francesco Petrarch and John Milton sought new ways—while reviving and adapting ancient ones—to capture the beauty, fragility, and animacy of the natural world. In the works of poets such as Torquato Tasso, Michael Drayton, and Mary Wroth, trees can bleed, rivers speak, and nightingales transform into violated maidens. As such conceits suggest, the prevailing views of nature can seem quaint or anthropomorphic by post-Enlightenment standards. Yet Renaissance literature has proven, in part because it enables us to interrogate those standards, surprisingly responsive to ecocritical concerns. Bringing these concerns to bear on the era has revealed startling new facets of familiar texts, thrown more limelight on undersung authors, unsettled complacent assumptions in environmental history, and greatly enriched eco-theory. Nature has always been a site of ideological contestation, but the historical distance afforded by the Renaissance can bring this into shimmering focus. If the label “early modern” underscores the era’s continuity with the present and its foreshadowing of ecological issues and sensibilities, the somewhat old-fashioned label Renaissance reminds us to keep sight of its alterity and to view its literature as an archive of radically different attitudes, epistemologies, and material practices that might help us to better understand and combat environmental problems. The urgency of the climate crisis makes it imperative to trace or insinuate parallels between then and now, but newcomers to the field would also be well advised to acquaint themselves with the contours of early modern cultural and environmental history so as to undertake ecocritical interpretations responsibly without peddling anachronisms or reductive caricatures. Early modern worldviews can be both familiar and alien, and its literature can jolt us into a greater awareness of these tensions. It is, for instance, ironic yet strangely apt that the same Francis Bacon reviled as an architect of the Anthropocene was one of the first to denounce the anthropocentric prejudice of the human sensorium and mind. Bacon also feared that language and an excessive reverence for the received knowledge of the past might warp our understanding of nature. Four centuries later, his words provide a cautionary reminder that we should not approach Renaissance literature as a repository of timeless, universal truths. Rather, insofar as studying Renaissance literature enables us to see beyond the shibboleths of our own culture and historical moment, it offers valuable cognitive training that might help us recognize and overcome species bias.


European Renaissance Archives  

Angela Andreani

As well as sources for the study of the period, Renaissance archives are a subject of scholarly inquiry in their own right. Early modernists have increasingly appreciated the significance of a knowledge of record-keeping practices in research, and how an understanding of archives as contingent and culturally specific warrants reading their history, organization, and uses as mirrors (perhaps distorting ones) of culture, politics, and society. Renaissance archives make up a heterogeneous and dispersed panorama of sources ranging from administrative documents and official records to personal papers and private collections. Examples are the archive of the d’Este family, initiated in the mid-15th century and preserved in the 19th-century building of the Archivio di Stato di Modena, or the Archivo General de Simancas, founded in the 16th century and still located in the same 15th-century castle where it was originally established. The unprecedented development of public and private record-keeping during the Renaissance made archives ubiquitous and an inescapable part of the lives of many. The proliferation of archives must be connected with cultural and political changes such as the spread of literacy, the growth in size and complexity of states and institutions, and developments in the organization and management of the records. War, fires, and accidental destruction have severely damaged valuable materials, while dismemberment and reorganization have compromised entire collections; however, Renaissance archives have been reintegrated into modern institutions and still shape them in many ways. Focusing on archival practices rather than on archives as products enables us to view the history of archives in Europe as a series of transformations in which to identify elements of continuity and phases of rupture.


Literature and Disability in the English Renaissance  

Alice Equestri

Disability—whether physical, mental, or sensory—is widely represented in Early Modern literature, and as such it has been attracting attention from 21st-century literary scholars, who apply the theoretical and critical tools of disability studies to Renaissance narratives and literary characters. Literary disability in its various forms can be analyzed in the light of various models of disability, including medical, social, moral, or cultural. This helps in understanding early modern representations and experiences of disability in culture and history and making sense of reactions to disability in the period: including stigma, mockery, proud identification with the disabled identity, or also a desire for it. Physical disabilities in the Renaissance encompass anything from deformity to bodily mutilation to dwarfism or monstrosity, and they are especially prone to be emphasized, explained, or scrutinized in search of their meaning. Sensory disabilities, including blindness, deafness, and mutism, prompt interpretations that connect physical impairment with the character’s inability or surprising ability to understand reality—whether in a pragmatic or spiritual sense. Intellectual and mental disabilities have many ramifications in early modern literature, some of which, such as fools and madmen, are staple types of drama. Intellectual and mental disabilities are often described in medical terms, but literary texts tend to differentiate between them, whether in technical or narrative terms. Foolishness normally turns into comedy, whereas madness is often connected with tragic characters undergoing mental breakdowns. Renaissance disability studies are also concerned with less obvious types of disability: disabilities that were disabilities in the past but not in the 21st century, concealed disabilities, and disabilities that are not actually disabilities but do foster a conversation that excludes the character who does not embody what society regarded as the ideal physical shape. Finally, instances of counterfeited disability and disability attached to concepts rather than people help understand how Renaissance culture often viewed the nonstandard body not only as something to beware of or reject but also as an image of empowerment.


