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EMC COLLOQUIUM: Sarah Nicolazzo (UCSD) and David Landreth (UC Berkeley)

November 3 @ 3:15 PM - 6:00 PM

Please join us for community and conversation on this year’s theme “Bodies and Boundaries”! Talks by Sarah Nicolazzo (UCSD) and David Landreth (UC Berkely)–abstracts below.


Sal (Sarah) Nicolazzo
Assistant Professor of Literature
University of California, San Diego
“Vagrant Forms: Police Archives Before the Police”
In the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world, “police” did not indicate a uniformed, professional law-enforcement agency, but rather the capacious domain of governance dedicated to keeping the peace, preventing disorder, and anticipating future threats to property or security. As the idea of police gained cultural and political legitimacy—ultimately culminating in late eighteenth-century reformers’ calls for the establishment of professional, centralized police forces—ideas about the proper role of police drew on existing legal and administrative practices, as well as on the narrative forms, stock tropes, and modes of writing underpinning these practices. One particularly crucial blueprint that made the police thinkable, I argue, was the capacious category of vagrancy. Vagrancy law ultimately concerned itself not with the adjudication of an individual’s criminal responsibility, but rather with the anticipatory management of populations and spaces associated with potential future threat. Increasingly, over the course of the eighteenth century, vagrancy law also linked scales of population management—the legal mechanisms that had long defined the boundaries of parish responsibility for the poor were, after the Restoration, increasingly embedded in the problem of distributing and managing laboring populations across Britain’s expanding empire, as well as that of securing space in both metropole and colony.
This talk shows how an expansive archive of vagrancy—including legal records, literary texts, and a wide variety of ephemeral print and manuscript objects—offers insight into the imaginative and material life of a legal category that the law insistently refused to define. Because this category so crucially relied on its open-endedness and undefinability for its broad, discretionary scope, it is not foundationally theorized in the law or in works of legal commentary; it is theorized in aggregate, on the ground, in everyday and often improvisational legal practice. It is also, I argue, perceptively theorized in texts that draw on (and thus leave evidence of) the legal common sense animating the idea of vagrancy, but do not themselves directly enact the violence of legal force. More broadly, I propose that understanding the importance of scriptive practices and textual forms to the emergence of the police offers a model for how literary method can produce new legal histories of the present.

David Landreth
Associate Professor of English
University of California, Berkeley
Spenser’s Glory: past value and present feeling
What is this world’s glory made of? How does glory come to be, how does it sustain itself in time, how does it make itself felt? These are questions that subtend the project of epic; in this paper, I consider how these questions are brought to the surface of Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Glory, I argue, brings the present intensity of affect to bear upon historical relations, with surprisingly complex and multivalent outcomes both for the value of past matters and for the feeling of present bodies. I will attend particularly to the deep associations traced by the poem between glory and shame, which male characters experience as an internal transgendering. Spenser’s glory posits a strange relation between the otherness of past times and the otherness of gendered bodies.


November 3
3:15 PM - 6:00 PM


South Hall 2635