Montclair State’s interdisciplinary Medieval and Early Modern Studies Seminar is co-convened by the Departments of History, Modern Languages and Literatures, Classics and General Humanities, Philosophy, Spanish and Latino Studies, and English. The seminar brings together interested faculty and graduate students from across the university and the region to consider new research in the fields of medieval and early modern studies. All are warmly welcome.
Laura Stevens (University of Tulsa)
Hieroglyph, Treasure Chest, Prayer Book, Poem: Learning to Read the English Bible
Thursday, December 5, 4-5:30pm
Schmitt Hall, Room 104
Laura M. Stevens is Chapman Associate Professor of English at the University of Tulsa, where she teaches English, American, transatlantic, and Native American literature of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A past president of the Society of Early Americanists and former editor of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, she is the author of The Poor Indians: British Missionaries, Native Americans, and Colonial Sensibility (UPenn Press, 2004) and of the forthcoming book Friday’s Tribe: Eighteenth-Century English Missionary Fantasies (Upenn Press).
That the English Bible, especially the King James translation, was a cornerstone of early modern English literature, is undisputed, as is the importance of the Protestant Reformation to rising literacy rates. But how exactly did ordinary, minimally educated people understand the task of reading the Bible? How did they fit scripture into the activities of everyday devotion and moral development? What images and words emerged to describe the intimacies or estrangements that governed the relationship between scripture and individual Christian? And what role did books as material objects play in developing this relationship? This talk will explore three texts that fit under the broad category of what David Hall has termed “devotional steady sellers” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, along with a fourth text that was central to English missionary, diplomatic, and colonizing efforts among the Haudenosaunee people of the American northeast. These include extracts of the Bible in verse, the first Bible-verse-a-day publication, the first “hieroglyphic” bible, which provides illustrations for each word in selected verses, and a selective translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Mohawk. These publications simultaneously gesture to the particularities of the London book trade but also to an international, transatlantic Protestant network of publishers, authors, and readers. This talk will consider these texts within the frameworks of book history but also of emotion studies, asking in particular how these texts structured individual readers’ affective relationship to the Bible and to Protestant Christianity.