Original Proposal to Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, UCSB, 1999

Proposal to David Marshall
Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts
UCSB, Spring 1999

Proposal for an Early Modern Center

The Renaissance and Eighteenth-century faculty of the English Department propose to develop an Early Modern Center (EMC) that will be the most advanced matrix for doing Early Modern Studies in the profession today. Equipped with a comprehensive array of primary digital resources, this Center will have both important research and teaching functions. It will mobilize existing campus resources as well as create a forum for exciting new kinds of collaborative activities. And it will lead to the recognition of UCSB as a major locus of Early Modern Studies.


Emergence of Early Modern Studies. English departments have traditionally separated faculty into Renaissance and Eighteenth-Century specialists. These period divisions made sense when the principal focus of scholars was on specifically literary subjects such as genre and style and the intellectual contexts from which literary works emerge. In the last several decades, however, the focus of scholars in both these fields has changed. The subject of study has expanded beyond the canonical notion of the literary to include popular and occasional materials. Physical artifacts such as books or maps or the miniature paintings that circulated throughout both periods have also proven to be fruitful subjects of study, as have such materials as contemporary polemical or philosophical tracts. These developments, together with a new interest in the social, economic, and political dimensions of literature, have altered the appearance of the historical landscape. What is most apparent now is the continuity and coherence of the long period from roughly the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. This is the period of the emergence of a new secular sensibility and of the formation of the first nation states together with their colonial enterprises. It is also the period of the social transition from a courtly to a marketplace society and of the spread of printing technology. It is, in other words, the period from which the modern world emerged. For this reason, both Renaissance and Eighteenth-Century scholars have begun to think of themselves as students of the same cultural era, the Early Modern Period.

Faculty Strengths at UCSB. The UCSB English Department is uniquely situated to take advantage of this development. Most English departments of our size will have three or four senior faculty in Renaissance and Eighteenth-Century studies. The UCSB English Department has ten. Moreover, many of these are among the strongest scholars in the humanities on this campus and are recognized as important national figures. Thus our department has been noted by U.S. News & World Report as distinguished in Renaissance studies and by Lingua Franca as distinguished in Eighteenth-Century studies. (It has also been noted by U.S. News & World Report as distinguished in Medieval studies, an area that provides a valuable adjacent resource to Early Modern studies.) Putting together the Renaissance and Eighteenth-Century faculty and considering them as a group, the UCSB English Department is as strong as that of any institution in this country.

Library Resources. What has been lacking at UCSB has been library resources. Davidson Library is not, and can never become, a major holder of rare early books comparable to the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Beinicke at Yale, or the Huntington in Pasadena. Therefore UCSB could never aspire to be a significant center of primary research in these fields. In the last few years, however, vast new digital resources have become available and these are about to change the circumstances of scholarship. Most important, a new digitalized series, Early English Books Online (EEBO), is about to make available to subscribing libraries the complete corpus of books published in English between 1475 and 1700 – an online digital collection of over 97,000 titles and 22 million pages of text. EEBO will allow scholars at subscribing institutions to examine these books page by page in photographic facsimile. And because the collection will eventually be available in manipulable text, it will also allow scholars to conduct full-text searches of the collection. What this means is that a scholar sitting at a terminal at a subscribing institution will now have ready access to an archival resource equivalent to that at a major research library. Indeed, in some respects – the ability to conduct full-text searches, for example – a subscription to EEBO will be superior to access to a traditional library. The appearance of these new digital archives creates an opportunity to mobilize our existing faculty resources and to make the UCSB English Department a national leader in an important emerging field.

The Center

The EMC will employ existing space in the English Department. This space will house a seminar room together with a small reference library that will include not only printed texts but also CD-Rom databases. It will also provide online access to the EEBO and other Early Modern services. This facility will thus create a material context in which Early Modern faculty and students can engage in scholarly activities of a kind hitherto available only at major research institutions. Housing these activities in the same space, it will also allow collaboration amongst scholars who would not otherwise get together. Furthermore, the Center will provide a venue for scholarly lectures and colloquia as well as presentations for general audiences. Although the Center will be situated in the English Department, we expect that it will draw upon faculty in other departments as well and that it will have a division-wide impact.

With EMC resources at hand, it will become possible to offer new kinds of courses on both the graduate and undergraduate levels, courses in which each student can have access to primary materials that previously played no part in the curriculum. It will allow faculty and students to work individually and together to create research and instructional Web sites that will promulgate Early Modern studies. Such Web sites might include materials related to current faculty research projects as well as course syllabi, images, and texts previously accessible only in rare book libraries.

The EMC will also have a promulgation function as the publisher of a monograph series in digital form. The need for such a monograph series is clear. The economics of paper publication have made it increasingly difficult for university presses to publish outstanding specialized works in this area. A selective, carefully refereed series such as we propose will help to solve a national and international problem.

To summarize, the EMC will sponsor a range of interrelated activities:

  • Individual and collaborative research
  • Scholarly lectures and colloquia
  • Conferences and presentations aimed at the general public
  • Coordination and facilitation of new kinds of courses
  • The production of new resources in the form of EMC Web sites devoted to specialized subjects
  • Electronic publication of distinguished scholarship

These activities will not only promote the Center but also the department and the UCSB campus. Through its activities, the Center will thus become an instrument for further fund-raising from both public and private sources.

