Early Modern Times – New Year’s Edition 2018

Early Modern Times - New Year's Edition 2018

Dear readers,

Welcome to 2018! We begin with the woodcut image above of an event from 400 years ago: what’s going on there? Hilarious revelries such as chucking guests out the window to ring in the new year? Not quite: it’s a depiction of the Second (yes, not the first, nor the last) Defenestration at Prague in 1618, in which Catholic Habsburg officials were ejected by representatives of the Bohemian Protestant Estates out of the third floor of the castle tower. The officials survived, though whether it was by intercession of the Virgin Mary (as Catholics claimed) or by landing on a dung heap (as Protestants claimed) is not settled. In any case, the Defenestration precipitated the Thirty Years War, which in its opening phases was a religious conflict between Catholic and Protestant forces, but ended up as a great-power rivalry between states nominally professing the same religion, such as France and the Habsburg empire. By the end of the war in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, the Dutch Republic was officially recognised as an independent state, France had emerged as perhaps the chief power on the European continent, and some one-third of the population in the German lands in the Holy Roman Empire had been wiped out.

This devastating and protracted conflict in early modern Europe should not, however, be confused with the far more delightful Flirty-Dirty Years War, which began with metropolitan Bohemian libertines casting off their sexual inhibitions in the De-fetter-straition of Prague and ended in the victory of the French power of Amour in the 1648 Strip-tease of Vest-failure. Europe was never so exposed in its nakedness.

Another cause for celebration: this week marks the beginning of classes in EMSP. Laura Penny‘s students in EMSP 2000 will learn how ‘[Alexander] Pope springs eternal in the human breast’ and why G.W. Leibniz posted pleas for sympathy for his gout (a most painful condition, as I can attest) in the local newspaper through his theory of ‘moan-ads’. In EMSP 3000, Kathryn Morris will discuss why natural philosopher Anne Conway, despite her name, did not have to con her way into having her work recognised by the likes of Henry More & Leibniz, and why Newton did not give a ‘fig’ for Cartesian dualism. Dr. Morris will also be making sweeping remarks as she introduces her Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe course, and visceral comments in her introduction to The Body in Early Modern Europe. Jannette Vusich will begin her Renaissance Print and Cross-Cultural Exchange class with an introduction to Renaissance printmaking using blocks and plates–far more challenging than dabbing one’s digit in ink, the so-called art of fingerprint-making–and introduce the man and the myth of Leonardo Da Vinci, who was previously unmasked in this blog as an erstwhile employee of Volkswagen.

My students in EMSP 4000 will discuss The Fable of the Bees by that notorious man-devil Bernard Mandeville and begin Eliza Heywood’s novel The Adventures of Eovaai, a Jaco-biting satire of Robert Walpole & 18th-century British politics. We set sail in my course on The Pirate & Piracy with the first lecture on pirates in the ancient Mediterranean, including how the Greeks out-roamed the Romans themselves. Finally, the public lecture series associated with Gordon McOuat’s course on Automatons! From Ovid to AI begins with a screening with live music of Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 film Metropolis; its running time of 153 minutes means that it may be Lang, but worth every second.

‘Til next week,

Simon Kow

Director, Early Modern Studies Program

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