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Wayne Rebhorn & Frank Whigham, Directors 208 W. 21st Street B5000, PAR 115 78712 • 512-232-2483

Spring Lecture Series

Spring Lecture Videos:


"Learn to Die: Late Medieval English Images Before the Evangelical Law": A lecture by James Simpson



On February 25, 2010, Professor James Simpson of Harvard University delivered a public lecture entitled "Learn to Die: Late Medieval English Images Before the Evangelical Law" for the Renaissance Institute's Spring Lecture Series.

Iconoclasm is not “somewhere else.” Instead, it lies buried deep within the Anglo-American tradition, which insistently and violently repudiates idols and images as dangerous carriers of the old regime. In this lecture I focus on the image in the century before the first iconoclastic legislation of 1538, and the twenty-five years after that legislation, up to 1563. Across this period we can observe profound indecision about whether or not images are alive. Precisely because images are the lightning rods of historical consciousness, fifteenth-century images prophesy their fate at the hands of iconoclasts from the 1530s. Fifteenth-century images are, I'll be arguing, practicing a kind of ars moriendi, learning to die. In order to set the stage for the fifteenth-century agonies of the image, we need, however, to look to the sixteenth century death-sentence and burial.

James Simpson is the Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Professor of English at Harvard University and was previously Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at the University of Cambridge. He is currently finishing a book entitled The Iniquity of the Fathers: Iconoclasm in the Anglo-American Tradition, centered on the century of legislated English iconoclasm directed at sacred images between 1538 and 1641. Simpson's work presents a much darker picture of English modernity than is customary, as he traverses the boundaries between late medieval and early modern in both directions.



"Paul and Shakespeare: From Religious Conflict to Religious Pluralism": A lecture by Julia Reinhard Lupton



On March 25, 2010, Professor Julia Reinhard Lupton from the University of California, Irvine, gave a public lecture entitled "Paul and Shakespeare: From Religious Conflict to Religious Pluralism" as part of the Renaissance Institute's Spring Lecture Series:

For Catholics, Paul is with Peter one of the two pillars of the true Church, a flexible thinker who combined faith and works in a fluid relationship that could accommodate and absorb local cults into a truly “catholic” or universal church. For Protestants, Paul was the first reformer, whose absolute elevation of faith over works was buried under dangerous layers of false ritual until his true meaning was recovered by Luther. Meanwhile, contemporary New Testament scholarship has emphasized Paul's birth and education as a Jew, and his continued fidelity to Israel throughout his life. Other contemporary readers of Paul are interested in his existential philosophy, apart from his faith claims. Using medieval and Renaissance images of Paul as well as the plays of Shakespeare, this talk will look at the several faces of Paul during the Reformation and in our own time in order to understand the way in which the Epistles can be taken as both a call to religious arms and a blueprint for pluralist solutions to religious conflict.

Julia Reinhard Lupton is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. In 2007, she was named a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of California, Irvine, in recognition of her contributions to Shakespeare studies. Her most recent book, Citizen-Saints: Shakespeare and Political Theology, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2005. Lupton also writes about the everyday life of graphic design with her sister Ellen Lupton. Their most recent book is Design Your Life, published by St. Martin’s Press in 2009. For more about her research, teaching, and design interests, visit her web site, www.thinkingwithShakespeare.org.



"Why Heresy Is a Good Thing: Milton and the Remaking of Knowledge in the Early Modern Period": A lecture by Nigel Smith



On April 29, 2010, at 7:00 pm in Mezes 1.306, Professor Nigel Smith from Princeton University will present a public lecture entitled "Why Heresy Is a Good Thing: Milton and the Remaking of Knowledge in the Early Modern Period."

In medieval and early modern Europe, heresy was understood as views that departed from and resisted the orthodox teaching of the Roman Catholic Church or Protestant state churches. It was controlled by coercion and punished by death. The poet John Milton took heresy back to its original sense of "choice" in Areopagitica (1644), his attack on press censorship. In doing so he brought together several elements from ancient, Renaissance, and Reformation thought to make a new understanding of religious truth, learning and virtue. He called it "philosophic freedom" and embodied it in Paradise Lost (1667), soon regarded as the most important English poem. This lecture shows how Milton and some of his contemporaries remade the boundaries of knowledge. Milton knew he had thus made poetry "dangerous" and a turning point in the understanding of moral consciousness.

Nigel Smith is Professor of English and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Books and Media at Princeton University. His work has extended the boundaries of what is considered "literature" in the seventeenth century, and his special focus has been on unorthodox personal interpretations of the Bible. New work includes a study of song from Plato to Bono and a comparative study of literature and state formation in early modern Europe, in which he argues not only for making translingual and transregional comparison, but also for avoiding conventional period boundaries. Smith is bassist, singer and songwriter in the NJ-based rock band Rackett, co-founded with the poet Paul Muldoon. (See www.rackett.org for details of shows, tours and recordings.)

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