A Representative Program. One way the EMC might work would be by selecting a timely and relevant theme – for example, Early Modern Popular Culture – as the focus for a year’s work. During such a theme year, the EMC might encourage members to develop graduate and undergraduate seminars on related topics: for example, The Ballad, The Body in Popular Culture, Women’s Popular Culture, or The Economics of Popular Culture. Under the direction of the faculty, graduate student researchers would prepare Web resources on this cluster of topics. Students in courses would contribute to the enterprise through research assignments. And all of this work would receive focus through the mounting of a small conference on Early Modern Popular Culture, the results of which would be published either in printed or in electronic form.

Summary and Conclusion

An Early Modern Center would make available to faculty and students new digital resources in order to mobilize the unusual faculty strengths presently in place. It would make new kinds of research possible on this campus. It would encourage collaboration between faculty. It would foster both faculty and graduate student recruiting. It would lead to the development of new kinds of courses. And, through its publications and other activities, it would enhance the reputations of both the department and the campus.

Early Modern Faculty Biographies

Eighteenth-Century Faculty

Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook. Associate Professor. Ph.D. Stanford.

Publications include: Epistolary Bodies: Gender and Genre in the Eighteenth-Century Republic of Letters, (Stanford University Press, 1996) and presently completing Natural Histories, Cultural Landscapes: Representing Nature, 1780-1820.

Robert Erickson. Professor. Ph.D. Yale.

Publications include: John Arbuthnot The History of John Bull, edited with Alan W. Bower ( Clarendon Press, 1976); Mother Midnight: Birth, Sex, and Fate in Eighteenth-Century Fiction (Defoe, Richardson, and Sterne) ( AMS Press, 1986) and The Language of the Heart, 1600-1750 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997).

David Marshall. Professor. Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University.

Publications include: The Figure of Theatre: Shaftesbury, Defoe, Adam Smith and George Eliot (Columbia University Press, l986) and The Surprising Effects of Sympathy: Marivaux, Diderot, Rousseau and Mary Shelley (University of Chicago Press, l988). Guggenheim Fellowship recipient.

William Warner. Professor. Ph.D Johns Hopkins University.

Publications include: Reading Clarissa: The Struggles of Interpretation (Yale University Press, 1979); Chance and the Text of Experience: Freud, Nietzsche, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Cornell University Press, 1986) ; and Licensing Pleasure: The Elevation of the Novel in Early Modern Britain (University of California Press, 1998).

Everett Zimmerman. Professor. Ph.D. Temple.

Publications include: Defoe and the Novel (University of California Press, 1975); Swift’s Narrative Satires: Author and Authority (Cornell University Press, 1983) and The Boundaries of Fiction: History and the Novel in the British Eighteenth Century (Cornell University Press, 1996). Recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship.

Renaissance Faculty

Lee Bliss. Professor. Ph.D. Berkeley.

Publications include: The World’s Perspective: John Webster and the Jacobean Drama (Rutgers University Press, 1983); Francis Beaumont, (Twayne, 1987); completing an edition of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus for Cambridge University Press. Recipient of NEH Fellowship at Folger Library.

Patricia Fumerton. Associate Professor. Ph.D. Stanford.

Publications include: Cultural Aesthetics: Renaissance Literature and the Practice of Social Ornament, (University of Chicago Press, 1991; paperback edition 1993; translated into Japanese, Shohakusha Press, 1996); and Renaissance Culture and the Everyday, co-edited with Simon Hunt (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999). Presently completing Spacious Voice/Vagrant Subjects in Early Modern England (University of Chicago Press). Recipient of NEH Fellowship at Huntington Library and Guggenheim Fellowship.

Richard Helgerson. Professor. Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University.

Publications include: The Elizabethan Prodigals (University of California Press, 1976); Self-Crowned Laureates: Spenser, Jonson, Milton and the Literary System (University of California Press, 1983) and Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (University of Chicago Press, 1992). Paperback edition 1994. Winner of the British Council Prize in the Humanities and the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association. Recipient of NEH and Guggenheim Fellowships.

Michael O’Connell. Professor. Ph.D. Yale.

Publications include: Mirror and Veil: The Historical Dimension of Spenser’s Faerie Queene (University of North Carolina Press, 1977); Robert Burton (G.K. Hall, 1986) and The Idolatrous Eye: Iconoclasm and Theater in Renaissance England (Oxford University Press, 1999). Recipient of NEH Fellowship.

Mark Rose. Professor. Ph.D. Harvard.

Publications include: Heroic Love: Studies in Sidney and Spenser (Harvard University Press, 1968); Shakespearean Design (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1974); Spenser’s Art: A Companion to Book I of the Faerie Queene (Harvard University Press, 1975); Alien Encounters: Anatomy of Science Fiction (Harvard University Press 1981) and Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright, (Harvard University Press, 1993). Recipient of NEH Fellowships.