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The Early Modern World: Works in Progress

The Early Modern World is a cross-disciplinary research seminar of work-in-progress by faculty and postdoctoral fellows across McGill and at other universities. Unlike the regular reading group format, there will not be any papers distributed in advance; instead, seminar-style presentations of up to 45-minutes will be followed by general discussion, providing the presenters with constructive feedback and the audience with the chance to ask questions. The seminar is open to everyone; graduate students are especially encouraged to participate as to benefit from exposure to the research methods of advanced scholars.

Convenor: Yelda Nasifoglu (Architecture, McGill)

All meetings will be at 3610 McTavish St., room 21-6.

Tuesday, 16 September, 2pm
Prof. Hasana Sharp (Philosophy, McGill), "Spinoza and the Command to Love Your Neighbor"

This paper examines Benedict de Spinoza’s (1632-1677) claim that “all mortals” require a moral code that commands each to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Despite Spinoza’s reputation as an unrepentant iconoclast who barely contained his contempt for religion, except insofar as it might be a useful political tool for managing the unruly masses, I argue that the divine imperative to love your neighbor as yourself aligns strongly with Spinoza’s considered ethical prescriptions and philosophical views. In particular, it responds to a core concern of the Theological-Political Treatise and the Ethics, which is typically unrecognized by commentators due to Spinoza’s ostensible ethical egoism: self-hatred. Through examination of Spinoza’s use and interpretation of scripture, we will discern the exigency of combating our susceptibility to hate others as we hate ourselves. 

Tuesday, 30 September, 2pm
Prof. David A. Boruchoff (Hispanic Studies, McGill), "Renaissance Exploration and the Invention of a New World"

Indians, Cannibals and Barbarians: The Beginnings of Early Modern Cultural Relativism. The little-known body of texts written by humanists in the wake of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean (1492–1493) draws upon classical and ecclesiastical teachings in regard to political existence and Christian evangelization to set forth a nuanced understanding of the difference between pernicious and innocuous forms of barbarism. Although both forms of barbarism are grounded in deficiencies, these texts laud the inherent goodness and perfectibility of the peoples who were subsequently called Indians, in contradistinction to the ferocity, cunning and obstinacy of those instead dubbed cannibals. Consideration of this body of writings not only undercuts the simplistic claim that Europeans discounted the humanity of America’s natives; it also elucidates both how certain markers of intelligence and civility informed strategies of conversion or subjugation, and why the societies of Indians held such an attraction for utopian thought.

Tuesday, 7 October, 2pm
Dr. Virginia Kartini Preston (IPLAI, McGill), "Baroque Relations: Performing New World Silver"
Tuesday, 21 October, 2pm
Prof. Ted McCormick (History, Concordia), "Natural Philosophy, Quantification, and Colonial Projects in Seventeenth-Century Ireland"
Tuesday, 28 October, 2pm
Prof. Torrance Kirby (Religious Studies, McGill), "The Silenus of Alcibiades: Conversion in the Enchiridion of Erasmus"

For Desiderius Erasmus, the hermeneutics of conversion begins with cognitive conversion, a conversion of the faculty of understanding together with the assumptions concerning the relation between the intellect and the senses. Erasmus’s account of metanoia in his Enchiridion (1503) and its application in his Novum Instrumentum omne (1516) provides a useful point of reference for an exploration of a momentous shift in sixteenth-century cognitive ecology. 

Tuesday, 11 November, 2pm
Prof. Matthew C. Hunter (Art History and Communications, McGill), "Modeling and Following"
Tuesday, 25 November, 2pm
Dr. Matt Milner (Centre for Digital Humanities, McGill), "Vernacular Knowledge and the Senses in English Religious and Moral Guidebooks, c. 1475-c.1600"

Sessions will also be advertised on the Facebook page M: Early Modernists.