Literature and News in the Renaissance  

Kirsty Rolfe

The news culture of early modern England was complex and shifting: news moved via printed and manuscript texts, sometimes over wide distances and across national and confessional borders. “News” might cover a range of topics, from “high politics” and reports of military action, to grisly “true crime,” prodigies, and natural disasters—and even to the scandalous doings of one’s neighbors. News was (and is) difficult to delineate as a genre, slipping into gossip, rumor, propaganda, and history. England’s news market—especially its printed news market—changed markedly in the years before the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, and this was reflected in literary texts. Authors drew on topical events; they mocked and satirized figures associated with news dissemination and consumption, and they drew on the processes by which newsreaders acquired and evaluated information.


Modern Manuscripts  

Dirk Van Hulle

The study of modern manuscripts to examine writing processes is termed “genetic criticism.” A current trend that is sometimes overdramatized as “the archival turn” is a result of renewed interest in this discipline, which has a long tradition situated at the intersection between modern book history, bibliography, textual criticism, and scholarly editing. Handwritten documents are called “modern” manuscripts to distinguish them from medieval or even older manuscripts. Whereas most extant medieval manuscripts are scribal copies and fit into a context of textual circulation and dissemination, modern manuscripts are usually autographs for private use. Traditionally, the watershed between older and “modern” manuscripts is situated around the middle of the 18th century, coinciding with the rise of the so-called Geniezeit, the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period in which the notion of “genius” became fashionable. Authors such as Goethe carefully preserved their manuscripts. This new interest in authors’ manuscripts can be part of the “genius” ideology: since a draft was regarded as the trace of a thought process, a manuscript was the tangible evidence of capital-G “Genius” at work. But this division between modern and older manuscripts needs to be nuanced, for there are of course autograph manuscripts with cancellations and revisions from earlier periods, which are equally interesting for manuscript research. Genetic criticism studies the dynamics of creative processes, discerning a difference between the part of the genesis that takes place in the author’s private environment and the continuation of that genesis after the work has become public. But the genesis is often not a linear development “before” and “after” publication; rather, it can be conceptualized by means of a triangular model. The three corners of that model are endogenesis (the “inside” of a writing process, the writing of drafts), exogenesis (the relation to external sources of inspiration), and epigenesis (the continuation of the genesis and revision after publication). At any point in the genesis there is the possibility that exogenetic material may color the endo- or the epigenesis. In the digital age, archival literary documents are no longer coterminous with a material object. But that does not mean the end of genetic criticism. On the contrary, an exciting future lies ahead. Born-digital works require new methods of analysis, including digital forensics, computer-assisted collation, and new forms of distant reading. The challenge is to connect to methods of digital text analysis by finding ways to enable macroanalysis across versions.


Historical Views of Homosexuality: European Renaissance and Enlightenment  

Gary Ferguson

Spanning the Renaissance and the Enlightenment—the 15th/16th to the 18th centuries—the early modern period in Europe sees a fundamental evolution in relation to the conception and expression of same-sex desire. The gradual emergence of a marginalized homosexual identity, both individual and collective, accompanies a profound transformation in the understanding of the sexed body: the consolidation of two separate and “opposite” sexes, which sustain physiologically grounded sexual and gender roles. This new paradigm contrasts with an earlier one in which masculinity and femininity might be seen as representing points on a spectrum, and same-sex desire, perceived as potentially concerning all men and women, was not assimilable to a permanent characteristic excluding desire for and relations with members of the other sex. These developments, however, happened gradually and unevenly. The period is therefore characterized by differing models of homosexual desire and practices—majoritizing and minoritizing—that coexist in multiple and shifting configurations. The challenge for historians is to describe these in their full complexity, taking account of geographic variations and of both differences and continuities over time—between the beginning of the period and its end, between different points within it, and between early modernity and the present or the more recent past. The tension between similarity, identity, and the endurance of categories, on the one hand, and alterity, incommensurability, and rupture, on the other hand, defies dichotomous thinking that would see them as opposites, and favor one to the exclusion of the other. In making such comparative studies, we would no doubt do well to think not in singular but in plural terms, that is, of homosexualities in history.